In the quest to improve service and reduce costs, credit unions continue to encourage members to conduct business with them online. So it’s not surprising that many are encouraging prospective members to open new accounts online, too. As Clearview Federal Credit Union (Moon Township, PA, $600 million, 72,000 members) found out, the right technology can make online account opening faster for members and more efficient for the credit union.
Originally created to serve employees of sponsor company US Airways, Clearview now has a community charter enabling it to serve residents of 10 Pennsylvania counties. ''We can't open branches in every area, so prospective members need another avenue to reach us,'' says Lisa Fitz, Manager of Network Services. ''Our experience shows that the Web is a great option.'' In fact, over 29,000 of Clearview’s members (more than 40% of the total) use its home banking service.
Opening new accounts online is an efficient way for Clearview to reach prospects in outlying areas; it's also a way to reduce the wasted materials and labor inherent in courting new members. “We’d visit sponsor sites and hand out applications or spend time and money mailing them to people who called in, but many of those applications would never come back to us,'' Fitz says. ''We felt that opening accounts online would reduce much of that waste.''
Clearview first tried to open accounts online using a ''homegrown'' application that wasn’t integrated with its core system. ''There was a lot of manual work and data re-keying, which was inefficient,'' Fitz says. For a better solution, Clearview turned to its core processor and Internet banking provider, USERS Incorporated ( Valley Forge, PA). This spring, the credit union implemented USERS’ Open Accounts software as a fully integrated addition to its core system – resulting in a faster, more efficient process.
A Better Way
Now, when prospective members complete an application online, their data is automatically stored in the core system’s database in a ''non-member'' status. Clearview employees then perform an identity verification check on each prospective member using a third-party solution. If the identity checks out and all other membership qualifications are met, the employee simply clicks on the ''Approve'' button. The software automatically opens a member account, assigns an account number, and moves the account to a ''member'' status in the core system. The new account is instantly activated and the member receives a welcome e-mail, automatically generated via another USERS software solution, e-Mail Services.
Since implementing the account opening software, Clearview has realized several tangible benefits. One is reduced labor, which in turn allows for better use of its staff resources.
''Before, we had an entire Electronic Services Department handling online applications,'' Fitz says. The staff needed to re-key data from the paper applications before they could perform identity checks on all applicants, some of which were ultimately denied. ''With the Open Accounts software, we’re no longer re-keying data, so it only takes one person to handle the identity checks and account activation. That means we’ve been able to focus other staff in our department on different tasks.''
The new software also enables Clearview to avoid the waste that results from mailing applications that never result in new business, while greatly speeding the process for applicants that are approved. ''The software allowed us to shorten the turnaround time on new accounts by 2 to 3 days,'' Fitz says.
Clearview already receives an average of 50 new account applications per month online and hopes to increase that volume now that a more efficient process is in place. ''We're promoting it more aggressively on our Web site and in our printed materials, encouraging people to apply online,'' Fitz says. In the next several months, the credit union will streamline online account opening even more – working with USERS to integrate third-party identity verification solutions into the core system, to make the verification step automatic.