Credit unions are joining fintechs in the ongoing march toward easy integration.
Credit union app stores first came online in 2011 and 2012, and client communities are actively using the stores.
Credit unions can monetize the offerings, but it’s mostly core vendors that upload pay-to-play solutions.
It’s been a decade since core processors introduced their own app stores to client credit unions, and the results since then reflect the collaborative nature of the movement itself.
Open Solutions introduced its DNAappstore on May 3, 2011, at a users conference. Fiserv bought the Connecticut-based Open Solutions two years later and now operates the store as the AppMarket. Arch-rival Symitar introduced its own PowerOn Marketplace on Aug. 15, 2012, as a centralized community resource for Episys users to share and review credit union- and company-provided upgrades to its flagship platform.
Since then, credit union clients have used the app stores — and their core processors’ application development and testing environments — to not only improve their technology but also their response to market needs.
Symitar president Shanon Mclachlan says that capability was an vital resource during the coronavirus pandemic, as the company and its clients rushed to adapt their core systems to handle the soaring use of digital banking. Credit unions built-out features for existing notions, such as skip-a-pay options for loans, as well as for entirely new products, like PPP loans.
“We saw a lot of activity in the marketplace around handling Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans,” says Mclachlan, whose core processing operation supports 533 credit union clients, including 177 with more than $1 billion in assets. Year-to-date through mid-October, 380 Episys users downloaded 1,464 apps, Mclachlan says.
1 Decade And 700 Apps Later
The 300-odd users of the DNA platform now have more than 400 apps available on the AppMarket through Fiserv and resellers.
“Some apps facilitate integration to other Fiserv solutions or enhance the user experience,” says Chris Van Der Stad, senior vice president and general manager for DNA. “They also enable new product offerings and services by credit unions to attract and retain members.”
Brian Sloan, Chief Information Officer, Pioneer Appalachia FCU
Van Der Stad says apps increase the efficiency of various branch and back-office functions, including deposits, lending, cards, compliance, risk management, commercial services, revenue enhancement, and teller processing. But one veteran user of the Symitar PowerOn Marketplace says the power of apps lies in the fact they offer more than mere added functionality.
“The solutions we’ve gravitated toward are mostly quality-of-life features,” says Brian Sloan, chief information officer at Pioneer Appalachia Federal Credit Union ($214.6M, Charleston, WV). “They help our staff do our jobs better and more easily, improving our work life just like our personal life.”
He points to an address verification solution that member service reps, tellers, and card services staff use to verify member addresses in real time, which limits return mail and also allows for faster wires and other transfers.
Call Them Apps. Or Collections Of Tested Raw Code. They’re Still Solutions
Although these solutions are called “apps,” they aren’t like Candy Crush or financial mobile apps end users download from Apple or Google stores. Sloan at Pioneer Appalachia says these apps are more akin to collections of vetted raw code that are executed in the core.
But just like any store, browsing is encouraged. That’s how Dyan Mashman and her shop at Firefighters First Federal Credit Union ($2.0B, Los Angeles, CA) find what they need to help winnow down “the very long list of requests from our end users to enhance or streamline various business processes.”
Tina Spoelman, Senior IT Manager, Gerber FCU
Before setting out to develop their own fixes, Firefighters First hits the app store to see if someone else has already developed a solution it can use to accomplish the task.
“There are also times we review the app store to see what apps have been added,” says Mashman, the California credit union’s senior vice president of information technology. “Some of the apps we purchased did not start out with us looking for it but in reviewing the apps thought it was a good idea and wanted to check it out.”
Tina Spoelman has been doing that for a decade.
“I began looking for solutions in the [Symitar] marketplace as soon as it became available,” says the senior information technology manager at Gerber Federal Credit Union ($217.9M, Fremont, MI). “Through the years, it’s become the place I go to search for solutions to items I’m tasked with creating or implementing.”
One of her favorites is the Member Mini Statement.
Jackie Sturtzenegger, Vice President/IT Director, Cloverbelt Credit Union
“This app allows the colleague to enter a specific date range for the member and print transaction details for them in a format that looks like our monthly statement,” Spoelman says.
Fellow Symitar user Jackie Sturtzenegger, IT director at Cloverbelt Credit Union ($297.1M, Wausau, WI), has her favorites, too, including one called the Member Verify Program.
“We use it daily,” she says. “It generates a list of 10 random, off-the-wall questions the person calling must answer before we answer their questions regarding sensitive account information. It creates a member note with the questions asked, the person who called, and their answers to three of the questions asked.”
Fintechs Join In-House And Independent Developers
Credit union clients of both Fiserv and Symitar can offer their creations on the app stores for free or charge for them. McLachlan at Symitar says prices can reach up to $1,000; however, more than 90% of them are free on his company’s site, a fact that underlines the collaborative nature of these user communities.
Dylan Mashman, SVP of Information Technology, Firefighters First Credit Union
Mashman, for example, says her shop always considers whether what it has developed would be of use to other credit unions. If so, it takes the time to develop the solution in a generic way so others can use it.
“The benefit is that we can recoup our development costs by offering the app on the DNA site,” Mashman says.
There’s also a community of consultants and independent developers that contribute solutions to the app stores who are now being joined by counterparts from fintechs interested in integrating their own solutions to popular core platforms.
That’s the case at Finastra, which now has more than 150 apps on its FusionStore. More than 350 financial institutions, including approximately 120 credit unions, are using at least one of the apps with its core processing platform, says Vincent Pugliese, senior vice president and general manager for Finastra’s platform business. According to Pugliese, Finastra as well third-party fintechs build the apps. A popular example of the latter is an end-user bill pay solution from the Allied Payment Network.
Van Der Stad at Fiserv says the company is currently revamping its AppMarket to create a new look and feel, retaining the 400 current DNAapps while offering a growing number of pre-integrated apps created by third-party fintechs.
“We are actively investing to enable this capability for other Fiserv clients and solutions beyond DNA,” the platform’s general manager says.
Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the CreditUnions.com free newsletter.