Our credit union here at PACE, we’ve been around since 1956, and during that time we’ve gone from being just a savings and loans to now a credit union who’s involved heavily in its community in 13 different locations.
We’ve been with Portfolio+ Inc. since 1999, and during that time we’ve had 10 mergers that we’ve been involved in and 10 different banking systems that we have merged those credit unions onto our Portfolio+ banking system.
It’s really important that we create a team, identify who the team is going to be, both sides actually, because you’re going to need to know a little bit about the other credit union and the strengths and weaknesses of their people. But our team has to be identified as to who’s going to run this conversion.
So as part of that team, it's important to have a project manager. Now that project manager could be someone that actually works at the credit union, or it may be a position that you’re going to have to hire for. It’s really the most important position because that individual keeps the whole group focussed and able to keep on timelines.
So now, it’s important also to have another individual, and that is the one that knows the banking system the most.
So you’d have on the credit union that’s doing the acquisition, that individual has to be a strong data-system person, who knows the insides and the outsides of your data system, and they will be the person who works with the strength on the other side of the data system person, to identify the processes that are going to be required in order to work with the data.
One of the major items in any conversion is your data. What you want to do is you want to make sure that the data coming over is as clean as possible. What we had them do is to go through and get rid of any accounts that weren’t active. We made sure that all the personal information that we would need would be there. And then once that was done, we were able to compare their data to our data, to see if there was any duplicate items we needed to deal with.
So besides the data, the other items that you have to consider on any conversion are your products and services.
You want to compare the current products and services that each credit union is offering and if at all possible, to make them coincide with each other, or to make them as close as possible. So what we did in a previous conversion was that we actually changed some of our products and services prior to the data conversion, and had those in place when the time came to convert, so you were converting apples to apples. And we found that that really helped on the date of the conversion.
Training is a really important aspect of any conversion. It has to be planned out – it has to be identified as to who’s going to go through the training, and how much training time is allotted for various positions.
But it’s important that you give enough time for training, that you create a demo environment where they can actually continually practice what they’ve been trained. They should take one day’s worth of work, and try to get through it and balance it, and identify any of the areas they may feel that they need more training on.
So from the time that you announce that there is a merger taking place at your credit union, it’s very important you keep the staff communicated to at all times, throughout the duration, but more importantly, the members. Members need to be communicated to because they’re going to be affected the most, especially by the data system conversion.
So besides the actual member products, the other product that you need to look at and you need to consider as far as testing and communicating with the members is their member card.
You want to make sure that you give them ample notice and communication if there are any changes to their member card, and get that out to them before the conversion so that they have it in their hand for that conversion weekend.
So throughout the conversion, basically from the very beginning, Portfolio+ is involved with us. We get them a copy of the tape from the other credit union, and their data provider. And we work with Portfolio+ extensively through every product, every part of the system, to make sure that the data that’s coming in is going to match the data that we need to put into the system. So there is constant communication, there’s constant meetings, testing that is done with Portfolio+ to make sure that these run as smoothly as possible.
And right now we’ve got projects that we’re involved in, with some of the local builders, where we are investors, as well as managing mortgages for the project. So this project is actually really exciting because it’s going to bring some revitalization for our town, and the township is behind this project, wanting it to be constructed within the next 18 months. So it’s something that is being worked on right now, and located right near the train station. And the credit union will have a really beautiful branch on the main floor.