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Optimal platform integration helps create a seamless member experience.

There are bells. There are whistles. And then there's integration-the key feature in any system for automating member financial services The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
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. The better the integration, the more any automated platform can work harmoniously har·mo·ni·ous  
adj.
1. Exhibiting accord in feeling or action.

2. Having component elements pleasingly or appropriately combined: a harmonious blend of architectural styles.

3.
 with all of the pieces and programs necessary to creating a seamless member experience. Your internal staff in a branch or your member online will never have to leave the system to verify identity, order forms, request a new credit card or anything else necessary to set up a new account or process a loan. All of these various programs can be accessed from within the system-saving time and money.

In addition, if your system is designed to make integration easy, you won't be forced to use only those programs or services that are compatible with the system or are provided by a certain vendor. You will be able to integrate your current forms provider, ID verification program, card-ordering service and any other ancillary products into the platform. You can continue to use your preferred vendors in each of these instances. The system also can adapt to your future needs and growth because it supports a much wider menu of options when it comes to providers, programs and add-on features. If at a later date you want to integrate some new software with the system-an e-signature or a new fraud-protection feature, for example-you can do so much more easily.

Ultimately, the better the integration, the less manual steps in the process, the greater the efficiency- in terms of reduced staff time and human error as well as increased speed. This translates to faster approval and processing times, and members will be able to access their accounts and funds more quickly.

But how to evaluate and compare the integration capabilities of different systems? Begin your due diligence Research; analysis; your homework. This term has caught on in all industries, because it sounds so "wired." Who would want to do analysis or research when they can do due diligence. See wired.  with several key questions.

One of the first questions, you might want to ask a potential vendor is, "How many interfaces with different third-party systems have you handled?" Is the system designed to integrate with only a few vendors? Do they integrate with several? Have they set up interfaces with numerous core processors and vendors? If the system only can be integrated with your current core processor, you may end up boxed into a corner down the road. You will be forced to use your current core processor forever by a cumbersome cum·ber·some  
adj.
1. Difficult to handle because of weight or bulk. See Synonyms at heavy.

2. Troublesome or onerous.



cum
 system that makes integration with any other core next to impossible. On the other hand, a system that excels in integration can be set up to work with multiple core processors. Ideally, you want to work with a system that can grow and adapt with you into the future.

What about other possible software programs? Another key question might be, "Can the system be integrated with some of my current and preferred software programs to order forms, verify identity or check a credit report? Or will I be forced to choose from only a short list of providers?"

And finally, ask the money question: "What kinds of fees are involved with integration now or in the future?" Some systems can be set up to integrate with various programs, but you will be charged a huge fee to do so. If a system is built on open standards Specifications for hardware and software that are developed by a standards organization or a consortium involved in supporting a standard. Available to the public for developing compliant products, open standards imply "open systems;" that an existing component in a system can be replaced , it was designed to integrate data from various vendor programs into a broad financial services platform.

Beyond the issue of integration, if your system connects new member and account- opening functions with loan processing in one platform, you will be in the best possible position to optimize cross-sales opportunities. Using one platform for both new accounts and lending is essential to creating a culture that promotes cross sales to help you maximize the wallet share of each member.

For some credit unions, the idea of automating both the membership application process, new accounts, deposits and lending may seem daunting daunt  
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.



[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin
 all at once. However, with some planning, you can easily handle the deployment in steps, sequenced over several months or even a year or more. You can begin by automating membership applications and new deposits first and add on loan processing down the road or vice versa VICE VERSA. On the contrary; on opposite sides. .

Recent research continues to point to growing consumer interest in greater convenience and flexibility in services along with a high degree of personal attention. Choosing the best system to automate member financial services-one that offers optimum integration in one platform-can help you achieve all of this and more.

Branwyn Rhodes is the director of communications Director of Communications is a position in the private and public sectors. The Director of Communications is responsible for managing and directing an organization's internal and external communications.  for MeridianLink Inc. She can be reached at 714-708-6950 ext. 2475 or branwynr@meridianlink.com
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Title Annotation:OPINION
Author:Rhodes, Branwyn
Publication:Credit Union Times
Date:Nov 4, 2009
Words:753
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