When B.C.-based Kootenay Savings Credit Union was looking for a way to streamline its commercial account opening process, it decided to buy a piece of software for its specific needs instead of setting up a whole new system.

Kootenay Savings, which operates 13 branches and serves about 40,000 members, had been dealing with the difficulty of opening commercial accounts for some time. When a customer comes through its doors and asks to open a commercial account, the credit union’s staff members have to verify what kind of entity they’re dealing with — and administer a mountain of paperwork once they figure it out.

But two and a half weeks ago, Kootenay Savings implemented the Harmony Commercial Membership Origination System. The internally-run software walks staff members through the entire process by helping them identify what kind of entity they’re dealing with and then follow a pathway of procedures and checklists.

With this more formalized approach, they can be sure they’ve gotten the whole commercial account opening process right – something that’s key in an era of stricter regulations that are meant to stave off terrorists and money launderers.

So far, staff reaction has been very positive, with staffers “really recognizing the value of the software,” said Jim Craig, vice-president of operations and COO at Kootenay Savings.

“This software allows us to do that process in a cleaner way,” he said. “With the number of openings that we’ve had, they’ve all gone through pretty much as clean as a whistle.”

Getting one piece of software was a better choice than implementing a whole new system, Craig said. That would mean having to retrain employees and also possibly overhaul the entire system in 10 to 15 years, if it were to become outdated. And while Kootenay Savings did hunt around for other options, Craig said there didn’t seem to be too many others that would be as customizable as the Harmony software.

To build the Harmony commercial account opening system, Kootenay Savings worked with CU Technical and Administrative Services Corp. (CUTASC), which helped it customize the software it wanted for its particular need.

“A lot of other approaches, often developers suffer from thinking they have the solution that necessarily doesn’t always work for the end users,” said Brad Best, CUTASC’s president and CEO. He added that CUTASC really tried to tailor its product to Kootenay Savings’ needs.

“Not having to convert but simply extend your business through add-ons and ancillary types of software has really allowed [Kootenay Savings] to be nimble to go to market,” said Best.

For other credit unions or SMBs looking to customize and add their own pieces of software to their systems, Craig said it’s important they know what they’re really looking for during the design process.

For example, being able to adapt the system to integrate with customer relationship management software was important for Kootenay Savings, so that may be an option in the near future, he added. This way, when staff members go to retrieve data on a particular customer, they will also get automated reminders to call customers with approaching mortgages or to email them to check in and see if they can offer any more services.

“You can do all of this stuff with an expensive banking system … or you can develop a strategy like we have, with sticking with our legacy banking system and then using peripheral third-party software to do the things we want to do,” said Craig.

It’s the best way, Craig said, to stay flexible and be able to adapt to changes in the future.

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