When you’re a credit union where making a profit is not the No. 1 priority, staying competitive with other financial institutions can be a challenge.

Just ask the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), which serves the banking and financing needs of churches, Christian schools, ministries

and missionaries.

“”We are a very different credit union,”” says Gina Garza, ECCU’s critical application administrator. “”Our mission statement is more about stewardship than making profits.””

ECCU may, for example, give extra time to a missionary struggling to pay back a debt, or look for some creative ways to finance a church that wants to grow its operations.

Garza concedes that such leniency isn’t always viewed as the best way to run a business, but the ECCU makes up for it in other ways. One of those methods is by becoming “”a very aggressive user of technology,”” she says.

“”While it’s not all about making money, at the same time, I’m paid to do a job,”” she says. “”And that means making the best use of technology.””

Recently, ECCU installed a project tracking system for 75 of its 230 employees that allows better time management and workflow.

With the system supplied by Tenrox of Montreal, ECCU employees now have ready access to project timesheets over the Web and are able to record the time for work performed across multiple projects and departments over the credit union’s worldwide operations.

Moreover, the centralization of data allows for management to quickly identify problem areas and generate reports as needed.

For example, Garza recently oversaw a security structure change to its core banking system, a huge undertaking that affected everybody in the enterprise.

To add to the challenge, ECCU maintains only two offices that are able to serve a worldwide customer base that extends to clients in places as far-flung as Pittsburgh, Paris, and Papua New Guinea.

Using Tenrox, she was able to track exactly how much time each staff member spent on each task, monitor the project’s status at each step and take corrective action immediately if, for example, someone was spending too much time on one task. The high-level view is important when juggling as many as 15 major projects at a time.

How much exactly this aggressive approach to technology pays off is difficult to gauge. Garza says the credit union does not do formal ROI on its technology projects.

That said, it’s easy enough to tell when the software is working and the end-users are happy. “”If it didn’t work, we wouldn’t be adding to it,”” she says — in terms of implementing new users and new modules.

The ECCU’s business strategy seems to be working. The credit union has $917 million in assets under management and is consistently rated among the fastest growing credit unions in the U.S.

In 2004, it plans to add 50 more staff, as part of an aggressive growth plan.

Who says profit always has to be king?

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