Chris Barber, senior vice president and CIO at Western Corporate Federal Credit Union, could see financial services moving toward self-service portals.
For his company to thrive in the marketplace of the future, Barber knew he would have to convince WesCorps executives that that was where the company needed to go.
But after two failed portal projects, he also knew his job was not going to be easy.
WesCorp, of San Dimas, Calif., manages $25 billion in assets and has more than 500 employees.
It acts as a credit unions credit union, providing institutional investing services for more than 1,000 member credit unions.
It was looking to take the business to a new service level by building a way for employees and customers to interact with the company through a central portal.
“As our business grew and more of our members turned to e-channels instead of telephone and fax, we saw the need for more power on back-end transactional systems,” Barber said.
“To scale to that level would be expensive. We needed a vendor to provide a portal product to support e-needs and to allow a back-end, tiered type of structure.”
It was up to Barber and John May, director of systems integration, to work together to shepherd the portal project through executive approval and to convince the executive team that purchasing a solution from a portal technology vendor was the best way to achieve the companys strategic goals.
Barber put May in charge of presenting the argument to executives.
“John did a presentation to executive staff where he discussed the benefits of pushing members to self-service versus having individual call center people do the work,” Barber said.
“[He told them that] the technology solution was going to be more attractive to members and more cost-effective from an organizational standpoint.”
“Initially, there was pushback,” Barber said. “This was the biggest expenditure we ever had, and initial reaction was, Wow, thats expensive.”
Ultimately, May told the executive team, WesCorp needed to develop portal and content management technology to survive.
The process of building the current portal began with an RFP (request for proposal).
WesCorp invited Vignette Corp., Microsoft Corp., BEA Systems Inc. and Plumtree Software Inc. to bid on the project.
The two eventually chose Vignette because they were convinced that the Vignette solution was more in line with WesCorps strategic goals.
“If you only wanted to be a Microsoft shop and didnt want a lot of interoperability and didnt want to use WSRP [Web Services for Report Portlets] [and other standards], then a Microsoft solution is great—its priced well, given its capability—but our designs are much larger,” May said.
“We are using real-time data feeds and RSS feeds. We have extensive partner relationships and a lot of commingling of information, and a lot of that is facilitated by standards, and thats what iced it for us.”
Barber and May knew they needed to make content a priority when they installed the Vignette system. Armed with this understanding, Barber found his selling job didnt stop at the doors of the executive boardroom.
Barber and May convinced the business users that this was their portal. With the support of the executive team for strategic direction and business units for content, Barber and May were clearly better positioned this time to make the portal succeed.
May said that the internal portal went live March 1 and that his staff is hearing good reports from business units.
Barber and May said this initial success has given them confidence to move forward with the next step, which is to develop the outward-facing portal for customers.
They said they hope to go live with the customer portal by the end of this year, and Barber said he believes their initial success will help them in this regard.
Ron Miller is a free-lance writer in Amherst, Mass. He can be reached at [email protected]