Don't Get Dust in the Server & Other Core Conversion Lessons

Share One CEO finds that sacred cows make delicious hamburgers.

December 23, 2010
KEYWORDS conversion , core , training
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A core processing conversion can be more than a technology upgrade. Done right, it has the potential to transform a credit union, says Daryl Tanner, CEO of Share One Solutions.

The former CEO of Pacific IBM Employees Federal Credit Union (now Meriwest Credit Union, San Jose, Calif.) has seen such transformations first-hand, most notably when he converted the credit union’s 20-year-old mainframe during the early 1990s.

He shares valuable lessons from that experience—and others that went less smoothly.

CU Mag: How’s business?

Tanner: Busy as heck. The lull is over and the pipeline is fuller than it’s ever been. People are waking up and deciding the future isn’t as bright as they thought it would be, but it’s still the future. Good old human survival.

CU Mag: How did you approach core conversions when you were a CU CEO?

Tanner: I did four core conversions during the 27 years I was a credit union CEO. I was involved in writing some of the systems, so we were very familiar with what was being installed.

When I was at Pacific IBM Employees Federal Credit Union (now Meriwest Credit Union, San Jose, Calif.), we replaced a 20-year-old mainframe system IBM designed for us. We asked employees to make suggestions to improve processes in their departments. We thought that getting employees involved in redesigning their jobs would be a golden opportunity to make the credit union more progressive.

Nothing takes the place of broad employee participation and training.

We awarded a free weekend for two in Napa Valley to the person who came up with the best suggestion for improving his or her job. The young woman who won eliminated her own job: She made suggestions that basically left her with nothing to do.

We moved her into another position where her innovative ideas would keep flowing.

We also gave away smaller prizes, such as fuzzy, stuffed “sacred” cows to people who slayed a sacred cow—a practice or procedure that “had to stay that way.” And we served hamburgers made from “sacred” cows.

This had a major change on the culture. People were so excited. The credit union jumped from $350 million in assets when I left to $1.2 billion in three years. That was after IBM let 100,000 employees go. The CEO who’s there now [Christopher Owen] was my chief financial officer (CFO). He’s done a great job.

If you do it right, a conversion can create new ways of doing things and establish a whole new paradigm for the credit union.

Next: How to ensure a smooth conversion process

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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