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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