North Shore Credit Union (NSCU) is a Vancouver-based financial services organization that delivers banking, insurance and investment services. To achieve greater efficiencies and enhanced service delivery in a highly competitive marketplace, NSCU wanted to unify information for a number of databases and gain a more integrated view of its membership base. Working with Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Temenos, NSCU deployed a comprehensive core banking platform running on Microsoft-based technologies. Today, NSCU is meeting its technology and industry challenges by improved data management and trend forecasting, all of which improves member service and gives them a clear competitive advantage.
From Whistler to downtown Vancouver, North Shore Credit Union (NSCU) is a trusted provider of personal and business financial services. Recognized as one of Canada’s most profitable financial institutions, NSCU provides innovative financial services to more than 40,000 customers across its 12 branch offices and call centres.
One thing that separates credit unions from traditional banks is a community-building approach where clients are members. As a result, institutions such as NSCU have historically positioned themselves to provide superior member service and are highly committed to helping members improve their financial health. As a mid-sized credit union, the key to the company’s success has been using IT to provide a level of customized and personal service not offered by its larger counterparts. NSCU has garnered a reputation as one of the most technologically innovative financial institutions in North America.
||Ours is a fiercely competitive market and the combined T24 and SQL Server 2008 platform helps us to attract and retain members by providing expert financial advice.
||Fred Cook, CIO, NSCU
The technology infrastructure at NSCU includes Microsoft Windows®-based productivity applications, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, more than 400 desktops, 50 hardware servers and a data management platform based on Microsoft SQL Server. On the back-end is a TEMENOS T24 (T24) integrated core banking system that delivers enhanced flexibility for the rapid launch of new products and provides staff with more flexible and reliable financial reporting and analysis.
While member service and IT are priorities for NSCU, the organization is subject to the same budget and resource constraints faced by many mid-size businesses in the financial services industry. These challenges include the need to deliver stronger profit margins and uncover fresh ways to attract new members. In addition, the credit union maintains its commitment to invest a percentage of its pre-tax profits in local charities.
To meet these objectives, the company places a commitment to customer care based on a strong data management strategy, says Fred Cook, CIO of North Shore Credit Union. Simply put, NSCU needs to ensure that it can cost-effectively manage the infrastructure while still maintaining service levels and delivering a wide array of member products and services.
While NSCU was making the most of its previous IT banking system, the organization recognized that improvements to the infrastructure were needed to help integrate large amounts of customer data. The company outsources many of its services, and its database administrators were faced with the daunting task of managing and tracking multiple interfaces and data feeds. To help gain a clear picture of pertinent customer information, integrating all this data became a priority in order to deliver more customized and targeted member service.
“With multiple system and coding requirements, quickly navigating our data was an ongoing challenge. In order to reduce complexity, we decided that upgrading our Microsoft SQL Server environment would go a long way toward improving member service and helping us launch new products and services faster,” says Cook.
NSCU worked with Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Temenos to deliver a new core banking solution with a strong data management platform based on Microsoft SQL Server® 2008. Temenos is a global provider of community banking systems, serving more than 700 customers in over 120 countries. By leveraging SQL Server 2008 with its existing T24 banking system, NSCU developed a more cost-effective and agile environment. The integrated SQL Server-T24 platform helps NSCU access a wide range of Microsoft-based tools while benefiting from the advanced core banking features of the Temenos solution.
“Combining TEMENOS T24 with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 provides NSCU with an integrated core banking solution that supports superior banking products and delivery channels. It also delivers the first class data management capability they need to better serve their members,” says Koen van den Brande, Group Marketing and Strategy Director, Temenos. “By dramatically improving the way NSCU integrates data, staff can now gain a more comprehensive view of member information and deliver better financial advice accompanied by products and services that meet their specific needs.”
North Shore Credit Union is taking advantage of the Microsoft-based platform to better manage large volumes of data, concurrent queries and multiple applications. The T24 system stores information in Microsoft SQL Server in XML format, providing enhanced data retrieval and analysis. Built within the Temenos Application Framework, T24’s application runtime connects directly to SQL Server with an interface identical to those employed by Microsoft’s internal developers.
The SQL Server-T24 platform is being used by NSCU to support all of its retail banking products, including deposit, savings and lending products. “We want to take advantage of the additional management tools that Microsoft SQL Server 2008 provides. One thing we’ve done with our T24 system is introduce a back-up site in Toronto. With SQL Server 2008 in place, we can migrate our databases from Vancouver to Toronto in real-time,” says Cook.
The credit union was also pleased with the enhanced database high-availability functionality in Microsoft SQL Server – including failover clustering and improved peer-to-peer replication. NSCU is using this feature to help mitigate risk by ensuring information also resides at a secondary site. Even if the primary location happens to go offline, the IT team can better ensure that member data remains secure and accessible. With a unified business data model shared across monitoring, analytics and planning activities, employees can more easily track and monitor business data and make better sense of what the data analysis is telling them – ultimately helping them to identify trends and opportunities and plan more effectively. The new platform is also based on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) – allowing NSCU to benefit from a more flexible and efficient system.
Leveraging SOA helps the credit union to avoid increased operating expenses by automating back-end processes and providing more flexibility in creating new online products and services. In addition, the built-in BI capabilities within Microsoft SQL Server 2008 will allow NSCU to deliver reports in Excel, courtesy of the new and enhanced Reporting Services Excel rendering capabilities. As customer needs evolve, the new T24-SQL Server data management environment will help NSCU grow and scale along with their membership.
The integrated system is now much simpler to configure and customize, allowing NSCU to quickly introduce new products and services to market. For example, a new product can now be developed and launched by simply changing or enhancing specific parameters in the T24 system. Speed of processing is mission-critical to the company’s success. Staff at NSCU are using the Resource Governor feature of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 to help define resource limits and better manage multiple workloads. For example, if new government regulations regarding tax on savings are introduced, NSCU is now in a better position to quickly ensure its system can reflect that. NSCU is also using the feature to protect the system from performance problems that might occur when different workloads are competing for the same resources. This helps to ensure that the company’s online analytical processing can handle data queries and batch processes.
NSCU is leveraging the new data management platform based on SQL Server 2008 and TEMENOS T24 to better integrate its multi-application environment, increase product innovation and deliver better member service. Call centre staff, for example, now have enhanced visibility into the company’s business processes, which helps to boost staff productivity and provide a better understanding of member needs.
“The new core banking system allows us to focus on improving business outcomes and processes. For our members, it helps us better deliver a ‘one stop shop’ for all their financial needs,” says Cook.
Improved customer service
Particularly as members place higher demands on the institution’s banking system through increased use of online banking, NSCU can ensure it meets this demand by offering a more highly available data network. The credit union is better positioned to deliver targeted member service and provide more detailed financial statements, allowing members to make more informed decisions.
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 includes Analysis Services that enable decision makers to drive broader analyses. In addition, call centre capabilities have been enhanced, which enables NSCU to leverage the platform to extend its Syntellect Communications Portal (SCP) to deliver more automated self-service banking functionality. Features include caller authentication, automated reporting on lost or stolen debit cards, new or replacement card orders, bill pay and more. Members can also check balances, monitor activity and transfer funds on their accounts.
“We represent an integral part of the community we serve and member loyalty is more important than ever. Ours is a fiercely competitive market and the combined T24 and SQL Server 2008 platform helps us to attract and retain members by providing expert financial advice,” says Cook.
Enhanced data security
Data security is a top priority among financial service providers and NSCU is no exception. In terms of data security, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 features full event auditing throughout an organization and native support for transparent data encryption. The credit union is also leveraging the new SQL Server 2008 enhancements to help make data and resources easier to manage and provide added security features.
“With more improvements throughout, our database administrators will have greater control and can access all areas of the system by group and user levels. Since workers need to develop reports for a single department, they receive read-only access to certain portions of the database – helping improve data consistency and accuracy,” says Cook.
Easier database management
NSCU is using several new features of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 designed to help improve database management and central reporting. As well, enhanced database mirroring capabilities help NSCU improve system reliability and boost the productivity of its database administrators.
With T24 architecture offering increased straight through processing (STP) for member transactions, NSCU is looking to leverage a multiple application-server environment so that they can easily add servers as volumes expand. This helps reduce the cost of moving new hardware as demand grows. The server solution has also helped NSCU exceed the capabilities of their existing equipment – providing the level of scalability required for future growth.
“As an organization, NSCU is very focused and driven by access to information from multiple sources. Having a core banking infrastructure based on SQL Server 2008 and T24 helps to lower operating costs and improve metric tracking and business intelligence, along with better integration between back-end systems and customer service applications,” says Sujan Menezes, Financial Services Industry Manager, Microsoft Canada.
“If you're going to be nimble in this industry, then you'd better have a stable banking platform that supports that. The ability to integrate our entire data management environment and make quicker business decisions gives us a competitive edge,” says Cook.