Why I Love my Credit Union, Reason #62

Earlier this month I blogged about some work I’d done to grab and parse my credit union statements in an effort to learn more about my spending habits.

A few days later I received a helpful and supportive email from the Director of Product Management at Central 1 Credit Union, the company that develops and manages the MemberDirect service that powers my local credit union’s online banking system (this is sort of like blogging about a problem with your MacBook and having Jonathan Ive give you a call). 

Not only did he encourage my experimenting, but he also suggested that we speak on the phone so he could answer some of my technical questions and discuss some of the broader ideas of helping credit union members learn more about our spending.

We’ve just had that call and it was very helpful. Among the things I learned:

  • Central 1 Credit Union is a new company resulting from the merger of the provincial Credit Union centrals in British Columbia and Ontario.
  • In Atlantic Canada there’s a central organization called “League Data” that provides the technology used by my Credit Union itself – the actual “how much money is in Peter’s account” stuff; the MemberDirect service communicates with League Data’s systems using a message specification.
  • MemberDirect can only deliver to me data that League Data’s systems deliver to it.  So, for example, the MemberDirect system supports delivery of full “metadata” for both current and archival transactions, but it appears that League Data only provides MemberDirect for full metadata for the current month’s transactions.  This is thus a League Data issue, not a MemberDirect issue.
  • The message specification used for communication between MemberDirect and League Data doesn’t support any greater level of time granularity that a single day: in other words, transactions can only be date-stamped, not time-stamped (which limits my pie-in-the-sky “geolocation through transaction analysis” project somewhat…).

My ideas about providing spending information to members through MemberDirect were also well-received, and we’ve agreed to keep talking about this.

Just as the call was ending I mentioned that I’d enjoyed watching the evolution of MemberDirect over the years, and appreciated the fact that its technology decisions are, unlike the systems of banks, 100% member-driven.  As evidence of this I noted a feature that was introduced recently that saw a “Make this my default account to pay bills from” checkbox added to the bill payment screen. It’s a simply feature, but a very useful one that’s saved me from a lot of frustration (through “you need to select an account” error messages).  As it turns, the person whose shephherded this feature into the system was also in on the call, so I got a chance to thank him personally for the help.

Taken together this is all an illustration of what’s so great about the Credit Union movement: Credit Unions are transparent, member-driven, and excel at the kind of personal customer service that is completely beyond the range of banks.  It’s inconceivable to me that anyone involved in technology planning at a bank would contact me if I blogged about their systems; even if they wanted to, they would likely not be allowed to.  Within the Credit Union movement, apparently, talking with users is actually encouraged. Go figure.

I was a Metro Credit Union proud member today, and I’m looking forward to taking this project further.


Alan's picture
Alan on July 23, 2009 - 20:37 Permalink

I once provided professional services to League Data and really really wished it had actually been called The League of Data.

Chuck's picture
Chuck on July 24, 2009 - 07:03 Permalink

I like the idea of a credit union, but between PC Financial and ING Direct I have most of my banking needs met, with no fees to worry about. Credit Union fees seem comparable to a traditional bank’s. Since almost all of my banking is done virtually, I can’t imagine having to think about whether or not I’d used up my free debits for the month and maybe getting dinged $0.60 to $0.80 each time I use Interac card.

If my local credit union offered a fee-free chequing account, I’d probably switch. In the meantime… it’s going to stay in the realm of a nice idea.30