“People helping people” is the mantra of credit unions. Although it might seem contradictory, Sunmark Federal Credit Union in New York has become an industry leader in tech innovation by maintaining its focus on people. It’s the only credit union in North America with dual-hosted interactive teller machines (ITMs) integrated directly into the banking core and the MasterCard ATM network at the same time.
This means that, at any hour of the day or night, Sunmark members can pull up to a drive-through ITM, make withdrawals or transfers, deposit checks, or make car loan payments. Even customers who aren’t Sunmark members can pick any lane and access typical ATM functions, like withdrawing cash or checking balances, at any machine.
Unlike most systems, however, these machines do not rely on remote video tellers, i.e. humans on the back end who driving each step of the process. This innovation is a big deal because it offers the industry an improved, more efficient method for personal banking.
Sunmark got to this point thanks to the guidance of an outsider. A few years ago, the credit union was looking to expand. Members wanted the stability and convenience of brick-and-mortar branches, an understandable preference for those who choose to bank with their local credit union. Sunmark’s goal became designing branches with smaller footprints and price tags.
To accomplish that goal, Sunmark’s leadership team made an unusual choice. They looked outside the financial sector and brought Darryl J. Enfield on as vice president and CIO. With thirty years of tech experience across a diverse set of industries, he arrived with a fresh perspective and a willingness to disrupt the status quo. Enfield joined the team and led the development and implementation of this new breed of ITMs. “They are basically ATMs on steroids,” Enfield says.
Although he might have been an outside-the-box pick for Sunmark, Enfield had found his dream job. A member of credit unions for more twenty years, he believes deeply in the industry’s supportive ethos. It aligns with how he does tech: people first, then process, and finally, tech. “I don’t believe in tech for tech’s sake,” Enfield says. “This is about business, and tech is just an enabler.”
Dedication to that people-first philosophy laid the foundation of success for the ITM project. For starters, Enfield worked to change the IT team culture. “It had been a team that said no a lot,” he explains. “I wanted to get the team to take risks, to find a way to get to yes.”
Enfield also prioritized repairing and building relationships outside the tech team. He found vendors that shared his vision and strategy and built a team with partners from MasterCard, Nautilus Hyosung, Fiserv, and BranchServ.
When Enfield first joined Sunmark, CEO Frank DeGraw encouraged innovative thinking for the technology functions, and he has fully supported the changes that Enfield has made. Thanks to that top-down leadership, Enfield was able to get cross-functional buy-in from teams in IT, branch operations, the member-solutions center, marketing, deposit operations, and accounting.
All of this problem-solving and team-building in design and implementation allowed the twenty-eight-member team to finish the project in only ten months. A new branch with an entirely different design sense opened; now, the members love it.
Inside, instead of a traditional teller line, customers move through an open space. “The result has been that we have off-loaded branch staff from performing low-value actions,” Enfield says. Beyond performing teller tasks, branch staff now teach people how to use the ITMs and plant the seeds of sales.
In the pilot branch, Sunmark has had to hire staff to respond to the increased sales needs. Much like Enfield, who came from a different sector and brought a relationship-first mind-set, the company now hires for sales and customer-service experience and teach the financial part.
Focusing on people leads to a key aspect of user experience with the ITMs. “We are training-oriented, not just transaction-oriented,” Enfield says. Sunmark teaches members to use the tech. Every ITM user is just a click away from a remote support trainer who can teach people the ins and outs of the machine, and training is available at any time during normal branch hours.
The pilot branch has been open since January 2017, and so far, every month has seen a sharp increase in ITM transactions. About 75 percent of use happens at the drive-through, and only 3 percent of those transactions now need tech support. Sunmark is growing at ten times the industry standard, and membership is on the rise.
With results like this, you might expect Enfield to rest on his laurels, but that’s not his style. He constantly works to maintain relationships with vendors, ensuring that their staffs value, understand, and prioritize Sunmark. These positive, respectful relationships were the key to the original ten-month roll out. Looking to the future, Enfield sees an array of innovation and development, including biometric authentication, ongoing work to deliver common services across diverse channels, tech solutions for commercial banking and new branches, and support for Sunmark’s charitable arm.
The same characteristics that made Sunmark and Enfield a perfect match for disrupting the remote video teller status quo will drive this new work. “We are big enough to inspire confidence and engage international partners and also small enough to not get in the way of ourselves,” Enfield explains. “We are willing to take reasonable risks.”
Along with all his other work, Enfield also has the added task of responding to other credit unions that are interested in adopting new technology. Since imitation is the greatest sign of success, Sunmark can gauge its achievement through the many credit unions that have called, visited, and made plans to roll out their own systems.
As it has since opening its doors at the height of the Great Depression, Sunmark’s people-focused, elegant innovation, with Enfield’s guidance, is continuing to help its members every day.
Photo: Glen Stacey
BranchServ and Nautilus Hyosung are pleased to announce their automation partnership with Sunmark Federal Credit Union and the success of the institution’s new Rotterdam, NY branch featuring self-service solutions. Targeting increased member satisfaction, elevated efficiencies and technological leadership, Sunmark successfully broke the mold in retail design with this space and has been named a recipient of the 2017 CIO 100 award.