By: Charlie Miller
Undertaking a core conversion is no small task and it’s a decision no financial institution takes lightly. When researching how to do a successful conversion, it quickly becomes clear that it is a complicated and time-consuming process that can sometimes lead to a whole host of problems for both users and customers.
However, as institutions grow and adopt newer, more advanced technology, the need for a core conversion can become unavoidable. Overall, that’s great news, because it means you’re growing! But because it is such a significant, lengthy, and costly endeavor, it’s important to take it on with eyes wide open.
As the largest writer of portfolio protection in the industry and among the longest in business with nearly 50 years of experience, State National has been witness to hundreds of our partners’ core conversions. Following are some of our insights and observations for those who may also be thinking about beginning this significant transition.
Learn From Others’ Experiences and Expertise
While there is no simple solution to make this process problem-free, there are proven best practices that can help. By listening to and implementing expert advice from core processor providers as well as peers that have gone through the conversion process, you can help set the stage for a smoother and more seamless transition as you undertake this major system overhaul.
1) Establish a dedicated team.
Core conversions are often perceived solely as an IT project. However, the most successful conversions involve senior leadership from the beginning to ensure the conversion aligns with user needs in each department as well as customer needs, wants, and expectations. Consider hiring or assigning a dedicated project manager to create a detailed and thorough project plan — and hold all stakeholders accountable to that plan — before the process even kicks off. When it comes to core conversion, the devil is in the details. Someone who is fully dedicated and invested can closely oversee project mapping, testing, and training.
2) Evaluate the vendors in the field.
Many core processor vendors are available, and the right partner depends on what is most important for your specific business needs and your customers. Important items to consider are Marketing Customer Information File (MCIF) analysis functionality, native application integration, availability of third-party integration, data mining capability, mortgage servicing, and, of course, implementation costs and ongoing maintenance fees.
3) Think ahead.
Take time to understand the details of each proposal to fully comprehend the long-term impacts and benefits to your organization.
4) Select the right business partner.
Choose a vendor and core platform that best aligns and supports your organizational vision and direction.
5) Have dedicated teams that lead and drive the conversion process.
Details, details, details! A core conversion touches every part of your business, so don’t stay high level. Setting up function-focused teams for each department (such as a customer-facing team and a back office team) will allow for function-based assessment and keep the details in sight. Additionally, these teams allow every area of your business to evaluate processes and transactions that will need to change, make decisions about how to set up those changes, and troubleshoot challenges and problems in real time before the conversion actually takes place.
6) Designate a dedicated training leader.
This person should train all departments on the new core platform and ensure there is ample time for practice and experimentation before the go-live date — which is especially important for customer-facing functions. Make sure your training leader builds a variety of test cases to ensure a review of every possible scenario.
Thorough communication, both internally and with your customers, should be a huge part of the plan. Everyone should be aware of what is happening well in advance of the go-live date. Also, consider having a plan for ample, even excess, staffing in your call center during the mock conversions, during conversion weekend, and after going live.
8) Communicate some more.
Constant communication with technology partners and vendors is also a key component to ensuring a successful rollout. As one of the partners, we would encourage you to communicate with your partners and vendors before you start the conversion process to ensure all stakeholders are involved and invested in the testing plan/schedule.
Involve your technology partners in your core conversion
9) Maintain agility and flexibility.
Recognize that there will be setbacks in any process, so plan for more time and resources than you think you’ll need to allow for adjustments along the way. It’s also important to recognize wins and achievements as milestones are reached, so you can continue to engage and motivate staff through the challenges.
The whole reason you implemented a core conversion is to take advantage of the new features, benefits, and efficiencies that will be available with your new core platform! Keep staff engaged and motivated by celebrating milestones along the way as well as post-conversion, and make it a point to recognize the teammates who worked so diligently to make the conversion happen.
Measure Twice, Convert Once
Having a clear plan of action from the start provides peace of mind that your financial institution will be able to handle the challenges coming your way during the conversion process. More importantly, it will help ensure the successful implementation of a new core processing system that will provide long-term efficiencies for your team and organization as well as long-term value for your customers.
We know the strain and stress the conversion process can place on a financial institution’s business resources, which is why we want to help make things as simple and straightforward as possible. We offer direct integration with the Temenos and Symitar core processor platforms, and have the ability to automate and customize file transfer with the vast majority of core processing platforms across the industry. We also make sure our programs are smooth and seamless so that whatever your challenges and hurdles may be, portfolio protection will never be one of them.
Charlie Miller is State National’s Vice President of Client Services and Operations, overseeing the relationship- and service-focused client-facing team as well as our fundamental loan and insurance tracking operations, including Document Processing and our in-house Contact Center. Charlie’s core priority is delivering an exceptional client experience by building lasting partner relationships that exceed expectations while delivering efficient, cutting-edge processes focused on improving the experience of both our clients and their borrowers.