This past month has tested us all. The combined fury of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria brought destruction on a scale we haven’t seen in recent history. When the storms subsided, a new concern emerged: millions of people forced to reconstruct their lives. For some this will be a manageable task. But for others the material, human and financial costs will be life-altering.
Hurricane Harvey hit home in a special way for me. I called Houston home for several years. So much of what I saw on the news was unrecognizable – flooded streets being navigated by boat, whole neighborhoods submerged under flood water. On the other hand, the people helping people spirit was evident in the way the entire country rallied to donate their time and money to lend a helping hand.
As always, the credit union community was there to help, and the cooperative strength of our industry made a huge difference. Through CUAid – in an effort spearheaded by the National Credit Union Foundation and Cornerstone Credit Union League – the industry raised more than $1 million to help credit union employees through the disaster, including $10,000 in support from CO-OP. CUNA, PSCU and CO-OP also took an unprecedented step by working together to establish special toll-free numbers to help members who were displaced by the flood, or whose regular financial services were unavailable. All three organizations worked closely with Cornerstone CUL President/CEO Caroline Willard and the affected credit unions to help ensure that members’ needs were met throughout the crisis.
Crisis of another kind
In other news, a different kind of crisis struck in the form of a massive security breach at Equifax. Though the numbers continue to shift, approximately 143 million consumers are likely affected. The implications of this are enormous, but what’s nearly as bad as the breach itself is the confusion we’ve all suffered since it happened. The Equifax site set up to inform people whether or not their files were breached turned out to require a waiver of rights. More recently, it’s being reported that Equifax may have mistakenly directed consumers to fake sites and not the secure site they themselves created.
As most of you know, security has been a major focus for CO-OP this year. We’re building out an info security team under the direction of industry leader Paul Love. We’re integrating machine learning into our fraud detection practices and strengthening our security tools across the system. Our integration efforts, too, are directed at creating a more cohesive, more secure unified platform.
The goal isn’t just enhanced security: It’s trust. We know your members look to you as trusted financial partners. So while we’re working overtime to make sure that our data, your data and your members’ data is safe and secure, we’re also committed to providing the best information and transparency across the board.
In the days following the Equifax announcement, I heard one security expert say that we should all assume that our information is “out there” and take steps to secure it. He’s right. Even if your file escaped the Equifax breach, your data may have been exposed in any number of breaches large or small in recent years. Takeaway: We’re all in this together. Let’s provide the security – and the leadership – needed to keep our members and our organizations safe in the years to come.
We’re rebuilding our infrastructure
At CO-OP, we’re undergoing a digital transformation that is crucial to helping our client credit unions become more agile, digitally-driven and resilient. Our focus on building a seamless and secure experience for our clients and their members has inspired a great deal of rebuilding. Integration is a huge part of this effort. Here’s a short list of recent steps forward we’ve made in this category:
- Coming Soon: Single Client Portal: As a major step towards integration and truly delivering on our seamless and secure promise, we are proud to announce that a single client portal for all CO-OP applications, is launching later this year. Be on the lookout for more details in the coming weeks.
- Data Center Migration: CO-OP recently completed the final step in its Data Center Move Project. Our switching processing infrastructure now resides at new, state-of-the-art data centers in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, and Phoenix, Arizona. All new HP NonStop data processing hardware and an upgraded operating system were at the heart of both moves. This move was a crucial step to setting the foundation for future innovation and integration across CO-OP.
- One Legal Entity: Though CO-OP is many things to many people, it is shedding its legacy corporate identities and becoming a single legal entity. This move will streamline CO-OP’s operations and opens the door to simplified contracts, a single point of contact, and bundled pricing. Stay tuned.
Our current integration push is a major initiative spanning several years, and we’re just getting started. That’s another way of saying that we’re barely beginning the second inning: We’ve only begun. But the progress we’ve made in integrating CO-OP into a single, digitally-driven organization have been significant already, and they’re setting the stage for even more significant changes to come.
We can be resilient
As I’m writing this, news coverage of the hurricanes and the subsequent rebuilding is largely non-existent, as if it hadn’t happened. News about the Equifax breach continues to unfold, though many consumers report being more confused than activated. Those of us who work in financial services know that our challenge will stretch out over months and years to come. It’s up to us to help our members regain access to their money and rebuild their financial lives, stronger than ever.
This is a view of modern life that we don’t often take – that we and our members may be subject to literal disaster and forced to hammer together a new life, or that the data we all work so hard to protect can be exposed in a single massive event. Yet, this view is completely in line with what we hope to accomplish in striving to build new digital infrastructure and an agile outlook on the future. Life demands resilience. By innovating and integrating our platforms to achieve ubiquity across all of our channels, working together to share intelligence and resources, and delivering the solutions our members need in good times and bad, we are building for the future. And we plan on doing it right, so that we as an industry will be prepared not only for disaster, but for a new collaborative, digitally-driven world.