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Ask the Experts: Information Systems

Blog Ask the Experts IS
12.23.21
By: Holly Benedetto

In this series, we take a look at the inner workings of the Credit Union and meet some of the champions who help our members in every facet of their financial lives. This month, we met up with expert Kevin Tressel, who leads a group of 30-plus employees with disciplines ranging from Programming, Networking, Security and IS Operations.

 

Kevin Tressel
Chief Information Officer
Has been with American Heritage for 16 years

Kevin has been in the credit union industry for 30 years. Kevin holds a Master’s Degree in Information Systems from Penn State University. His expertise is with system integration and disaster recovery. Kevin has worked on hundreds of projects over his career to implement new technologies for the credit union to provide solutions to serve the membership.

 

What role does technology play in financial institutions?

Technology plays a huge role. Everything businesses do, especially financial services, is driven by technology. Besides our branch network, everything happens by phone or electronically by an app or similar tech. Technology is the future.

 

 

Where do you think banking tech will be in the next 5 or 10 years?

With the rise of artificial intelligence and speech recognition, there will eventually be systems designed to help you in everyday life. For example, if you are shopping, you will be able to ask your devices questions and receive intelligent responses that take your budget into consideration. It will use the knowledge it has about you, like payments due, paycheck deposit, and current account balance, and calculate if you can afford something — a personal digital assistant. This type of tech will interface and act as the middleman. Other usage examples of this developing technology include getting doctors' referrals or purchasing airline tickets. Anytime you need research done, it will do the work and come back with choices.  
 
More developing technologies are already in place for some industries, such as telemedicine. As things change, they become part of the ecosystem, part of the experience. The tech slides into place. We're using similar technology with our Video Advisor service, which allows users to call in and manage their account from anywhere.

 

 

What other types of technology are being introduced at American Heritage?

We're currently working on RPA, or robotic process automation. This program simulates human keystrokes to do a tedious process. The Information Systems department just rolled out six bots. They can, for example, update hundreds of rates from a spreadsheet onto a website grid. The bot can login, open the spreadsheet, read the values, and update the data. Machines are less prone to error than humans and are ultimately more efficient. They take processes that employees do that are very repetitive and free up time for people to do more demanding tasks.

In-branch machine upgrades, such as regular ATMs to PAT Machines, have helped members and associates during pandemic by reducing strain on the branch network. Some of our branches are comprised of smart offices that let associates serve our members from anywhere. There will be a greater focus on both self-service and remote service options. Going forward, we will also add the ability to print contactless cards for convenience on-the-go.

Another developing technology includes ordering cards and having them downloaded to your digital wallet through our mobile app, also known as digital issuance. Hypothetically, if you lost your wallet, you wouldn’t notice as quickly as if you lost your phone. With this technology, you could log onto the app and get a replacement credit or debit card from anywhere. Before, if you didn’t have your wallet, you wouldn’t have your cards.

It is key to understand the importance of digital, especially how it can help our members. Our membership application will soon be imbedded within our mobile app. If a potential member downloads the mobile app before joining, they will be able to join the credit union right from there.

We are also performing a facelift for our mobile products. Instead of menu-centric design, the experience will be product-centric. Rather than going through menus to get to features, you’ll be able to go to products first and explore the related features.

 

What are some reasons members should try the Mobile Teller app?

Many people are time-poor and finding the time to visit a branch in person can be tough. Visiting the branch requires time to travel and conduct transactions. While there are specific tasks you would want to do in a branch, like signing for a mortgage, a car loan, or closing an account, you can service your account day-to-day online.

The mobile app is a convenience. It makes life easier, as you can use it more than you would visit a branch in a day. The average person uses the Mobile Teller app 10-12 times per month, though some even use it multiple times per day. You can set transaction alerts, check balances, make loan payments, and more in minutes.

 

What are some other behind-the-scenes jobs that people don’t realize Information Systems does?

The department does a lot of different things. In New Employee Orientation, Kevin asks trainees, "What is the raw material the employees at the credit union use?" The answer is not computers or money, but data. One of the most significant actions that the IS Department does is replicate data and get it off-site. In the event of a disaster, equipment can be replaced, and employees can be moved. If a primary data location were to be destroyed, the replicated and backed up data is safe, and we can continue to serve our membership.

In essence, Information Systems solves problems for end-users. They generate reports and extract data, but also automate a process and simplify the lives of their coworkers. They perform data delivery to third-party vendors, complete data transformation and modify information for other purposes (such as member or employee service).

IS solves problems for departments when they don’t know where to go to solve it. There is a creative element to information technology. One recent creative project was getting a radio station running for the holidays. The department got a transmitter, did the recordings, and now American Heritage holiday radio is available during the Drive-Thru Grand Illumination.

 

What is your philosophy for cyber security?

From a personal philosophy standpoint, you need to be careful with what software you use, including VPNs and antivirus programs. There is always a risk when surfing the internet, so take common-sense precautions.

Cyber security risks will never stop. If anything, it is going to get more sophisticated and more pervasive. Criminals have large success with fraud, which flies under the radar with consumers. Credit card and identity theft is rampant and will be around until industries change or laws become tougher.

Vulnerabilities are rampant and present in programs that hundreds of companies use. There are professional actors who deliberately try to break into big companies and exploit these vulnerabilities. Stay alert and keep up with cybersecurity news to see how and when you may be affected.

 

How can people practice better digital habits?

The first step you can take in improving your own online security is making sure you are using secure, unique passwords. People like convenience and use the same username and password for a lot of different things, but that creates unnecessary risk. If you have been involved in any type of data breach over the last 5 years, your information is out there.

If you aren't using unique login information, that means that your home banking information could be out there. Criminals can buy this information and use it for their own purposes. Especially for financial services, you need to have your strongest login information. Do not repeat the username or password anywhere else.

Secondly, antivirus and malware protection are important to have on your computer. So many things (like a keylogger) can hide on your computer without you knowing, which harvests your data and sends it to a third party. Get protection for your computer. This can protect you from fraud, identity theft, and other criminal activity.

Third, buy a backup hard drive. If your data is stored in the cloud, that helps, but make sure your computer files are backed up, too. If your computer goes, your photos, information, and the rest of your digital life is gone if it’s not backed up.

 

 

 

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