The corporate marriage between a pair of credit union tech cooperatives, Co-op Financial Services and eCom, is complete, and Co-op Financial has turned its attention to combining eCom's substantial digital bill-payments engine with Co-op 's existing online and mobile banking platforms.

The goal is to build a broad, yet centralized, payments and financial-services hub that will enable Co-op 's member credit unions to use digital financial services and payments to go toe to toe with banks.

"A standalone bill payment service is hard to sell, and that's all eCom was. We will integrate it with online banking and our mobile programming that includes services such as remote deposit capture to offer a wide range of products," says Kim Hester, Co-op’s executive vice president of network services who discussed the acquisition and tech conversion this week in an interview.

Co-op Financial just closed on its acquisition of eCom, which was approved by the National Credit Union Administration, in late December. Co-op Financial, a shared services consortium of more than 3,000 credit unions that pool resources to defray the cost of purchasing, deploying and managing IT assets and software, purchased the eCom mobile and online bill payment and presentment engine from the US Central Federal Credit Union.

US Central, which had served as a cooperative central bank for about 30 corporate credit unions, faltered and was placed into conservatorship by federal regulators in 2009. The long liquidation of its assets included eCom, which Co-op hopes to use to bolster the bill-payment capabilities that are part of its own menu of electronic commerce options.

Co-op also plans to make all of these functions available to credit-union members in a single-sign-on environment, as is increasingly the case for larger banks.

Co-op offers a number of payments-related services, such as card payments, payments processing and account-to-account transfers, but it hopes to use eCom's presentment technology to streamline the user experience when navigating between bill payments and the banking transactions that allow the payments to be made. Co-op will also add some new payment options to its arsenal.

"ECom also comes with some nice features, such as expedited payments, which are unusual in the credit union space," says Hester.

ECom's flagship payments platform is MemberPay, an electronic bill-payment service designed to meet the needs of credit unions, with a list of services built based on market research. The product offers flexibility in terms of design, including logo, color palates and banner ads that can be used to customize both user experience and the look and feel of the consumer's actual payments page.

MemberPay also supports multiple payment models and allows users to separate payments into categories and subcategories to assist with financial organization. It also produces historical reports, which help users track spending and pending and paid bills. Users can also draw payments from multiple accounts from the same page.

Co-op also offers remote deposit capture for PC and mobile and will link those services to the expanded eCom-driven bill presentment and person-to-person payment options as part of the same product, without the member credit unions having to change processing technology.

"E-billing in the credit union space is fairly new. We've talked about it a lot, but it's been tough because of the scraping [data harvesting] behind it. The tech is out there but is not widespread in credit unions. That's a feature that we will offer," says Hester.

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