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February 15, 2008 by Gonzo Gonzo

GonzoBanker of the Month: Doug True, FORUM Credit Union

This month Gonzo honors Doug True, Senior Vice President of Technovation at FORUM Credit Union and President of FORUM Solutions, FORUM’s wholly owned subsidiary, for his energetic dedication to promoting all things credit union, his spirited commitment to ensuring a top of the line member service experience, and his unwavering tenacity for customer-driven technology.

Name: Doug True

Official Title: Senior Vice President of Technovation, FORUM Credit Union, and President, FORUM Solutions, FORUM’s wholly owned technology subsidiary.

Gonzo Title: Technology Nerd (and Seriously Proud of It!)

Alma Mater: Doug got his undergrad degree in Business at IUPUI (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis) and his MBA from Anderson University in Indiana.

Previous Gigs: For Doug, FORUM is more or less the mother ship. Having signed on with the Indiana-based credit union straight out of college, Doug has devoted 20 years to the “movement” focusing on both retail and technology, including a boatload of new technology innovations and development projects.

It appears Doug was a technology innovator even in his more tender years. Doug related that prior to his FORUM gig, he was a zitty-faced kid working at the local Sears, Roebuck and Co. to help pay his way through college. Assigned to the home improvement department, Doug was responsible for managing inventory. At the time, everything related to inventory control was manual. Utilizing his pioneering bent, Doug bought himself a Sears laptop (at that time sans hard drive) and whipped up a nifty inventory management program. After going through an informal beta, the program was turned loose on the front line at Sears. Not surprisingly, it was a hit. GonzoBanker can’t quite attribute the quote, “I invented ERP [enterprise resource planning]” to Doug, but we think the possibility may exist.

Gonzo Claim to Fame:
The Doug True brand is spreading like the flu at daycare. Doug eloquently shares his perceptions on a variety of topics, from innovation and technology to books and trips, on his well-trafficked blog, True Story: Thoughts by Doug True. He has been quoted several times recently in the Wall Street Journal on his involvement with social-lending player Zopa and technology spending in today’s economic environment. This is testament to the respect Doug has garnered for his deep industry knowledge and the “spin” he has on the future of finance.

GonzoBanker has always loved the way Doug can mash up technology to create meaningful innovations on the customer and process side of things. Doug said, “I am not your typical CIO. My academic background is business and I grew up at the credit union on the retail side of the business.” Always a technology wannabe, Doug feels he was fortunate to have ultimately ended up with the propeller-heads at FORUM.

Some ‘Aha’ Moments vis-à-vis Technology and Customer Service:
A friend related to Doug that, because he doesn’t manage the household finances, he often finds himself at the grocery store register not knowing whether to use the debit card or the credit card, necessitating an [embarrassing] call to his wife. This dilemma inspired the current project that has Doug pumped up, and the one on which FORUM has a patent pending: a member-driven technology that combines the advantages of debit and credit cards and impacts how members interact with their accounts. Doug told GonzoBanker that FORUM is in employee testing now, with plans to do some live file testing in the coming weeks. We’re watching this one with great interest!

Another inspiration for Doug has been Papa John’s Short Message Service (SMS), which allows customers to save and then order their top three favorite pizzas by simply texting FAV1, FAV2, FAV3. This relatively simple technology has Doug thinking about ways to use text messaging to make common financial transactions easier for members. “We’re working on incorporating text based banking so FORUM bankers can text their three favorite transactions. This represents a technology investment that is minimal on cost but very user friendly and personal.”  

Recent Significant Projects:
Doug is pretty excited about that patent pending payments project mentioned above, the first in FORUM’s history. Doug also mentioned Roundabout, a CRM system that FORUM built for two credit unions (FORUM and Vantage). With both workflow and sales referral capabilities, Doug reported that Roundabout has created some positive buzz for both credit unions and helped improved service to members. In addition, Doug is jazzed about the integration of BioPassword as FORUM’s multi-factor authentication solution for Internet banking. BioPassword uses a customer’s unique computer keystroke cadence for authentication. Cool stuff.

Oftentimes, the investment in technologies created at FORUM is amortized by selling the applications to other financial institutions via the FORUM Solutions subsidiary. In effect, technology has moved from a cost center to a profit center at FORUM.

Advice for Other GonzoBankers:
Doug stated simply, “Intentionally listen to your end users and show them you are listening by acting on their feedback. Controlling your own destiny and not depending entirely on third-party vendors is something we believe in.” GonzoBanker couldn’t have said it better.

Lessons Learned?
Doug urged GonzoBankers to stress simplicity and self-service as key design principles of any technology rollout. The trick, according to Doug, is avoiding the trap of providing functionality for the sake of functionality. “What you want is for end users to be able to achieve their goals – themselves – while keeping it simple,” Doug said. “Of course, that’s easier said than done.”

Who on your team would you like to give credit to for helping make this project successful?
Doug said he is blessed to work with talented and most importantly passionate teammates. His FORUM Solutions co-founder, Cam Minges, “has an unbelievable knack for taking an idea [even loosely defined and communicated], adding value and making a prototype to touch and feel.”

In keeping with GonzoBanker’s sense that Doug sees his techie team as real superheroes, we note that he’s been known to reward them for an exceptionally dedicated bout of hard work with “all you can eat” pizza and a double-screening of The Incredibles in the lunch room.

Doug Outside the Office:
GonzoBanker uncovered in Doug a real champion for kids. In addition to being happily involved with the activities of his own kids, Megan and Matthew, Doug is currently co-director of a new Upward basketball league at his church. The league attracted a remarkable 255 participants in the small town where he lives. Doug also started a tennis ministry for youth at his church that draws 30-40 kids one evening a week.

‘In a Parallel Universe…’ Career Choice:
If Doug was not working at FORUM, he would want to teach at the collegiate level part-time and travel the country speaking at various credit union events. “I currently do both of these and enjoy them in a limited role given my day job,” Doug remarked.

Doug’s Fave Movie of All Time – or Not:
Being the fidgety type, Doug told us he’s not much into movies. He is a fan of DVR, though, because it lets him watch a 60-minute show in 35 minutes. “Don’t label me as a reality television junkie, but I think it would be a blast to be on the Amazing Race. I would wear my GonzoBanker t-shirt proudly in the race. I recognize I need to relax a bit.”

Recent iPod/MP3 Downloads:
Doug has a bit of a commute to and from FORUM, so to help mitigate the tedium, besides fiddling around with the doodads on his Lexus, Doug listens to audio books. Current “reads” include Wikinomics, Made to Stick and Leading for Growth: How Umpqua Bank Got Cool and Created a Culture of Greatness. When music is on the menu, Doug shows a bit of an alternative bent. Right now, he’s listening to A Fine Frenzy, Alison Krauss, Jon McLaughlin, Brett Dennen, Amos Lee, John Mayer and the subdudes.

GonzoBanker is inspired by Doug’s commitment to member focused technology. As GonzoBanker of the Month, Cornerstone is proud to donate $250 in Doug’s name to FORUM Spirit, an employee driven charitable team at FORUM Credit Union, whose latest project is renovating a room at the Dayspring Center for the homeless in the central Indiana area.

 



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