2021 Annual Connect User Conference Brought Credit Unions Together Virtually 

The “Synergent Family Reunion,” as it has long been referred to, brought together over 170 registrants coast-to-coast over five conference days. The 2021 Connect User Conference was held for the first time as a multi-day event that was filled with forward-thinking, insightful presentations given by Synergent leadership, featured speakers, and in-house subject-matter experts.

“We were optimistic that 2021 was the year we were going to have our ‘family reunion’ in-person, but logistically, it made the most sense to host the event virtually,” explained Scott Johnsen, Synergent Senior Vice President of Operations and host of the Connect User Conference. “This was the safest option given the ongoing pandemic and allowed the maximum number of credit unions to participate. The conference is a much-awaited opportunity to catch up with colleagues while learning about the latest trends and roadmap initiatives.”

September 29, 2021 – Conference Kickoff

On September 29, Johnsen welcomed attendees to the start of the Connect User Conference.

Scott Johnsen
SVP – Operations

“This is not about a culmination, but a continuation of a lot of great discussions we’ve had about places we are in now and places we’re going,” opened Johnsen.

He went on to explain that this year’s Connect User Conference had two primary goals: to create awareness and talk about strategic approach.

“To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld a little bit: ‘There’s the things that you know, there’s the things that you don’t know, but what about those things you didn’t know you didn’t know?’” presented Johnsen. “How can we make sure that we’re all singing from the same sheet of music, we all have an understanding of what is happening in the marketplace, and how do we demystify some of the market’s problem statements? How do we find those solutions that support those market problem statements for both you and your member experience? And we’re going to highlight the conversion of digital, payments, and even the core.”

Todd Mason, President and CEO of Synergent, continued the conference kickoff by sharing his lifelong love of reading, whether it was a newspaper article, a magazine, or a book, he always read just about anything he could get his hands on. But one type of book was his favorite: the series where the reader could choose their own journey. Relating to credit unions, members choose their own journeys each and every day, defining their experiences and deciding what products and services are most important.

“Synergent, when we think about what outcomes we want to help you drive, we think about it in terms of enabling our credit union customers to be innovative financial service providers of choice,” shared Mason.

Synergent achieves this for credit unions in the following four key areas: Risk management, integrated solutions, scale, and thought leadership.

Todd Mason

“What is innovation all about?” asked Mason. “If we say we want to help you be ‘innovative financial service providers of choice,’ what does that mean? I view innovation as a continuum, I view it as something that is never quite done. It keeps changing, it keeps growing.”

Mason continued that Synergent is here to help guide credit unions through their digital evolution with an emphasis on people, who are the most important aspect of all. In the earliest part of digital maturation, guiding members through functions such as how to use tools like digital banking or remote deposit capture, to something more complex like a loan application, tying it all together for members must be a focus as they move forward.

“That’s why I wanted to tie in this ‘choose your own journey,’ explained Mason. “Ultimately, that’s what we need to help members do, is enable them to choose the experience that they want to be able to have, to help enable them to be able to jump out of analog and digital at will.”

Concluding, Mason reflected that making sure we have the table stakes covered, such as fraud, cybersecurity, security, compliance, integrated solutions, partnerships, scale, and thought leadership, is the right mix for success, to remain competitive against big FIs.

“You can have great products, you can have great services, and maybe they’re even integrated together,” said Mason. “But it’s the thought leadership that really drives the innovation that allows us and allows you to create experiences where your members can create their own experiences. That takes a lot of thought, that takes a lot of planning, that takes a lot of integration, and that’s something that we don’t do alone. We do that with our great partners, and we do that with you. Making sure that we’re understanding your needs, your objectives, and, of course, where you want to be and where your members want to be and what they want. I think today’s theme of the convergence of payments on digital is spot on because that is exactly what we need to be thinking about. How do we embed these things in the fabric of our members’ lives?”

The Convergence of Payments and Digital
Tede Forman, VP Payment Solutions – Jack Henry & Associates
Ben Metz, Senior Managing Partner – Jack Henry Digital

Connect User Conference attendees heard from and interacted with two major experts in the payments and technology space: Tede Forman, Vice President of Payment Solutions for Jack Henry & Associates (JHA), and Ben Metz, Senior Managing Partner for Jack Henry Digital.

Making the Complex Simple in an Evolving Payments Landscape

Tede Forman
Jack Henry & Associates

Tede Forman provides leadership and strategic direction in the areas of operations, technology, and product development for Jack Henry’s Payment Solutions team. This includes Card Processing Solutions (CPS), iPay Solutions, Enterprise Payment Solutions (EPS), and PayCenter products. He has been with Jack Henry since 2011, has over 35 years of experience in technology and product leadership, and has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry.

“To me, it’s a really exciting time right now with the digital revolution, the digital landscape, and also payments,” opened Forman.

Forman’s primarily payments-focused presentation covered four key topics:

  • Jack Henry Payments Overview
  • Payments Landscape
  • Payments as a Service
  • Jack Henry and Faster Payments

As a company, JHA has been very strategic and thoughtful in their delivery of payments solutions to customers, credit unions, and their members. They developed a clear, effective vision statement: Delivering superior customer experiences and simplifying the complexity of payments.

“In today’s world, payments truly have become very complex,” stated Forman, “Helping our customers, like yourself, have solutions to compete, we feel like this positions you and us to develop a great customer experience.”

Throughout his engaging presentation, Forman emphasized the intersection of payments and technology, creating choices for consumers in payments delivered through the digital channel, and the convergence of all solutions in Payments as a Service (PaaS) a growing market that will continue to increase. Their product vision for PaaS is illustrated through the acronym F.I.R.S.T.:

  • Foresight: Focusing on the future, to keep you at the forefront of payments
  • Innovation: Investing in industry leading solutions to help you compete
  • Revenue: A complete array of services to support and amplify your success
  • Simplify: Enhancing the user experience by removing friction for you and your customers
  • Threat Mitigation: Strong, cost-effective tools that help fight fraud and manage risk

In the area of Faster Payments, the shift in new ways to pay that had already begun pre-pandemic was accelerated out of necessity. Around the globe, 78% of consumers reported adjusting the way they pay due to safety concerns, mobile payments in the U.S.  grew from 29% in 2019 to 43.2% in 2021, and touchless payments continue to rise. Over 300 million Visa cards are contactless enabled and contactless transactions have grown more than 900% since 2017. eCommerce saw unprecedented growth, Real-Time Payment connections are expected to continue their acceleration, but the big takeaway: all the change is here to stay. 87% of consumers plan to continue their increased use of digital banking and digital payments at the end of the pandemic. PaaS supports all of these features that consumers want.

“[PaaS is] software as a service that connects payment platforms,” explained Forman. “It’s an extension of the digital solution that’s out there and it really packages payment microservices that can be delivered via the cloud. This means that all the functional capabilities available in a payment hub can be customized, packaged to order, distributed, and delivered via multiple media, significantly compressing the implementation and onboarding times, making the complex simple.”

Forman concluded by sharing insight into what JHA is working on delivering next, along with use cases, key touchpoints, and metrics of interest to Synergent credit unions.

“I think it’s truly a really, really exciting time right now with the digital and payment landscape and as things continue to exponentially grow,” concluded Forman. “The opportunities we have to help you all take care of your customers in the communities where you live, we really feel like at Jack Henry, between our digital platforms and our payments platforms, we have a great opportunity to help you compete.”

Innovation to Compete: Payments & Tech

Ben Metz
Jack Henry Digital

Metz is an entrepreneur and technologist with a deep technical background in building large scale systems in highly regulated industries. He wrote the first lines of code that would become Banno, built the subsequent engineering, operations, design and product teams, and was CTO when Banno was acquired by JHA in 2014. Ben continues to lead Banno as Head of

Digital, providing overall direction and guidance for digital inside JHA.

“Payments is the primary disruptive force you’re going to face as a credit union,” stressed Metz.

He shared that everything that Forman’s team is building and delivering, they’re using as fast as they can produce it in the converging, competitive, rapidly changing world of payments and technology. He recommended a book by Rita McGrath entitled Seeing Around Corners that explores change happening around inflection points, all of which happen to be converging right now, including:

  • Technological change
  • Regulatory change
  • Social change
  • Demographic change
  • Political change
  • New connections

“Then we hit a worldwide pandemic, which fast-forwarded time in payments faster than anything we’ve ever experienced,” said Metz.

In terms of deposits and tech adoption, he adeptly explained that instead of waves of action flowing in the same direction as they have historically, they actually are flowing in opposite directions. For example, a business owner with numerous accounts, including wealth accounts, may not be a tech adopter. But then, their teenaged son may have one account with minimal funds who is a tech adopter. He is the future and actually the cost center and the disruptor, fueling change in and the future of the payments landscape.

Taking a quick glance back at the past, he shared that PayPal originally wanted a charter to start a bank. In a space with limited regulation, they instead started email payments. Fast forward to today, BigTechs, FinTechs, and social media now are among those who dot the competitive landscape as direct competitors to financial institutions. It no longer is FIs competing against only FIs. Additionally, digital cryptocurrencies represent a new monetary vehicle that, while similar conceptually to card networks, is permissionless and on the open internet.

“The landscape is going to keep going. It’s going to keep coming for you,” emphasized Metz.

Members will want to use the payments ecosystem as it evolves. For credit unions to compete, they must be at the center of these transactions, moving beyond the concept of being “top of wallet” to now be the “first app” or “first stop,” partnered and positioned to participate in the digital payments web.

“We compete with the last best experience your member had on a device,” illustrated Metz. Instagram was shared as an example of how fast people connect. There has to be a parallel in terms of speed and experience.

“Continuing the way you always have as a credit union is not an option,” stated Metz. But he continued that credit unions have a significant “10x upside” in terms of congregation and community.

“What’s not going to change is us as humans and our need for relational interaction,” said Metz. “Our deep need for community, family, relationships, trust. As anybody’s life unfolds in the financial ecosystem today, trust becomes more and more and more important.”

Faster Payments and Digital Adoption

Synergent subject matter experts Karen Martin, Product Owner – Payments, and Doug MacDonald, Vice President of Marketing Services, provided an overview of the upcoming PayCenter launch. They discussed the importance of the adoption of faster payment methods in order to meet member expectations and the intersection of communicating through targeted member marketing.

Following their presentation, credit unions were able to participate in a lively panel discussion with Forman, Metz, and Martin, along with Rebekah Higgins, Synergent Payment & Fraud Consultant. Thoughtful questions and engaging discussion was had amongst both the presenters and conference participants.

Connect User Conference – Week 2

Breakout sessions were held throughout the week of October 4. Credit unions had the option of joining live and interacting with presenters or they could access session recordings afterwards at their convenience.

10/4 – Return on Relationship

Members of Synergent’s Marketing Services team shared how credit unions can unlock the potential of the most powerful solutions they offer to their members. Key elements presented included:

  • The MarTech Landscape
  • Leveraging member data to improve return on investment and partnership
  • Marketing automations
  • COVID-19 response
  • Digital marketing channels and touchpoints

10/5 – Introducing the Episys User Group

Attendees were able to learn about the new user group designed specifically for users of the Symitar® Episys® core hosted by Synergent. They also got to know the team of credit union volunteers leading the group. The presentation provided an overview that included:

  • The Episys User Group leadership team
  • Participant expectations
  • Group goals
  • Poll questions

10/6 – What You Need To Know Right Now About Cards and Fraud

Rebekah Higgins, Synergent’s Payments and Fraud Consultant, and Karen Martin, Synergent’s Product Owner for Payments, discussed the latest trends in payments and fraud.  The presentation’s agenda was as follows:

  • The importance of payments​
  • Disruptors​
    • New and emerging payments​
    • FinTechs​
    • Regulation​
  • Overview of transaction flow​
  • Trends to watch​
  • Debit card program performance stats​

10/7 – My Synergent:More Than Case Management

Synergent’s Salesforce team spoke about the powerful portal that continues to evolve for all of their interactions with Synergent and covered the following primary points:

  • Existing functionality
  • Accessing the roadmap
  • Consulting services
  • Statements & invoices
  • Solution candidate

The Synergent Difference

The Connect User Conference is one more way that Synergent serves its credit union users. Finding the right partner to manage integrations, software solutions, conduct system maintenance, and to keep credit unions informed of the latest innovations helps credit unions remain competitive and agile in the financial services space. Synergent takes a holistic approach to meet these challenges, providing strategic consultation, support, and education as the premier managed services provider. This complimentary event for Synergent users fostered virtual interactions and provided valuable information and insights to assist credit unions with their day-to-day operations.