Encompass Credit Union: How a rural credit union transformed its IT infrastructure
Encompass Credit Union (Encompass) is Alberta’s sixth largest credit union in terms of asset size, with seven branches in rural areas across the province.
Encompass has built a loyal member base of over 9,000 people by focusing on serving niche communities that depend on the oil and gas industry or are military towns. In fact, their head office is still located in Wainwright where the credit union has roots serving military families.
In 2013, Encompass (formerly Wainwright Credit Union) began the process of merging with another Alberta credit union to expand their reach into rural Alberta and increase their market share. The merger had the unintended consequence of exposing a precariously built IT infrastructure that was already raising concerns about risk and the credit union’s ability to maintain business continuity in the event of disaster or disruption. It quickly became clear that cobbling together these two disparate IT systems would be a catastrophe waiting to happen. Encompass needed a solution – and fast.
How do you scale when you don’t have capacity?
Our challenge was to deliver Encompass the stability, security and agility they were looking for to bring them in-line with compliance standards and ensure their merger remained a success through fully hosted managed services.
Encompass’ merger took place at a time when the CRA’s rules were already becoming more stringent, and they were dealing with systems that were created before compliance was so crucial. Their IT infrastructure simply could not support their business, and their small but mighty internal IT team was investing far too much time and effort into simply making the systems work on a daily basis. This left little room to think about implementing future technologies to drive business growth and scale with new branch openings, or to entertain the idea of another merger.
After completing an extensive risk and cost-benefit analysis, Encompass realized that even if they wanted to rebuild, host and manage all their IT infrastructure in-house, they would need to expand their IT team significantly. The reality is that it’s hard to recruit and retain highly skilled IT talent to rural Alberta. Getting the right human resources in place would be a significant barrier to managing IT internally.
Encompass knew that they would have to weigh their business needs against the cost. Although at first glance, managing IT internally appeared to be less costly, Encompass looked at the big picture of their business to determine that they could not compete with the value that would be delivered through a managed services agreement with Celero.
A complete infrastructure overhaul and ongoing support
We began our engagement by completing a comprehensive technology and maturity assessment to evaluate their IT infrastructure. What we found were outdated servers and network hardware that were added over the years on an as-and-when-needed basis, workstations including laptops and desktops that were presenting endpoint security concerns, and other gaps that needed to be addressed with their physical infrastructure for data storage and backups. We also looked at how their software and licensing agreements could be updated and streamlined and how they could improve policies and procedures for user management and ongoing IT maintenance.
After documenting their current environment and assessing what areas they were achieving compliance and where they were lacking, we provided an action plan to address and prioritize the most significant deficiencies while modernizing their entire system over time.
The Action Plan
- Complete the virtualization of their server environment that their internal IT team had started for in-branch and LOS servers
- Upgrade their hardware and software to current standards
- Assist in the migration of applications and platforms, including SharePoint
- Revamp their local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) and in-branch networks
- Take on offsite data storage, backups and redundancies to our secure data centres
- Provide ongoing management of their Microsoft licensing agreements
- Provide ongoing operating system updates and antivirus protection for workstations
- Provide procurement services to obtain new desktops and laptops, and ongoing workstation hardware refreshes every two years afterwards to keep Encompass current
- Transition them to Exchange
- Develop policies and procedures to assist the internal Encompass IT team with documentation and maintenance of systems
- Assist in the development of a technology roadmap and strategic vision to set the course for the future
- Act as an expert IT resource and strategic advisor
An operationally transformed credit union with over $2.5 million in savings
Our managed services solution allowed Encompass to achieve the scalability they were looking for, effectively giving them an expert IT department that would continue to function and expand with the business. Their internal IT team was free to begin thinking long-term about their technology goals and serve in a more strategic capacity now that they weren’t focused on completing adhoc IT quick fixes on the fly.
Encompass gained confidence that concerns about vulnerabilities were addressed, giving them the freedom to focus on their growth objectives rather than day-to-day operations.
Encompass’ experience in having Celero provide us with Managed Services allows us to operate knowing our data is secure without the need for our staff to perform ongoing backup and maintenance. We are fully hosted, with high availability which provides confidence and takes pressure off a small shop such as our own. Celero offers our credit union skilled resources and knowledge in many specific areas ensuring our technology remains current, our users and data are secure, and managed processes and security procedures are in place without the credit union having to design these. Peace of mind and solid support are part and parcel of our arrangement with Celero.Amy Gertsma, VP Information Services at Encompass Credit Union
Beyond the peace of mind Encompass has gained, they’ve also realized significant results and savings since engaging Celero in a managed services agreement.
- $1.3 million in human resource costs over five years to expand the IT team
- Over $760,000 in hardware costs for servers, licenses and warranties over five years
- Over $240,000 in one-time costs to support an Encompass hosted model
- Reduced their overall cost of risk by nearly $470,000
- Reduced their controlled risk rating from moderate/high to low/negligible across key areas including reliably and security of IT infrastructure, physical server room or data breaches, critical equipment failures and more
Encompass Credit Union Today
Since beginning our managed services engagement in 2016, we’ve built a strong partnership with Encompass and truly feel that we are an extension of their team. We’re proud to say that the impact we’ve had has led to Encompass to sign up for early renewal on their managed services agreement as we’ve worked with them to realize improved service fees, helped them to reduce their costs even further and provided additional value-added services. We continue to work with them to help them achieve their vision to become a forward-thinking credit union focused on delivering the latest banking technologies to their members.