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Customer Profile

Westforce Credit Union is not a bank but offers many of the same services, based on a Not-For-Profit model that enrols customers as members. With its branches spread over a wide area, Westforce relies heavily on digital communications to stay connected and offer the personal service expected of a tight-knit members’ group.

Problem

Headquartered in Avondale, Auckland, Westforce’s branches stretch from Whangarei to Pukekohe. Although technology has provided ever-better potential solutions for connectivity, all of Westforce’s technological resource was centralised in Avondale, leaving them vulnerable to operation-wide outages. For a financial services provider, this represented a significant risk.


Westforce was also struggling with voice and data bandwidth issues, forcing important video conferencing to be scheduled off-peak or even out-of-hours to avoid disrupting their network.


With a hardware refresh on the horizon, along with adopting a new software suite, Westforce faced either a big CapEx investment or a shift that would offer greater resilience and flexibility. Proposals for the latter from their existing provider were limited and potentially expensive, leading to discussions with Vocus.

Solution

The Vocus solutions team quickly identified several ways to improve Westforce’s IT and communications landscape. Mark Knowles was one of the consultants involved early in the project. “Resilience was a critical issue,” he says. “The branch network was totally reliant on head office for the connectivity they needed to serve customers.” This meant a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy was essential. The solution Mark designed shifted the centre of capability completely onto the Vocus network. “Our data centre is highly available, has access to multiple power grids, extensive air conditioning – it is an extremely safe option. It also meant if anything happened to their head-office site, the remote sites would continue to function.”

 Not only did we get significantly greater bandwidth at an affordable cost, there’s a great deal more all-round reassurance about our resilience.

Victor Martick, General Manager, Westforce Credit Union

Vocus Westforce Case Study

As Westforce’s needs changed and grew, it was essential that flexibility and scalability were built into a truly ‘future-proof’ solution. With bandwidth restrictions already affecting operations, Mark and his team took the opportunity to dramatically increase the scalability of Westforce’s network in their proposed solution. “They needed bigger internet, they didn’t want to have to manage their own firewalls anymore, and they had aspirations for ways of working that were going to require a significant upgrade.”

 

With branches stretching from Northland to the edge of the Waikato, serving over 4,500 members, coordination and networking are critical management issues for Westforce Credit Union. For General Manager Victor Martick, better connectivity was a must. “Things like video conferencing are a great way to cut travel time and cost, and ultimately to communicate better with our members,” he says.

There were other impacts, too, according to Timothy Hancock, Westforce’s IT Specialist. “There were network difficulties resulting in quite a few outages,” he says. “They were quite critical and materially affected our branches and our customers.”


Sometimes a number of things come together to initiate change, and so it was for Westforce. “There was a need for new servers; we were migrating to Office 365 for our staff, away from some old in-house stuff; and we were close to changing our entire core banking system requiring new connectivity.“ And while everything was possible with their previous provider, “costs would increase, and it was very much a cookie-cutter solution,” he says.

 

Approaching Vocus, Westforce was presented with a very different way of doing things. One they praise as ‘ticking all the boxes’. From the GM’s perspective, it’s a real boost to the business. “Not only did we get significantly greater bandwidth at an affordable cost, there’s a great deal more all-round reassurance about our resilience,” says Victor.


“We have daily automatic back-ups to the Cloud, something we had to do manually before. And I’m able to look at every camera in every branch remotely, and record what happens. Not only is that good for security and safety, we can see if a member is waiting and even call the branch to see if we can help them.” Since Westforce has been with Vocus, no issues have interrupted service. As Timothy puts it, ‘it just works’.

Over time, Westforce has taken advantage of more Vocus services, including IP Telephony. “It’s been great,” enthuses Victor. “With around 6,000 calls a month it means they’re now being answered right across our branch network. It’s so much easier to understand and use.”

For Timothy, the shift to Vocus has provided a whole new level of service and reassurance: “Up-time and service performance has been all good. And I know that if there was a problem their engineers would not only resolve it quickly, they’d keep me in the loop about what’s going on. It’s exactly the kind of better relationship and resilience we were looking for.”