FinTech Interview with Larry Nichols, Chief Executive Officer and President of MDT

FTB News DeskDecember 26, 202325 min

Learn the techniques that MDT uses to help credit unions reach their branch strategy objectives and maximise branch operations.
Larry Nichols Chief Executive Officer and President of MDT

Larry’s 40+ year career in Information Technology (IT) includes over 30 years in Financial IT. Prior to starting MDT in 2003, he was the CIO at DFCU Financial, the largest credit union in Michigan, with assets of over $2 billion and 200,000 members at that time. As CIO, Larry managed a large IT department with over 100 IT professionals, including the authors of Shared Branching and Shared ATM Network, and the team that provided service and support of these shared services to more than 580 credit unions. Under Larry’s leadership in just 17 years, MDT has grown from a five-person staff serving five Michigan credit unions to over 147 people serving more than 116 credit unions in 29 states. MDT has recurring gross revenues of over $50 million and no debt. Larry is a member of CUES, Association of Financial Technologies, Symitar MidWest User Group (SMUG), and Symitar East Coast Association (SymEast). MDT is the largest national CUSO recognized by Symitar’s Business Partner program.

Larry, can you provide us with an overview of your journey and how you became the CEO and president of MDT?
My 40+ year career in technology includes over 30 years of financial technology experience. Prior to MDT, I was the CIO at DFCU Financial, the largest credit union in Michigan at the time. As CIO, I managed a large IT department with over 100 professionals, including the authors of Shared Branching and Shared ATM Network, and the team that provided service and support of these shared services to more than 580 credit unions.
In 2003, five Michigan-based credit unions came together with a similar goal in mind: to share IT costs in order to create a more efficient, cost-effective approach to core processing; that’s how MDT was born. Since then, we’ve evolved tremendously; we are crafting a stronger future for credit unions across the country through leading professional services and leading technology.
Since the beginning I’ve been passionate about this mission and empowering credit unions with technology – especially those smaller credit unions that, before MDT, were often priced out of the best solutions and tools. It has been so rewarding to watch MDT grow; we are now a national organization that serves over 100 credit unions.

How would you describe the vision and mission of MDT as a company?
We understand credit unions, and we believe deeply in the credit union movement. MDT works closely with credit unions to meet modern day challenges and nurture their growth. We are a complete partner that delivers unparalleled, trusted professional services and innovative digital technologies that deliver results, helping foster a future where credit unions are the financial institutions of choice in their communities.

MDT also believes that every credit union, regardless of size or resources, deserves premier service and solutions without straining their budget. By providing high-quality service and solutions at a competitive price, we ensure credit unions stay competitive in today’s digital landscape.

Can you explain the Symitar core processing system from Jack Henry™ and its importance in MDT’s offerings?
Jack Henry is the leading provider of core processing solutions for credit unions of all sizes, supporting over 650 credit unions. The Symitar system provides credit unions with an easy-to-use, fully-integrated and extremely customizable system. Not only are we proud of our long-standing partnership with Jack Henry, but we support their next-generation technology strategy.

We help credit unions maintain and manage the Symitar system, saving valuable employee time for other mission critical initiatives. We also offer consulting services to help credit unions optimize, tailor and fully leverage the robust system. Plus, we are integrators; we can help credit unions seamlessly integrate their solutions of choice into the Symitar platform.

How does MDT seamlessly integrate various solutions and supporting services to help credit unions run their institutions?
MDT hosts dozens of seamlessly integrated solutions to help run a credit union’s entire ecosystem, such as digital banking, payments, lending, cybersecurity and imaging. MDT prioritizes openness and choice, helping credit unions bridge into the fintech space in a way that’s secure and minimizes risk.

We offer more than tech solutions; we also offer consulting services around project management, staff augmentation, data analytics, M&A activity, digital transformation and more that help credit unions optimize their projects and investments. We are a sounding board that can support credit unions through their most complex initiatives, helping increase efficiencies, streamline processes, augment staff and benefit from dedicated service and solutions.

What were the key factors that contributed to MDT’s remarkable growth from a small team serving a few credit unions to serving over 116 credit unions in 29 states?
This scale was made possible because of MDT’s narrow focus on its four strategic drivers: service, security, people and growth. These are the pillars that hold us high. With MDT, you are not just getting a service provider; you are gaining a partner with integrity that aligns with your credit union’s unique needs, goals, aspirations and culture.

More specifically, exceptional service and client satisfaction have always set us apart; we have a 97% client retention rate. We are known for our availability, reliability and responsiveness. Plus, MDT remains at the forefront of technology and innovation. We offered digital banking before digital banking even existed. We have never stopped continually improving and modernizing, which has greatly contributed to our success.
Finally, we take pride in our exceptional team. Since 2003, our turnover rate has consistently remained at 3.42%, surpassing the industry standard of 4.23%.

What strategies does MDT employ to assist credit unions in optimizing their branch operations and achieving their branch strategy goals?
Branches continue to be an important touchpoint for credit unions, however the role they play is evolving. At MDT, we help credit unions implement and leverage in-branch technology to make the branch experience more efficient. For example, we have supported many clients in the successful launch of ITMs, helping them offer self-service options for routine transactions while saving teller time for more high-value conversations and activity.

This is another instance where our consulting services can come into play. We can offer credit unions strategic advice on how to evolve their branch strategies to increase efficiencies and meet changing member preferences.

In today’s competitive market, how does MDT navigate the war for talent and attract skilled professionals to join the team?
At MDT, we aim to create a company culture where innovation is prioritized and differences are celebrated. A few initiatives we’re proud of include our annual Innovation Challenge, in which cross-functional teams come together throughout the organization to design, test and present ideas for how to improve the company through innovation. We have also established the Women in Leadership Committee (WLC) and Social Justice Committee (SJC) to help make sure all voices and heard.

We also help our credit unions navigate the challenging talent landscape by offering technology and services to help them bridge any gaps. We recently launched our Project Management Consulting Services to help credit unions plan, implement and optimize critical initiatives across the institution. Through the offering, proven MDT experts support credit unions in managing project scope, cost, time and quality.

We understand how difficult it can be when a critical member of the IT department leaves; we provide the services and support to help credit unions ensure operations are uninterrupted and member support remains consistent.

How does MDT approach core conversions for credit unions and ensure a smooth transition to its solutions?
We understand that core conversions can be daunting, which is why we aim to make the process as seamless as possible. We take a very hands-on approach and communicate frequently with the credit union to ensure they’re fully comfortable and their questions are answered. The credit union will have a dedicated team assigned to them from the beginning, offering support and guidance along the way. At MDT, we are more than just a core – we are your complete fintech partner.

How does MDT address cybersecurity concerns and ensure the safety of credit union data and operations?
Cybersecurity continues to be a top concern for credit union leaders as fraudsters become more sophisticated, which is why we prioritize maintaining guardrails and investing in the latest cybersecurity advancements. Plus, MDT’s two redundant data centers provide a level of business continuity and disaster recovery that most credit union clients could not achieve on their own.

We offer robust security measures and business continuity capabilities, empowering credit unions to safeguard their operations and better serve their members. MDT is a trusted partner and confidant, offering tailored solutions designed to help credit union leaders sleep at night.

What role does digital banking play in MDT’s solutions, and how does it contribute to credit unions’ success?
Digital has become the primary touchpoint for members across the country, which is why we are committed to helping credit unions successfully complete their digital transformations. We do this through reliable and cutting-edge solutions that deliver tangible results, emphasizing long-term value over technological fads. Offering leading digital services (such as digital banking, online account opening, digital lending options, digital payments and more), and through our project management services, MDT is helping credit unions determine their digital strategies and then executing upon those plans. We also help credit unions determine how to maintain deep personal relationships within digital channels, as those connections are central to what differentiates credit unions from other types of institutions.

What excites you the most about the future of MDT, particularly in terms of member experience and fintech partnerships?
This year marks MDT’s 20th anniversary. We’re incredibly proud of how far we’ve come, and we’re excited for what the next 20 years will bring. We continue to invest in the technology, tools and services that help credit unions of all sizes compete, and I’m looking forward to helping even more credit unions operate more efficiently and better serve members moving forward.

We are confident that fintech partnerships will continue to be critical for credit unions to provide the innovative technology their members expect. We will remain a trusted partner for credit unions, helping them navigate the complex and crowded fintech jungle.

FTB News Desk


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