It’s not often that customers think of the companies that work quietly in the background of their local banks.
But COCC, a large financial services technology leader, has been humming along since it started 50 years ago as a small bank processing firm.
Having reached its half-century mark, what was known first as the Connecticut On-Line Computer Center started in 1967, has become a thriving company headquartered in Southington, Connecticut.
This privately held company started out in Hartford with only six employees. It was the first in the industry to offer online loan processing and deposit services to 17 banks.
Five decades later, the company just reached $104 million in annual revenue and provides technology solutions to 175 banks and credit unions in 13 states throughout the northeast.
COCC supports over 30 clients in Connecticut – including Northwest Community Bank, Liberty Bank, Torrington Savings Bank, Litchfield Bancorp and Thomaston Savings Bank.
The company now employs 480 professionals – 370 employees work in the Southington headquarters and 80 employees work in the Avon office. Thirty more employees work remotely or in the Rochester, N.Y., office.
Richard A. Leone, a Torrington native, is the company’s chief executive officer. He joined the company as chief financial officer in 1991 and was promoted in 2002.
He said that while many other companies in Connecticut are struggling to stay in business or leaving the state, COCC is doing incredibly well.
Small to medium-sized banks outsource to COCC when they do not have technical staff in-house.
“Go to a bank to understand our business. Think of us as the internal IT department for a bank. We keep all of the systems secure, running and up to date for their customers. We create products they can afford or deploy, or attract new customers with a new product. That’s our success,” said Leone.
He also credits their unique cooperative model as another main reason why business is flourishing.
“Because we are a cooperative, 100 percent of ownership is entirely within the customer base. You need to be a client to own shares in COCC. One hundred fifty out of 175 customers are also shareholders. It’s an advantage and we’re lucky to have that model,” said Leone.
When the company began, there were 15 founding member institutions. On the first day, Windsor Federal Savings Bank started out as both a customer and shareholder. George W. Hermann, the bank’s president and chief executive officer, said, “it’s a great working arrangement, especially for a smaller institution … It keeps our ultimate needs well aligned.”
COCC’s ability to heavily invest in technology and its employees is something the company takes pride in. Since 1996, Torrington Savings Bank has been a customer and shareholder. John E. Janco, president and chief executive officer, said the company is the bank’s core processing center and its technology partner.
“Their ability to invest in their employees and in the latest technology allows us to meet the needs and expectations of our customers in providing the latest products and services in a cost-effective manner,” he said.
Although COCC considers itself the fastest growing financial data processing company in the United States, measured by the company’s new customer growth rate, Leone said he internally strives for steady, measured growth.
“We are consistently developing products every year and hire 15 to 25 employees throughout the year. We steadily grow in revenue per year, and we’re really hitting the perfect pace of the revenue growth. It’s very healthy for the revenue line but doesn’t impact service,” he said.
Leone said he sees growth potential in marketing analytics.
“We have lots of products that help banks market to their existing customers and potential customers. With the business and data analytics products there’s a big push. The focus is on the virtual banking products and the marketing analytics,” he said.
Thomaston Savings Bank became both a client and shareholder in 2013. Stephen L. Lewis, the bank’s President and CEO, said, “they provide us with core processing services and leading-edge banking solutions for our customers. COCC’s technology and service enables us to offer the same products and capabilities as the largest financial institutions. Most recently, we implemented COCC’s iBanking product for our business customers that offers them a robust online and mobile banking experience. And it allowed us to expand our suite of business cash management services.”
During the 50-year span, Leone said COCC’s biggest achievement was changing their core system, which was unheard of in the industry.
“We were the first to change our core system. From 1967 to 2001 we ran all deposits and loans on our core system. Then, we changed it in 2002 because the core system running was not capable of all the internet functionality that was coming to support our customers future banking needs.”
COCC recognized this in the late 1990s. “All of the mobile, bill pay and check capture would not have run on the old core system. It was five years of development to get to the point to move all of our customers over,” said Leone.
The company’s long-term investment to license a brand-new core system paid off. “Since then, we’ve doubled our customer base. We completely rebuilt the infrastructure to support it. We licensed another core system and moved all of the clients to the new core system,” he said.
COCC also extended their system to support mobile banking. “I believe it’s the future of our business. We truly believe everything will be done on a mobile device in 10 years. Although we’ll still need branches, the majority of the banking transactions will be performed on the mobile phone,” said Leone.
For COCC, the future looks bright. “Next year, we plan to bring in $115 million in revenue,” he said.
What Leone enjoys the most about working at COCC is building a great workforce. “We’re creating jobs and creating opportunities. There’s a whole energy here. Becoming a winner breeds more success. We’re always adding new clients, hiring new employees, creating new jobs and new products. One piece of software creates many jobs. It starts with an idea and grows into a product that has 25 people working on it which is really cool,” he said.
This article is by Alicia Sakal. The feature originally appeared online and on the Business front page in the September 25, 2017 edition of Republican-American, a regional daily newspaper in 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut.
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