TruWest Credit Union Contact Center Cuts Member Authentication Time by 84%


TruWest Credit Union logo

Originally founded in 1952 as a cooperative for Motorola employees, TruWest has evolved and expanded through the years to serve a broader range of 93,000 members across communities in Texas and Arizona. This credit union has worked diligently to stay at the forefront of new services and solutions, including being the first CU to offer one-stop auto shopping. Today, the organization is taking a tech-friendly digital approach to providing a convenient and secure experience. One top goal is ensuring members feel welcome and confident in every interaction.


With COVID limiting branch access, call center volume increased substantially, putting pressure on agents to handle calls more efficiently. Since members couldn’t be visually recognized and validated on the phone as they would be in person, authentication was achieved through traditional out-of-wallet questions. TruWest recognized that putting members through an awkward and uncomfortable Q&A was causing friction and frustration. The process took about 90 seconds per call, increasing call handle time without adding value to the conversation.

Like most credit unions, TruWest was experiencing a surge in account takeover attempts. Social engineering was reaching new levels of sophistication and more information than ever was available via the dark web. Even with consistent application, Q&A authentication was still susceptible to fraud since anyone with the “right answers” could potentially trick a contact center agent. In fact, fraudsters tended to call in over and over trying to achieve this goal.

“On some occasions, we would get someone coming through that wasn’t the member. They would do social engineering to discover more of the right answers and then call back and get a different agent.”

Katie Johnson, Contact Center Manager


TruWest chose Illuma Shield voice authentication from Illuma Labs as the best fit for improving convenience and security for members calling the contact center. Built specifically to meet the needs of credit unions, Illuma Shield was right sized in terms of function, cost, and deployment.

“Other voice authentications with on-premise infrastructure get costly fast. We don’t have a massive budget or an army of developers. We needed something affordable and simple to integrate into our phone and financial systems.”

Chirs Kearny, CIO

Illuma Shield works by using signal processing, AI, and machine learning to create a proprietary AudioPrint of each member’s voice coupled with unique characteristics of their usual calling device. This lightweight AudioPrint is stored in the cloud without capturing or compromising any personal identifying information.

The next time the member calls in, they provide their member number to the agent to start the claim on their identity. The agent inputs this number in the Illuma Shield UI without having to switch screens. The voice authentication system runs passively in the background during natural conversation, matching the member’s voice to the AudioPrinton file. An authentication decision is sent to the agent within seconds. This convenient process allows members to experience a friendly welcome on the phone rather than being faced with an interrogation.

On average, validation takes around 14seconds, improving efficiency and convenience while safeguarding the member’s account. Since voice is a biometric that is nearly impossible to duplicate, especially to generate natural sounding conversation, voice recognition provides far greater account protection than security questions. Enrollment is as easy as asking the member if they would like to make their next call faster and easier by allowing the current conversation to be used to register their voice. It’s a simple technology for members to accept and appreciate, with no barriers to adoption.

“When the agents are selling the product, it’s a seamless interaction because members don’t have to do anything but just say yes. There’s not a line they have to call or phrase to say over and over.”

Katie Johnson


Illuma Shield went through a quick, streamlined deployment to soft launch in November of 2020. After seeing positive results for accuracy and ease of use, TruWest moved it to full production at the start of January 2021. Within the first few months, 6.5% of members had already enrolled. Members were simply asked during their call if they wanted to participate, which resulted in well over 90% adoption rates. In addition, many members called in specifically to enroll in the program after they heard about it through TruWest’s marketing.

For enrolled members, authentication time on subsequent calls dropped 84%. As more members participate and as the system continuously improves through machine learning, the call center will see additional gains in operational efficiency.

“Our authentication time is 14.7 seconds now vs. 90 seconds per call. We’re seeing a measurable impact on hundreds of calls per day.”

Chris Kearny, CIO

Key Benefits

  • Reduces authentication time on calls by over 80%
  • Over 90% adoption rates and 6000+ members enrolled within the first 90 days
  • 100% positive feedback from agents on ease of use
  • Rapid deployment in weeks instead of months
  • State-of-the-art technology at a fraction of the price of systems built for big banks
  • Cloud-based with a simple integration point for phone systems
  • Protects against fraud using a biometric that can’t hacked, stolen, or socially engineered
  • Replicates the warmth of the in-branch experience, recognizing members by innate characteristics

“One of the greatest things about working with Illuma Labs as a FinTech is they are focused on doing one thing very well. They are really engaged and want to learn about our business and how they can tailor the solution for us.”

Chris Kearney