LAS VEGAS -- No financial institution wants to be on the bleeding edge, but being on the leading edge is a must, and that's why Silver State Schools Credit Union has gone first with its vendor's mobile banking solution, its chief technologist says.
The $890 million institution is one of the first two FIs to go live with Mobile Finance Manager from online banking and bill pay provider Online
"We're just anticipating demand," said Mike Randall, vice president of IT and CIO at Silver
"Although no financial institution necessarily wants to be on the cutting edge, part of an experiment," Randall says, "we have to provide the kind of Internet access people want in order to stay competitive.
"We're the largest credit union in Nevada now and we have to play the role of kind of being on the
The mobile banking solution the CU is offering for no charge to members is the work of Access Softek of Berkeley, Calif., a veteran in the wireless space that Online Resources is using to meet client demand
for a solution that suddenly is becoming a must-have for many.
"The technology's been around for a couple years but the market for it just exploded beginning about 10 months ago," said Dave Benning, vice president for strategic integration at Online Resources in Chantilly, Va.
"Rather than developing our own solution, which is a substantial investment you have to explain to Wall Street, we decided to go with someone with years of expertise in that already," Benning says.
He also sees such software as possibly a stop-gap measure while the nation's mobile networks build the capacity to handle massive numbers of users of iPhones and other hand-held devices to come that will use full Internet browsers.
"The iPhone has really impacted the market. You can walk away from the Apple store saying, 'Omigosh, this is going to change the world,' but you have to remember that the network in the store is not what's out there in the real world," Benning said. "In reality, the connections are a lot slower."
But not forever. The inevitable expansion of faster, more robust Wimax and 3G networks and whatever lies beyond means mobile solutions offered by a growing number of companies may just be a temporary solution.
"I would say they're bridges, not for a couple months but probably for a couple years," Benning said. "But because there's a demand for mobile banking right now, and everything we do is about payment velocity across every channel, offering it this way right now is really a natural fit for us.
"We'll just serve the market with the solution we have now."
That's the idea at Silver State Schools, too.
"I don't know one person who doesn't carry a mobile phone," Randall said. "Basically, we're just trying to stay current. There's a popular belief that credit unions are always just trying to do what the bigger banks do.
"That's not us. We're trying to go our own way."
The CU's CIO expects a growing number of members to go that way, too.
"Our goal is to be at 5% of our online banking users in the first year, which would be about 1,500 people," Randall said. "We signed up 80 to 85 users in our first two weeks or so, so we're well ahead of our expected pace."
Benning says his company wants to be cautious about projections but expects about 2 million users of mobile banking services among its clients by 2010.
"The reality for our customers is that their users want them to offer it. Our reality is that we are able to do it this way without turning their budget upside down."
The service provides the ability to check balances and histories, transfer between accounts, pay bills and message securely with the credit union.
The software is easy to use and can be used with a variety of phones and carriers, and it was extensively tested internally before the launch, Randall said.
"I think it really gave us what our members are looking for right now, and the IT side of it went without a hitch. It's always nice when that happens when you're working with something like this that could potentially have a lot of glitches."
Benning at Online Resources says that was the main idea in going with an established presence such as Access Softek rather than starting from scratch.
"We do think this is an important space," Benning said. "We're just not trying to turn the company upside down to bring it out."