o WesCorp's new mobile banking software connects directly to Symitar Episys core processing system.
o Claimed advantages include less expense, quick deployment and wider functionality.
o Altura Credit Union is the beta user and expects to launch the service soon.
o WesCorp said connectivity to other core processing systems will be developed to meet expected demand.
WesCorp wanted to enter the mobile banking market for credit unions but knew it needed something to help it stand out in that crowded space. So it went to the core of the matter. Or, in this case, the core processing system.
The big corporate is in the final stages of beta testing its new consumer mobile banking offering, which connects directly to the core processing system instead of riding the rails of other online channels.
WesCorp began building the solution about six months ago after deciding there were a number of advantages to using a secure connection via VPN to the core system over the wireless Internet.
"For one thing, there's cost," said Chris Barber, WesCorp's senior vice president and chief information officer. "Most of the offerings out there charge per transaction and a monthly user fee. We can charge a monthly flat fee instead. That will allow our credit unions to grow their mobile business without the disincentive of paying more as usage grows."
A fixed, competitively lower cost also will enable more of the corporate's 975 or so member credit unions to offer mobile banking, Barber said, especially the smaller institutions that can't as easily afford the existing options.
Another advantage, he said, is the ability to deploy the service quickly with the help of a SheevaPlug, one of a new generation of small "plug" computers--in this case about the size of a typical AC adapter--used to deliver Internet, VPN, voice-over IP and similar services.
"We can have it up and running in a day, connected to the core system through a VPN tunnel and router using industry-standard security protocols and encryption," Barber said.
While talks are under way with several core processing providers, the first software sets are being built for users of the Symitar Episys platform, Barber said, because its application interface is accessible and because that's where the demand is, including from Altura Credit Union, where WesCorp is currently beta testing its mobile banking solution.
The $890 million Riverside, Calif., institution will be ready to launch the offering as soon it secures middleware licensing from Symitar, according to Glen Chrzas, vice president of technology at Altura. He said the SheevaPlug installation enabled a four-hour install but that, going forward, he would like to create a dedicated set of ports on his system rather than depending on the current "development box."
That would more easily handle the volume the mobile banking offering is expected to attract, he said. Chrzas said he's hoping to reach about 10% mobile banking penetration of his credit union's 110,000 or so members. "I know of 100 members right now waiting for us to make it available," he said.
He added that each of the credit union's more than 60,000 online banking members can use his or her online banking password to go right into this system. "All they have to do is download it and they're good to go," he said.
The software will launch in iPhone and Android versions with a BlackBerry version ready within a few weeks. And Barber at WesCorp said there will be other advantages besides cost and ease of integration and deployment.
"Going right to the core can allow us to incorporate some things you can't normally do with mobile banking, like viewing a check," he said. Traditional CRM functions such as targeted marketing messages also can be incorporated, since the system is accessing a wide member view at the core.
Chrzas said Altura is considering the possibilities. "We're definitely looking at it. For instance, we do car loan preapprovals all the time. If we can access that information when the member is on the mobile device, we can do things like alerting them, 'Hey, did you know you're pre-approved for a special car sale this weekend at such-and-such an interest rate?'"
Altura members can currently access the main online banking website via smartphone but, Chrzas said, "It's busy and kind of hard to use that way."
Along with a clean look and feel, direct connection to the core and its general ledger also will allow the mobile channel to integrate such traditional online banking functions as the ability to view checks while viewing transaction history. And Chrzas said it may even help offset the effects of Reg E.
"The change in overdraft rules is really going to impact people using debit cards," he said. "With this, we can give them a wonderful tool for knowing, right there at the store, whether or not they have the money in their account, and if not, the ability to transfer it in real time.
"And because we're using a standard, proven connection into our Symitar core, we're not having to scrape data from other sources and we're using existing equipment. Just using the same data circuit, for instance, means I'm not adding any additional expenses to my network."