Guest Opinion: As Mobile Matures, Time Is Now for Your CU
As mobile banking has matured over the last year or so, new features such as P2P and apps make this feature a must-have for credit unions looking to attract new members of any age.
Mobile banking has been a hot commodity for nearly two years now, increasing in fervor with each passing year – and, there’s no end in sight. New smart phones, loaded with the latest features and capabilities, seem to be released on a daily basis, which now makes managing your account from the palm of your hand virtually expected in today’s financial services world.
Many experts say if your financial institution doesn’t offer mobile, your more contemporary peers will leave you behind. So if you’re looking to add or enhance your mobile capabilities, what’s the latest?
First, 2011 was simply about getting to the table in terms of offering mobile banking. If you haven’t gotten there yet it’s fair to say that you’re behind the competition. Now that 2012 has arrived, credit unions are starting to step back and really consider what features their members want to have in mobile.
Initial research indicates that members aren’t looking for the entire kitchen sink but rather those high profile items you need to tackle on the go, such as balances, transaction history, transfers, and bill payments. The fact is these transactions make up about 98% of the transaction volume. Most other features are little used so keeping it simple is important. Steve Jobs proved the “keep it simple” concept with the iPhone.
That said, the adoption of smart phone technology has obviously exploded and the concept of downloadable apps has also moved front and center. Earlier versions of mobile banking were focused around Web-based versions, whereas the new trend is to have downloadable apps available in the respective app store. Of course, the Web-based version will continue to be an important channel, but credit unions want to have a presence in the app stores. Many folks see the app stores as a who’s-who list of successful companies.
With the expansion of apps for both the internetworking operating platform and Android, however, the nature of device management is something of which to be aware. By device management, this means making sure the app works on all of the possible iterations of devices supporting the respective operating system. While the Apple side is isolated to just a few devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) – and those are distinctly similar in function – the Android side has literally hundreds of potential configurations between the various device types and the individual carrier software.
So, whereas a particular device may work perfectly fine on one carrier’s software configuration, it may fail on another. Keeping track of all of the different device types and configurations and making sure that any apps work equally well in all instances is an ongoing challenge.
Like apps, person to person transfers are also growing in demand, as it gives your mobile member user an immediate way to send money or pay for things wherever they are. Incorporating this feature into your mobile offering should be a hot item for groups wanting to stay ahead of the mobile wave.
Although, P2P has been a hot topic for credit unions for a while, the concept is still taking hold with members. Some credit unions remain leery of it because they aren’t hearing the demand from members in mass. However, this is one of those cases where members don’t know what they’re missing until they try it. Just look at today’s tablet trend. P2P should continue to gain traction as more people get their hands on it and word spreads. The opportunity here for credit unions is to maintain that progressive stance as they attempt to cater toward tech savvy members.
Conversely, high-end smart phones are becoming more common amongst all age groups, even though the lion’s share of the market is still dominated by Gen Y. Of course, credit unions do see the mobile channel as a voice to attract the younger members, but they’re also getting some very positive reinforcement with older members who’ve adopted these features as well, making it an even more proven market. The iPhone has done especially well with older members because of its simplicity and its intuitive interface.
If you want to know what technologies to step away from these days, short message service or text banking seems to be losing a bit of steam. Historically, a data plan for phones was an expensive add-on enjoyed only by a select group, while texting had become an inexpensive commodity. Now, the data plan is a standard part of most phone packages with users running on 3G or even 4G networks for speedy data exchange. So with robust versions of mobile banking, either Web-based or within apps becoming more available to members, the nature of having to remember text codes to obtain data or initiate transactions is taking a backseat.
The last point worth noting revolves around the potential integration of third-party features with mobile banking. The advice here would be to have a clear understanding of what you are buying and expect to get from the provider. Are you buying a true defined app or only a series of Web service calls where the actual user interface still needs to be created by someone else? The road to app land is littered with misunderstandings. Having multiple parties involved requires coordination and a lot of additional deployment time.
If you are still unsure how to approach mobile for your membership, the best advice would be to talk to them directly about what it is they want available in mobile banking. A general survey with members will help your credit union have a clear picture of what items are must-haves versus rarely used extras. Start with those major transaction types.
Remember, simply having the ability to display balances, display transaction history, do transfers, and pay bills covers 98% of what members will want to do daily. You can expand the product later to provide members with new features – such as fee generators like P2P.