While Hartford Federal Credit Union’s 14,000 members are a diverse group when it comes to age, most of the initial interest in mobile banking came from the younger set.
“We started the process of figuring out mobile banking a while ago,” said John Riley, chief operating officer of the $77 million Hartford Federal Credit Union in Hartford, Conn. “We did our initial research in the trade press, but we also tried to listen closely to our members about what they wanted in mobile banking. In the end we paid more attention to our members.”
He reported that while the HFCU’s membership’s age doesn’t skew young or old, initial interest in mobile banking came more from younger members. Still, members in other age groups were not far behind in seeking out the service.
“When we began to hear about it from all ages in our demographic, we decided we need to get moving on it.”
Riley said HFCU contracted with mShift Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based mobile banking provider, through its membership in Card Services for Credit Unions, the association of credit unions that process their card transactions with FIS, to do the programming and app development. The arrangement is required to give the credit union’s 14,000 members access to a mobile banking and payments system that offers them the same services as the online banking site or from a branch, he added.
“We have a very progressive board so when we approached them about doing this, they were all over it,” Riley said.
Mobile banking and mobile payments are slowly but steadily becoming an expected part of member service across the credit union industry, according to industry executives and consultants with payments CUSOs that are offering the service.
In some ways, this is not new. Roughly 51% of credit unions with more than $500 million in assets already offer their members at least some of their services via their mobile phones, according to industry data.
A growing number of credit unions with less than $500 million in assets are also beginning to come aboard.
“I think there is a growing realization among credit unions of all sizes that offering mobile banking has simply become an expected part of member service,” said Cassie Ricks, director of business development for CSCU.
Ricks and other consultants said they were not particularly surprised by the rising interest in mobile banking and payments, noting that the infrastructure supporting them has become steadily broader and more available and at a more reasonable cost.
“Offering mobile banking doesn’t mean having to sit on the potentially bleeding edge any longer,” Ricks said.
Still, the process of starting mobile banking may not be easy for some. A credit union contemplating offering the service to their members face a sometimes bewildering array of different options under the classification of mobile banking or payments from mobile alerts to text messages to mobile phone apps.
Diane Stevens, vice president for innovation and product development at PSCU Financial Services, attributed the rise in mobile banking interest to the growing number of vendors offering mobile banking development and support services and the integration of their technology with core system providers.
“The costs and the headache of mobile banking have really dropped,” she said.
More than 30 of PSCU’s 1,100 client credit unions started mobile banking with the CUSO, a number Stevens acknowledged is relatively small but has grown more than 134% from last year.
Those numbers may reflect those in the overall industry. Despite the large percentage of bigger credit unions offering mobile banking, only 15% of smaller asset credit unions do so. Stevens is confident this number will rise as more credit unions step up their efforts to capture and hold younger members who she said are generally more savvy about technology.
“It’s no secret that credit unions face aging memberships and they already have the members who they interact with through the branch,” Stevens said. “If they keep on serving only those members and don’t offer anything for the members who want to bank on the go they will wake up in a few years and wonder where everybody went.”