Super-Charged Adoption at America First CU. The Riverdale, Utah institution introduced its mobile banking apps for iPhone and Android on Sept. 1 and not even six months later it already claims 84,000 active users, said Mike Salerno, manager of eServices at the $5.2 billion credit union. Salerno said America First – with 544,000 total members – has around 300,000 active online banking users.
Salerno further reported that America First members’ mobile app adoption rate in two months was at the same rate the U.S. mobile banking sector achieved in two years, according to metrics from research firm Celent.
As for why the supercharged adoption, Salerno said America First had focused on making the apps easy to use. For instance: online banking credentials are all a member needs so for most, all they need to do is download the app and sign in. “It’s that simple,” said Salerno.
Usage divides 55% Android, 45% iPhone.
Fiserv, the financial technology developer, built the America First mobile apps and also the institution’s online banking. “They are very tightly integrated,” said Salerno.
Salerno indicated that remote deposit capture – which lets member make deposits by photographing the instrument – will be rolled out in 2012.
Here Come the Tablet Apps. Intuit Financial Services has struck first with a much ballyhooed introduction of a mobile banking app specifically designed to take advantage of the comparatively spacious screen size of the iPad (with a 9.7-inch screen versus 3.5 inches on an iPhone 4). A key: iPad users typically will be seated, whereas Phone users often are standing (and perhaps on the move), said Deepti Sahi, senior product manager at Intuit Financial Services.
The iPad user consequently wants more functionality. The neutered functionality offered by mobile phone banking apps just is not right for tablet users, suggested Sahi. Thus the iPad app allows bill payment from within the app and also allows the user to easily access the institution’s online banking site and all the functionality there.
To date Inuit has sold 65 institutions on its iPad app (total mobile banking customers at Inuit number 300).
Sahi added that more tablet apps are in the Inuit pipeline: “We hope to launch a Kindle Fire app within the next couple months.”
One of the first implementations of the Intuit iPad app occurred in December at ESL FCU – a $4 billion credit union in Rochester, N.Y. – where Francine Ryan, an ESL executive, said “it went ahead seamlessly. We have had no problems.” She indicated that in the first two months 1,800 members downloaded the app - ESL has 300,000 members - but the credit union intends to up that number with a marketing campaign timed to kick in about now. ESL said its goal in debuting the iPad app simply “is to stay relevant and convenient to members.“ Ryan added: “If you are looking to capture younger members this is where it is.”
Malware Changing Authentication Mobile Phone Numbers. New research out of Trusteer, the Boston-based security researchers, has uncovered a scam where highly intelligent malware – derivative of Ice IX configurations – apparently is prompting victims to reveal sensitive telephone data (such as the account number), which the crooks in turn are using to change phone numbers of record at financial institutions.
That becomes critical as more credit unions use mobile phones as a backstop for verifying a user’s identity – but when the crook has control of the number on record that raises big questions about the reliability of mobile phones as tools of identity, said Trusteer’s CTO Amit Klein.
Credit Card Acceptance for the Masses. Have a smartphone? That’s all that is needed to accept credit cards via start-up Square, a San Francisco company that says it has processed more than $2 billion in transactions in a year, or Go Payment via Intuit. Both work on the same principle: the user inserts the device (available free) into the headphone jack on a smartphone. With the appropriate (free) app installed on the device, the user is in business and ready to swipe credit cards. There are no monthly fees for the basic plans. Charges are collected on a per swipe basis (2.7% at GoPayment, 2.75% at Square).
Square’s motto sums up the selling proposition: “Square is for everyone” and that’s because, with these devices, everybody can take MasterCard, Visa, Discover or American Express. Taxi drivers are said to be pioneering users – Square has a pilot proposal to test itself in Manhattan’s cabs and it already has many taxi users in San Francisco.
Other players are getting into the game. Verifone has launched PAYware Mobile; TF Payments has launched FocusPay. Both work on the principle of empowering smartphones to read and process credit card payments.
The headline here: “This is all about the evolution of payments. Merchants don’t need expensive, archaic equipment to take credit cards,” said Trevor Dryer, an executive with Go Payment. “Mobile is the next frontier.”
The impacts on credit unions? Probably slim – except at least some users will start getting fund transfers into their accounts from Square, etc. The bigger take away: step by step we inch nearer to a cashless society. It’s happening.