Just as one format for mobile banking enters the mainstream, another form is beginning its stampede across the financial services landscape.
The word among some industry leaders is that, suddenly, apps for tablet computers are a must- have. Transformational as mobile phones have proven, the changes now are accelerating with tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
"Mobile is a member service. And our members have told us, very plainly, that they want us to offer tablet apps,” said Sonya McDonald, a senior vice president at $5 billion Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union in Live Oak, Texas.
RBFCU responded to that demand by recently introducing multiple tablet apps.
“We will have 96% of the tablet market covered,” said McDonald, meaning just about any tablet owner will be able to download an app that works on their device.
RBFCU presently offers an app for sector leader iPad, which still dominates tablet sales. The credit union also just introduced an app for Amazon’s Kindle Fire, by far the hottest selling Android tablet.
A third app, aimed at a broader sector of Android tablets such as Samsung’s Galaxy, is in the immediate pipeline, McDonald said adding, that RBFCU home brewed its apps in a collaboration with corporate credit union Eascorp’s subsidiary Vertifi, a Burlington, Mass.-based technology focused CUSO.
“People are finding our apps on their own,” said McDonald who noticed that despite minimal marketing by RBFCU, hundreds of tablet owners have happened upon the credit union’s apps in the appropriate apps stores (Apple’s and Amazon’s) and they download without need for any persuasion.
“The demand is that high,” McDonald said.
Two years into the tablet revolution and two scenarios have emerged: users are insistent on apps for their devices and although tablet users can, in many cases, simply use smartphone apps on their devices, most object because the form factors are so different. Tablet screen sizes are two to four times bigger. Apps specifically designed for tablets just seem to deliver heightened user satisfaction, some experts have said.
The use cases of phones versus tablets are dramatically different, said John Flora, a spokesperson with Intuit Financial Services. The company has sold some 200 iPad apps, mainly to credit unions, and more deals are in the pipeline. “Tablet deployment is just at the beginning,” Flora said.
As for those differences, Flora noticed that smartphone usage is “one handed, tablets are two. With tablets, the user is sitting on a couch, or lying in bed, and spending more time on the device.”
A smartphone user, by contrast, typically has a single piece of information he or she wants such as checking their balance or if a check has cleared. The user also wants to perform a single act like paying a bill or locating an ATM – and he or she often does this standing up.
“People seem more comfortable using our iPad app, with the bigger screen size on the device,” agreed Brian Arcand, senior IT officer at Sharon Credit Union, a $440 million institution in Sharon, Mass.
While the credit union did minimal marketing, its members, too, have been finding the app and downloading on their own.
“The iPad app has been adopted much more quickly than our iPhone app had been,”Arcand said.
Numbers underline usage of the Sharon app, which was provided to the credit union by Intuit. Two-hundred and fifty Sharon members downloaded the iPad app in the first few weeks and the credit union had 174 bill pays and 248 money transfers in six weeks, Arcand pointed out.
Smaller credit unions, too, now are beginning to jump into this parade. Witness First Financial Federal Credit Union in Skokie, Ill., a $63 million financial institution that recently introduced an app for the Kindle Fire and last year created an iPad app.
“The consumer expects mobile banking today,” said Luis Reyes, chief operating officer at First Financial, noting that the credit union has no choice but to embrace tablet apps, which were acquired via the Franklin, Tenn.- based Member Services Solutions’ CU Mobile Apps.
Evidence is beginning to mount that tablet users may be more engaged members, said Flora who explained that on average an online banking user goes online 11 times in a month.
“When they use online and mobile [phone], that goes to 21 logins per month. When they use online, mobile and tablet the number jumps to over 30,” Flora said.
One of the big questions is who are the tablet computing users? The answer may not be as definitive as expected. At Sharon CU, Arcand said that their hope is to use apps to reach the Gen Y market. The credit union is marketing our mobile solutions platform to them.
Meanwhile at Workers’ Credit Union in Fitchburg, Mass., an $880 million institution, Internet banking manager Christopher Saari sees a different demographic embracing his credit union’s iPad app, which is also from Intuit.
“iPad users tend to be older,” Saari said.
In his area, few young people could afford both an iPad and an iPhone and if forced to choose one, Gen Y’ers typically pick the phone. That leaves iPads for older members and, said Saari, “we expect very quick uptick.”
Which will it be – older or younger tablet users? And, will Kindle Fire with a price tag below $200 bring in a different crowd than the $500 to $1,000 iPad? The answers are still taking form but the one certainty expressed by some industry watchers is that tablet apps should be a consideration in a credit union’s technology plan.