William Bynum, CEO of the 28,000-member, $161 million Hope Federal Credit Union, said its new mobile app is the first step in what the credit union foresees as an effort to make widespread banking and financial management solutions available to lower-income people in underserved areas throughout the Mississippi Delta.
The credit union, which people can join when they join its sponsor, the Hope Enterprise Corporation, has members in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.
“Many people don't realize it, but Mississippi has the largest percentage of wireless households in the nation,” Bynum said. “Lower-income households are foregoing getting a wired telephone line and moving straight to wireless – and they don't just have cellular phones, they have smartphones.”
Bynum said Hope FCU decided to move more in this direction after Bynum became aware of how many mobile financial transactions are conducted overseas and how comparatively behind this trend the United States had fallen.
He refrained from saying whether he thought that Hope FCU was the only financial institution in the country doing something similar, but said he was sure the credit union was part of a very small group.
After the mobile app, Bynum said the credit union would roll out a financial management app which will enable members to better plan and track their money use as well as other online tools which will help non-members become members of the credit union and help members make loan applications.
“Essentially, with the apps, one of our debit cards and ATM access, we hope to make it p possible for our lower-income members to conduct a complete financial life without ever needing to come into a branch,” Bynum said.