Around the country, credit unions have been jumping on the mobile app bandwagon for the past few years, but has the hoopla actually started to pay off in terms of more revenue?
The $1.2 billion Numerica Credit Union in Spokane, Wash., said it has used mobile banking since January 2011. Through a partnership with a third-party vendor, the credit union created an app that initially cost approximately $2,000. While a minimal monthly fee is paid going forward, there are no fees charged for the use of mobile banking, according Numerica.
Rather than recouping its investment in mobile banking, Kelley Ferguson, chief information officer for Numerica, said the biggest issue has been with the users’ phones.
“They needed to get their phones up to date and able to adopt the new technology,” Ferguson explained. “In addition, there were some users who required more training than others. We have a dedicated team of e-services representatives who were able to devote the time necessary in helping members out when they called with questions.”
Ferguson said some of the more popular features that members gravitate to on the app are the basics such as checking account balances and paying bills.
Read more in this week's online & mobile banking focus report:
“But the more avid users love the ability to transfer funds to other Numerica members and use the remote deposit capture – or otherwise, be able to deposit checks using the mobile app,” he continued. “We are constantly searching for innovative ways to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with managing one’s finances. Mobile banking apps do just that.”
The benefits of providing a mobile app are not monetary and that credit unions are earning their members’ trust and building solid relationships by offering them the tools they need to manage their finances, Ferguson said.
“Rather than looking for a hard dollar we can charge every month, we look at the adoption rate and how that usage has grown, helping build those relationships,” Ferguson noted. “Month over month, our remote deposits have grown. [In May], we brought in $1.3 million in deposits. That monthly deposit number continues to grow and we expect it to be even higher by June’s month-end.”
Numerica recently rolled out its Mobile Experience Booth, which utilizes integrated iPads and flat screen monitors to demonstrate the features of Numerica’s mobile app. Ferguson said this was the spring board for the credit union’s Party on the Patio events, where they brought the Mobile Experience Booth to local establishments, offering members a free appetizer along with a $5 check to use with Numerica’s mobile deposit service.
This helped create buzz for the service locally and internally, and was a creative way to get people to use the app on the spot, according to Ferguson. As a result, mobile banking enrollment increased by nearly 30% in the first quarter after the launch of the new app. Numerica continues to utilize the mobile booth at community events.
“More important than revenue, is the ability to provide our members with a convenience that few of our competitors have,” Ferguson said. “It is a strategic marketing tool that is highly effective for attracting new members and it has provided current members with a convenience that they don’t want to give up – increasing the ‘stickiness’ of our deposit accounts.
The most recent Pew Research information shows that nearly half or 46% of American adults were smartphone owners as of February 2012. That figure is an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35% of Americans who owned a smartphone last May. Pew found that two in five adults or 41% own a cell phone that is not a smartphone, meaning that smartphone owners are now more prevalent within the overall population than owners of more basic mobile phones.
Nearly every major demographic group including men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, the wealthy and the less well-off, experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration in 2012, according to Pew. Overall adoption levels are at 60% or more within several cohorts, such as college graduates, 18-35 year olds and those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more.
Although this overall increase in smartphone ownership is relatively widespread, several groups saw modest or non-existent growth over the last year. Among them were senior citizens, with just 13% of those ages 65 and older who indicated owning a smartphone.
Since its introduction in 2008, mobile remote deposit capture has had consistent success, with the vast majority of implementations exceeding adoption forecasts, quickly turning mobile RDC into table stakes for institutions of all sizes, said CEB TowerGroup’s Andy Schmidt, research director of commercial banking and payments. The Boston-based CEB provides advisory services to businesses worldwide.
“We see more and more credit unions adopt mobile deposit technology because it has proven to increase customer satisfaction, reduce attrition and can act as a great technology equalizer as credit unions compete with larger financial institutions for market share,” Schmidt said.
Carole Porter, senior vice president and chief retail banking operations officer at the $1.98 billion Municipal Credit Union, said she realized just how important mobile banking was going to be a few years ago. In early 2012, the New York-based credit union launched a mobile banking application for its members.
Municipal CU used Wescom Resources Group to create the app, which is the same company that handles their online banking application. Porter said the cost of the app was a one-time set-up fee of $6,000 with an annual fee of approximately $8,600 for ongoing support.
The branch and ATM locator is the most frequently used app feature by the members, Porter noticed.
“After that, they use the app to check their account balances and transfer money between their accounts,” she said. “Based on member requests, we are currently working on adding more features to the app, starting with a bill pay feature and the ability to transfer money to other members.”
Municipal CU does not earn any money directly from their mobile app because they don’t charge members a fee to use it, according to Porter.
“We have already begun to see some return on investment due to reductions in operating expenses for our other member touch points since members are able to manage their accounts without having to go to a branch or call our contact center,” Porter said.
To date, the main benefit has been better service to the credit union’s members overall content with having access to have mobile banking through Municipal CU.
“It has become a must-have service, and our members are glad we are offering it,” Porter said. “We hope that as we continue to upgrade the app’s functionality, we will see more members using mobile banking, which, in turn, will result in more members using their MCU accounts more frequently.”
The $1.2 billion NASA Federal Credit Union in Upper Marlboro, Md., launched its free mobile banking service in 2010. Members, businesses and individuals have the ability to access account information, verify balances, transfer funds and locate branches and ATMs from a cell phone or smartphone. The credit union used third parties to develop their applications – Access Softek for mobile banking and Vertifi for remote deposit, according to Lisa Bellemore, NASA FCU communications and public relations manager. While the credit union incurs monthly user charges, it does not charge members fees for either of its applications.
“The benefits we’ve experienced by offering include valuable member and user feedback to enhance the mobile experience through app comments, user surveys, and general feedback through traditional channels such as phone calls, branch/SEG visits and offering convenience and ease of account management to our members,” Bellemore said.