When Texas bank USAA introducedmobile remote deposit capture in 2009, nobody knew how big the toolwould get and how fast. But ask credit union mobile banking expertstoday for the defining moment in the niche's brief history and allsigns may point to MRDC.

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That's because the mobile tool potentially lets users dosomething they could not do quickly or easily with online banking,some insiders say. For now, deposits via MRDC are bigger thandeposits at ATMs. A growing number of financial institutions are onthe prowl for the new tool that may bring in that next big waveof mobilebanking users with some of the larger ones leading theway.

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“We already see more money coming in through MRDC,” saidChristopher Owens, mobile product manager at the $4.1billion PennsylvaniaState Employees Credit Union in Harrisburg, Pa.

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Meanwhile, other credit unions and vendors are expecting to seea number of new innovations deployed in the remote and mobilearenas.

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Read more: Virtual assistants …

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1. Virtual Assistants

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“I can guarantee you it won't be long before a Bank of Americarolls out a virtual assistant,” said Brett Wooden, senior vicepresident of marketing and innovation at the $192 million Cy-FairFederal Credit Union in Houston.

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Wooden pointed to Apple's Siri and said, “Already, you can tellSiri to open an app. Soon, you will be able to tell her to 'pay $75to the electric company.'”

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He strengthened his case by pointing to the huge investmentsthat both automobile makers and established tech players such asGoogle and Apple are investing in in-car computer technology. Wherebetter to reconcile an account with the help of a virtualassistant, said Wooden, than stuck in traffic.

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The $2.5 billion MSUFederal Credit Union in East Lansing, Mich., is heading inthat direction, said Sarah Bohan, vice president of corporaterelations.

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“We plan soon to build at least limited voice commands into ourmobile app,” she said. “We will introduce new features instages.”

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In its first iteration, members probably won't be allowed to paybills but may transfer funds between accounts, make balanceinquiries and do similar actions, Bohan explained.

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Add it up and voice-activated virtual assistants have much goingfor them in a mobile phone context, some experts say. And with therising popularity of Siri and its competitor, Android virtualassistant apps, advocates think virtual commands will be the nextbig thing.

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2. Cardless ATM Cash Access

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“We believe this can be as big as MRDC,” said Chris Gardner, aco-founder of mobile payments company Paydiant Inc. in Wellesley,Mass. “It's super compelling. It is faster and easier and moresecure than using a card at an ATM.”

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Here's how it works: A member opens the mobile banking app,selects cardless cash access, designates an amount and an account,then goes to an ATM, taps that same selection and a bar codeappears on the screen. The member scans the code with his or hersmartphone, it's validated, and the ATM dispenses the requestedcash.

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Gardner said the service is in a pilot phase at three financialinstitutions with five to 10 more in a queue to get active.

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“We really believe this will become very big,” he predicted.

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Read more: Personalization, smart marketing andphoto bill pay …

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3. Personalization

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“The mobile banking app is very impersonal. Everybody gets thesame. But you already see the big banks moving towards a next genapp that will be highly personalized for each user,” said IdoOphir, vice president of product management at PersoneticsTechnologies, a White Plains, N.Y.-based firm that develops appsthat predicts customer behaviors.

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“Banks are fearful they will become commodities. Personalizationwill help create loyalty,” Ophir suggested.

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If the app knows the user and his or her interests, who wouldwant to leave that app for a financial institution that does notknow them? Ophir said the cutting-edge financial institutions getthis and it may well become a battleground in the next generationof mobile banking apps.

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4. Marketing Smarts

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At the $5.2 billion DigitalCredit Union in Marlborough, Mass., there is growinginterest in finding ways to push appropriate marketing messages tomembers via the mobile channel, said Julie Moran, vice president ofsupport services.

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Industry watchers say with branch traffic down, someinstitutions are detecting a shift in volume from online to mobilebanking. The problem is that with its small screen size, mobile isa challenging place to market in ways that do not annoymembers.

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Moran said DCU is using what it calls account manager tools tosend individualized, custom messages, including members' creditscores on a monthly basis – “so people want to look at it,” shenoted. If a member has been just approved for a car loan or a homeequity line of credit, a message will pop up in accountmanager.

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While mobile marketing is in an early phase, the recognition isspreading that making the strategy work has to be solved.

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5. Photo Bill Pay

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“We believe photo bill pay is up and coming,” said ChristopherWhalen, an e-services specialist with the $400million ConnexCredit Union in North Haven, Conn. “We don't presentlyoffer it, but we are investigating this. We believe it willexplode.”

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Experts say the genius behind photobill pay is that it uses a strong feature of the mobilephone – a high-quality camera – to do the data input that isotherwise clumsy and slow for many who find typing on glass to becumbersome.

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“Photo banking – anything with a photo – will be big,” said MaryMonahan, an executive vice president with Javelin Strategy +Research in Pleasanton, Calif.

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Ralph Marcuccilli, president/CEO of Allied Payment Network Inc.,a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based firm that sells a photo bill pay servicecurrently live at three credit unions with two more in the queue,said that half of photo bill pay customers are not signed up forInternet bill pay. This may mean the product appeals to a differentuser.

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“People use this because of the simplicity,” said Marcuccilli.“Snap a picture, put in an amount and the day you want to pay it,and you are finished.”

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He said there is also is growth in where the one-time paymentscan occur such as to a physician dentist, or perhaps a plumber. Forthat consumer, paying by snapping a photo is much easier thaninputting the required data to create a new payee.

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Will photo bill pay take off? Adoption has been slow and so far,no money center bank has signed up. However, little by little,Marcuccilli said the sheer simplicity of paying with a snap of alens will take off.

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With a number of channels on the cusp of breakouts, expertsbelieve what is certain is that there will be a next MRDC and thereal question will be who gets to deploy it first. Advocates areconvinced that those will be the financial institutions that sprintahead of their competitors.

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