Mobile banking, along with its digital partner online banking,now represents the budding face of banking. Yet, not all mobilefeatures and innovations are catching on at all financialinstitutions.

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“Credit union members increasingly prefer mobile banking astheir primary digital banking channel,” Tucker Stovall, director ofdigital solutions for Symitar, a division of the Monett, Mo.-basedJack Henry & Associates, said. “We are witnessing a shift awayfrom simple mobile acceptance and adoption to a true mobile-firstpreference.”

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This is not to say internet banking is dying, but it doesindicate a paradigm shift, where mobile banking is the channel ofchoice and internet banking is being leveraged as a complementarychannel, Stovall observed.

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The Austin, Texas-based digital banking provider Malauzaireported 54% of digital banking users are registered for and usingmobile banking. “But there's still a greater percentage [73%] onaverage for internet registrants,” Robb Gaynor, chief productofficer for Malauzai, said. However, those percentages areshifting.

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What's more important for many credit unions is providingmembers with more mobile functionality. “The number one trend wecontinue to see is [financial institutions] seeking differentiationwith apps,” Gaynor added.

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Stovall noted an increase in the depth and sophistication of thefinancial transactions available from mobile phones throughdevelopments such as biometric technology and real-time behavioralmodeling.

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Biometrics, for example, is becoming such auser-centric authentication mechanism that users will expect to seein all their secure applications, Scott Hess, vice president ofuser experience, consulting and innovation at the Brookfield,Wis.-based Fiserv, noted. “I think it's going to be tablestakes.”

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But it is the marriage of voice biometrics, artificialintelligence and digital assistant technologies, like Alexa, thathas people talking. Voice-activated technology appears ready toplay a significant role in digital banking, as initial deploymentshave already started.

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The Duluth, Ga.-based NCR Corp. announced the $346 million,Scarborough, Maine-based Town & Country Federal Credit Unionnow enables users to securely manage their personal bank accountinformation using Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. The pilot program,described by NCR as the first credit union linking Alexacapabilities with accounts and account management functionality,will be open to NCR Digital Insight solutions customers in theU.S.

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Town & Country will allow members to access their accountinformation with simple voice commands. “Town & Country iscommitted to developing cutting-edge and innovative technologysolutions to help simplify and add value to our members' busylives,” Town & Country President/CEO David Libby said.

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Fiserv is also unveiling similar technology. “The voice-directedthinking is absolutely in play with a lot of our larger creditunions and banks,” Hess said.

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Credit unions piloting voice banking with Fiserv, such as the$17.3 billion, Tukwila, Wash.-based BECU, currently focus onauthenticating members through a spoken PIN, and providing accountactivity updates and account balances. “These three are the mostcommon digital banking activities and are less prone to risk thanmoney-movement activities,” Hess said. Other voice banking featuresmade available by Fiserv include internal transfers, bill and P2Ppayments, ATM/branch locators, card controls and product info.

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“Voice assistance becomes an expectation for our members'day-to-day lives as they interact with the likes of Alexa, GoogleHome, Siri and Cortana,” Howie Wu, vice president of digital forBECU, said. “It especially makes sense to deliver this capabilityin mobile given the convenience/accessibility of those devices andthe continued adoption by our members. Mobile is a primary deliverychannel that allows our members to bank with us whenever andwherever they want on their mobile devices. It is currently one ofthe digital channels with the highest growth and adoption.”

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BECU, a Fiserv core customer, offers mobile deposit, accountaggregation, personal financial management, transfers, loan andbill payment services, branch appointment scheduling, click-to-callservices and alerts. In the next six months, BECU plans to addvoice banking and in-app messaging with push notifications, ZelleP2P payments and mobile-only user enrollment.

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Mobile capabilities are at the forefront of other credit unions'mobile evolutions as well. Tyler Theriot, electronic servicessupervisor for the $302 million, Lake Charles, La.-based CSEFederal Credit Union, assured, “Our entire staff, from uppermanagement down to our frontline reps, recognize and understand thenecessity of keeping CSE Federal Credit Union mobile.”

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Theriot said the credit union, also a Fiserv core customer, hastaken mobile banking a few steps further with mobile depositcapture and bill pay, and an additional app called Card Valet,which allows members to control their debit card access. “We cannotexpect our members to conduct their banking as they did even justfive years ago,” Theriot noted. “Today's consumers are looking forquick, easy and efficient, and ultimately they want to be able todo it through their main lifeline, their mobile phone.”

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CSE also utilizes the DocuSign electronic document signingsoftware, and plans to add a biometric login and Credit Sense, aFiserv service that helps members monitor their credit scores andincreases cross-sell opportunities.

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Mobile banking plays an integral role in enhancing existingrelationships, especially with younger, tech-minded members at the$290 million, Gadsden, Ala.-based Alabama Teachers Credit Union,which currently offers mobile check deposit and will soon add P2Ppayments and the ability to turn debit cards on and off viamobile.

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“Our members are very hands on when it comes to mobile banking,and we are happy with our current penetration and the speed atwhich members grasped the mobile banking concept,” Emily Mayben,marketing director at Alabama Teachers, said. “We expect enrollmentto rise toward the end of 2017 as we enact an enrollment campaignto prepare for our online banking upgrade [to the SmartWebApp].”

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Mayben explained Alabama Teachers, a current Malauzai mobileclient, is upgrading to Malauzai's online banking offering inDecember and hopes this change provides a seamless transition fromonline to mobile banking. According to Gaynor, much of Malauzai'scurrent business model focuses on combining internet and mobile ona single platform.

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When it comes to AI, Malauzai expects its first voice-directedcontributions to begin by the second quarter of next year, however,they'll be very basic. Gaynor anticipates it'll be at least a fewyears before AI is less nebulous and can truly recognize a voice'sbanking commands.

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Eventually, AI will influence virtually every aspect of digitalbanking, from security to marketing to personal financialmanagement to transaction scheduling, Stovall noted.

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AI, at least when it comes to allowing financial institutioncustomers to say anything to their devices, which can thencomprehend exactly what the person is trying to do, is still notready for primetime. “Artificial intelligence firms really need toprogram in very specific banking use cases for their digitalassistants,” Hess suggested. “AI in banking is still not fullybaked.”

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Not all trends catch on either. Hess observed one hot trend fromjust a few years ago, tablet apps, has cooled quite a bit. Mosttablet banking customers are now pulling back and focusing onutilizing responsive or adaptive web design, which allows financialinstitutions to deliver a good browser experience to any digitaldevice.

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Two other mobile features that could perform better but aren'tare P2P payments and mobile business banking. “Everybody shouldhave P2P but only about 10% of the market does,” Gaynor admitted.As far as business mobile, Gaynor said once businesses adopt amobile app, they use it very aggressively, but currently there'spractically nothing going on in the marketplace as far asadoption.

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Mobile use is climbing, but Hess explained member choice isstill important. “You're always going to find members and consumersout there who still want a human touch.”

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Roy Urrico

Roy W. Urrico specializes in articles about financial technology and services for Credit Union Times, as well as ghostwriting, copywriting, and case studies. Also: writer/editor of a semi-annual newsletter for Association for Financial Technology since 1997 and history projects funded by the U.S Interior Department, National Park Service and Warren County (N.Y.).