AUSTIN-For many credit unions, competing with banks in mobile banking technologies has meant turning to third-party vendors. But not at Amplify FCU, which has taken the progressive step of developing in-house its own mobile checking deposit app.
"The process was really driven by our tech savvy membership base," said Eric Clemens, director of software development for Amplify. "Mobile checking deposit was a service our membership was inquiring about for some time via member surveys and our Facebook page."
The mobile check deposit trend first took hold when Chase began offering the service in 2010. Since then, major banks and many credit unions have joined the mobile banking race, in most cases using apps developed by a handful of well-known vendors. But not Amplify.
The obvious perks for members are ease of use and the ability to access a portion of deposited funds in seconds rather than days. What is different, and rare, about Amplify is that instead of looking for a vendor to customize the app, its IT staff decided to build one from scratch.
"We looked at a lot of vendors and also talked to them about how it would integrate with our core system," said Clemens. "We wanted to make sure that we could quickly adapt to the growing mobile demand, but also make the experience as smooth as possible for our members. So we decided to do it in-house, because it would give us the most control as to how our members would interact with the application."
The Design Phase
When the decision was made to stay in-house, Clemens explained that it was the start of an exciting six-month process that began after July 2011 when Amplify's native app for mobile banking was launched. "This was my first time designing this particular type of system," he said.
The credit union purchased a Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) line extraction library, but beyond that the platform was otherwise unique. "All other components of the application, including mobile applications for iPhone, Android and Blackberry, image encoding and integration with Amplify's existing systems and processes were developed and designed in-house."
Due to his familiarity with remote deposit capture technology, the initial development stages went smoothly. That's not to say there weren't issues, however.
"One unanticipated hurdle we did encounter occurred later during the integration of the Mobile Check Deposit into the new image processing system," said Clemens. "Achieving this integration was important despite its complexities." Like all new applications, there was a period of tweaking and adjusting. "First we tested it out on a group of employees and then we tested it on a group of friends and families," said Clemens. "Next we did a soft rollout offering the application on our website."
Due to the app's "ease of use," the effort was soon deemed successful. "As a result of our due-diligence during the development process, friends, family, employees and long-term members who participated in the test phase quickly gave their stamp of approval."
Rollout, And Then, Takeoff
In the first six hours after the soft rollout-12 a.m. to 6 a.m.-roughly 50 of Amplify's 52,000 members downloaded the app. Three weeks later, Amplify deployed a marketing campaign and from that point it "took off," explained Clemens. "After a month or so we were at over 4,000 mobile users that represented a half-million dollars in deposits. This exceeded our expectations; we were surprised how quickly our members responded."
Members were not the only ones to take notice of Amplify's new offering, which performs all Check21 Act regulation checks as well as complies with internal operating procedures. "We've received numerous inquiries from other credit unions interested in learning more about the app," said Clemens. "Selling the Mobile Communications Device (MCD) application has not been a topic of discussion, as our primary focus has been to provide members with the best products and services possible."
Clemens and his team are currently working on "new enhancements," including an iPad app that will serve to further enhance MCD and the entire suite of mobile banking products. If growth rates exceed the credit union's ability to deliver best of class products, tapping outside resources will remain an option.
"There is always a possibility to strategically partner with a vendor if it helps Amplify service its members," said Clemens. "Currently, Amplify doing it in-house allows for a better app for our members."
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