Sure, there’s an app for that – but if financial app doesn’t address a real need or pain point, it’s not likely to catch on.

That’s why Southwest Financial Federal Credit Union and Virginia Credit Union stayed focused on meeting a specific member need. With that in mind, Southwest Financial wanted to offer an interactive, face-to-face mobile video banking app, while Virginia CU wanted to give members the ability so securely apply and track their mortgage applications.

“We have been looking at phasing into more of a teller-less environment,” said Southwest Financial Federal Credit Union’s CEO Melanie Kennedy. “So we were looking for integrated teller solutions.”

The CU’s vendor app search came to an end at last year’s CUNA Technology Council Conference, where Kennedy demoed the Dallas-based POPin Video Banking Collaboration solution.

“This was even better than an integrated teller solution for us because you didn’t have to go to a designated spot,” said Kennedy adding that the CU is the first FI in Texas to offer this mobile face-to-face banking solution. “You can be anywhere and do anything with the exception of cash.”

A Southwest Financial Federal Credit Union representative uses the CU's video chat system for members.
A Southwest Financial Federal Credit Union representative uses the CU's video chat system for members.

The $65 million Dallas-based Southwest Financial FCU supports 10,768 members at two branches located in Dallas and Shenandoah. Of these members, roughly 6,000 are combined active mobile and online banking users.

POPin Founder and CEO Gene Pranger said the “pioneering” Southwest Financial FCU will soon be joined by two more Texas-based credit unions that are currently in beta testing phase. By yearend 2018, he hopes to have approximately 100 clients.

“The biggest pain point in the credit union industry is for the smaller institutions and the reason is they cannot afford a brick-and-mortar retail distribution strategy because of the cost,” said Pranger. “This [POPin] is an excellent way to create reach among members as well as effectively serve them at the moment of need.”

Depending how a credit union is configured and how much beta testing is required, Pranger said the POPin Video Banking Collaboration solution can be integrated in as little as two weeks or as many as three months or more. Kennedy conceded that the process, which required board approval, testing, document uploading and training, took roughly nine months.

“We are a small credit union and our staff resources were limited,” said Kennedy of the CU’s 29 employees, two of which comprise the IT department. “So a lot of this [time] was on our end, not theirs.”

The CU-branded app will be available on PCs, iPhones and Androids. As of late November, the solution was still being tested by employees and 10 selected members.

“We think it will be mostly used for account openings and loan closings, but there are so many more uses, such as stop payments,” said Kennedy. Currently, there are six employees who have been trained and are fielding video chat calls.

“My hope for our members is that this will make their experience a lot more exciting, and that they feel more connected to the credit union,” said Kennedy.

Mortgage app milestones

In an effort to provide members with real-time notifications of loan status, while streamlining communication with loan officers and enabling secure documents uploading, Virginia Credit Union (VACU) developed a mobile mortgage app.

Heather Meaker, technology innovation manager at Virginia Credit Union
Heather Meaker, technology innovation manager at Virginia Credit Union

“Most of the technology these days is moving into the mobile space, but the mortgage application process really lags behind,” said VACU’s Technology Innovation Manager Heather Meaker.

To help meet the demands of its 263,000 members, Meaker and her team began looking into app options in April 2016. After due diligence, the Richmond, Va.-based CU partnered with the Lehi, Utah-based SimpleNexus, a firm that develops mobile apps for loan officers.

“By giving members certain tools to utilize, they can be more in control about their mortgage,” said SimpleNexus Chief Marketing Officer Joe Wilson. “So it works on both ends and is a benefit all around.”

Developed as a pilot, Meaker explained that VACU’s mobile mortgage application, which was a finalist in the 2017 Gartner Eye on Innovation Awards, is currently being expanded to all VACU’s mortgage applications.

While the solution is new, positive results have been realized. For example, approximately 220 VACU members were invited to the pilot with roughly 50 members closing their mortgage using the app. Overall, VACU has 160,000 active online banking users and 129,000 active mobile banking users.

“Forty-three percent of the app users used the document upload feature; several sent more than 25 documents. This was a much wider use of that feature than predicted,” said Meaker who added that the app has reduced the average completion time of a mortgage loan by 10 days. “We also learned that many members had already provided needed documents prior to app download, which identified a process opportunity for us.”

With any mobile banking app, security is often a cited concern of members. To this end, they might enjoy the ability to see the status of their mortgage application in real-time, but may not like uploading sensitive documents, such as tax returns via the app. Wilson said there is no need for concern.

“We process up to 300,000 documents from borrowers to lenders each month; so several million borrowers have used the platform and we haven’t had one document kicked back to us from a lender for any reason,” said Wilson.

Looking forward, Meaker is expecting to add an additional 160 loans to the CU’s portfolio in 2018 “without staff increases.”

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