BURBANK, Calif. — UMe Federal Credit Union had a problem. Though the $160 million, one-branch CU had a mobile banking application available to its 13,050 members, only a small percentage were using the service.

That changed earlier this year when a new app was adopted, resulting in a 30% spike in mobile activity.

"We knew we needed to have an online/mobile strategy to compete with the big banks like Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America," said UMe FCU Vice President Brian Hendricks. "We also knew we needed to offer a mobile banking solution that would meet the needs of an increasingly demanding market."

For many credit unions, mobile app adoption rates are slowed by generic campaigns.

"The biggest problem with credit unions marketing apps is that everyone is saying the same thing," said Jim Pond, partner with the marketing and consulting firm James and Matthew + Company. "Mobile deposit, for example, is expected so credit unions have to show why, especially for Gen X and Y members, they should use the app."

The call for an enhanced mobile offering is supported by the Pew Research foundation, which found that (if offered) 48% of banking customers would download a financial institution's mobile banking application.

Making A Selection
UMe FCU evaluated a handful of vendors, according to Hendricks, and selected Bluepoint Solutions for its remote deposit capture (RDC) solution. With Bluepoint's help, the next step was evaluating mobile banking providers, including vetting mFoundry, WRG, Access Softek, and Malauzai.

"Malauzai has been a great partner for our credit union," said Hendricks. "Malauzai Mobile paired with Bluepoint RDC and created an app that we believe to be close to perfect."

Pond encourages credit unions to work with third-party vendors to develop an application that will serve the needs of the entire member demographic.

"There are a lot of mobile apps on the market and out of the box they all mostly look and act the same," said Pond. "One of the biggest mistakes we see is organizations not spending money on research to see what the member wants."

Released Feb. 8 in the iTunes store and Feb. 9 in Android Google Play Store, UMe's new mobile banking app was created for iOS iPhones and Android phones. An iPad version is currently under development with Malauzai and scheduled for release in the coming months.

Leading up to the launch, Hendricks said the process was defined by three words: testing, testing and more testing. He and his team leaned on the experience that Malauzai and Bluepoint brought to the table, especially integrating the software into the credit union's core.

Though implementation was generally "smooth," Hendricks said there were aspects of the solution that required special attention.

"One area where we spent a lot of time was determining rules and limits for RDC," Hendricks noted. "We wanted dynamic limits that would allow the majority of members to use it and have their needs met. We did a market survey of RDC limits and best practices. In the end our IT team, Malauzai and Bluepoint worked together to develop a great approach to deposit limits."

Three-Tier Campaign
To ensure a solid hard launch, a three-tier campaign was devised, which included employee training sessions. This approach allowed for open dialogue about the apps' features, such as how it worked or how checks were processed, as well as identifying any operational issues.

To this end, phase one asked all 30 employees to use and test the app. At the same time it was released to family and friends to test mobile deposits ensuring there were "no glitches or processing issues," according to Hendricks.

During the first phase, activity was also realized from members who stumbled across the solution without active promotion. The second phase included rolling out the solution to existing mobile banking users through an email campaign.

"We wanted to allow our teams to adjust to member questions for a minimum of 30 days before marketing it to our entire membership and to the public," said Hendricks, who added that the credit union entered the third phase in May. This includes promoting the app to all members via multiple marketing campaigns.

"Initially, we saw a 30% increase in mobile engagement with 26% of mobile users making a deposit in the first three weeks of passive promotion," said Hendricks.

From experience, Pond explained that all too often organizations will take a "megaphone and start yelling" the new services they have to offer, which is a short-sighted approach. "A lot of credit unions will do promotional bursts for a few weeks and are done. It's better to have a three- to six-month campaign — a progression of education."

The Mobile Math
From February to April, the top five mobile features used increased exponentially. For example, transaction history views for the month of February were 2,184. In April that number spiked to 36,087. During the same time period, internal transfers went from 357 to 7,057. Remote deposits grew from 239 to 2,673.

Building on the strength and success of the platform, Hendricks said he is in the process of scaling the solution. In the near future, for example, the credit union plans to offer Mobile BillPay and person-to-person Payments.

"Malauzai is developing our iPad app and we are looking at the long-term future for support for all tablets," said Hendricks. "We are exploring how we can expand the use of RDC for loan payments."

Looking back on the initiative, Hendricks said he now realizes that there are only a few "really good" RDC providers in the market and selecting the right vendor can prove difficult.
"What we have determined to be most important is that you choose a partner that is flexible, has a focus on the user experience, and will stop at nothing to ensure you, and more importantly your members, are happy," said Hendricks.

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