FAIRFAX, Va. – People love their smart phones — almost literally — which is helping to make mobile banking a big hit at Apple Federal and Eastman credit unions.

"Members are forwarding our mobile banking application to friends, posting it on Facebook and tweeting it," said Jennifer Peart, VP-business analysis at $1.3-billion Apple FCU here. "There's a lot of excitement about mobile applications, because smart phones are very personal to members and are making their day-to-day lives easier and better."

The excitement at Apple FCU adds up to 15% of the total membership using mobile banking-an adoption rate perhaps unrivaled in the industry. One-third of the adopters are banking by iPhone or Android phone, which the CU launched this spring, said Peart.

Nearly 14% of all members are banking on the go at Eastman CU in Kingsport, Tenn., according to Jeremiah Lounds, manager, IT applications at the $2.5-billion CU.

"People obviously love their smartphones," Lounds said. "They're waking to the phone's alarm, checking the news from the phone, taking quality pictures and using our app to deposit checks and check balances. Our mobile app is driven by the members, and Eastman is now in their pockets."

Eastman launched the iPhone and Android apps along with an iPad app this summer, and is watching as members who use the CU's text banking or mobile web banking services quickly switch to the new applications. Currently, one-third of the mobile bankers are using the smartphone apps.

"Members have sought numerous ways to tell us how great the phone and iPad applications are," said Lounds. "We get very few support calls."

Both Apple Federal and Eastman launched mobile services in 2009 with text banking.

Brain Stimulation

Smart phones may stimulate the same part of the brain that tenders feelings of love and compassion, according to recent experiments by consumer advocate Martin Lindstrom, author of the book "Brandwashed."

But Lounds said he thinks that Eastman's marketing efforts have also had an effect on mobile banking adoption. "We sent out an e-mail to members telling them about mobile deposits. We had such good response that our backoffice staff told us we needed to turn off the e-mails."

Eastman got marketing help from Intuit Financial Services (IFS), the financial management solutions company that provides Eastman and Apple Federal with text, mobile web and application banking.

The "Tap, Snap, Deposit" campaign from IFS demonstrated "how easy mobile deposit is," Lounds said.

Credit unions need to make sure to provide members with an appropriate mobile banking solution, suggested John Flora, group product manager at IFS. That will depend on the type of handheld device a person has.

"IFS offers the mobile quadruple-play," Flora explained. "We have SMS, mobile web, a downloadable application for phones and the Apple iPad. They give members the right experience for the type of device they have."

People log-in an average of 10 times per month to IFS' mobile banking apps. "That's more than log in to online banking. The pace of consumer adoption for mobile banking is something to witness. Everyone is moving toward a mobile lifestyle. It's an opportunity for credit unions to engage their members in an endless number of ways and to connect them with their services throughout the day."

Mobile banking transactions are "absolutely" lower cost than online banking, branch and phone transactions, Lounds said, noting wireless carriers are "almost forcing" consumers toward smartphones with that require data plans.

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