FAIRBORN, Ohio-Mobile banking is no longer considered a trend-it's an industry staple. However, the way credit unions are using the technology is morphing due to member demand. For Wright-Patt Credit Union, its fresh approach resulted in a first place award from GoBankingRates.com following user reviews of its solution.

"We were surprised and excited about it because they thought it was worthwhile to note the success of the program," said Wright-Patt CU's Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Tracy Fors.

GoBankingRates.com reported that Wright-Patt CU's app received a 4.5 out of 5 rating on iTunes for the iPhone version (97 reviews). The Android received the same results (687 users). The four runners up were USC Credit Union, TwinStar Credit Union, Credit Union ONE and IC Federal Credit Union.

Joel Huxley, who serves as Wright-Patt CU's Director of Retail, explained that prior experiences the new direction of its mobile solution. "We first offered mobile in 2009 through an in-house product, but we needed to grow and expand so we partnered with a third party."

To achieve its growth goals, Fors said Wright-Patt partnered with Intuit Mobile Payments, which allows members 24/7 access to accounts so they can pay bills, deposit checks and transfer funds. "We like to stay on the technology curve so we can get ahead of the curve."


Easier and Simpler

The enhanced app is an "easier, simpler experience," said Huxley. And the proof is in the numbers. When the new app was launched in late 2012, approximately 20,000 of the credit union's approximate 173,000 members were "actively" using mobile banking. Six months later that number spiked to 50,000.

"We define active users as using the application at least once in 60 days," said Huxley. "The numbers keep growing."

This increase in mobile activity is occurring nationwide. According to the 2012 Fiserv Consumer Trends Survey, the number of mobile banking users increased by 33% in 2012, to approximately 25 million U.S. households.

"At the end of the day, what we are seeing are higher frequency of mobile transactions that go beyond the basic mobile offerings," said Fiserv's Senior Vice President of Emerging Payments, Ginger Schmeltzer. "There is still a question of user confidence, but mobile is growing so rapidly and there is so much more we are not yet doing."


Member Advisory Panel

While it's beneficial to point to industry statistics, collective and respective member perspectives are often considerably more valuable to credit union decision-makers. To this end, Wright-Patt CU has a 14-member advisory panel representing the wants, needs and concerns of the $1.5-billion credit union's members. When the new app was being considered, the panel, which is comprised of members reflecting all demographics, was asked for itsinput.

"We are looking for the insights from our members," said Fors. "It is like our own focus group. They were part of our home banking pilot, for example. They allow us to fine tune our emerging technologies."

Among enhancements was the check capture and deposit feature. Prior to the update, members could only deposit checks remotely via desktop scanning. Six months ago, the average monthly remote check deposit was 600. Today, that number is 6,000 via the mobile app. "The member reaction is that they love it because it is so convenient," said Fors.


Mobile Direction

Moving from an in-house app to a vendor-supported product required a few test trials, which included custom coding as well as identifying what members could use the app. "They have a standard package, but there is a level of customization," said Huxley of Intuit's app. "We submit our enhancement requests and they execute them."

Huxley added that like checking accounts, use of the mobile app is a "privilege" offered to the majority of members who have signed up for Wright-Patt CU Home Banking. The app is then easily downloaded to a iPhone, iPad or Android device.

Prior to partnering with a vendor to enhance mobile offerings, Wright-Patt CU did what other credit unions have done: create an in-house product. While there are benefits to this approach, such controlling costs and service options, Schmeltzer said the mobile industry is headed in a different direction.


The Growth Trend

"The growing trend is native apps opposed to mobile web because these apps are designed specifically for iPhones and Androids," said Schmeltzer. "Native apps are just more appealing and less frustrating to end users."

It was for the aforementioned reason Wright-Patt CU changed course, noted Huxley. "We have ongoing research on emerging technologies and it important that we stay on top of it." When asked if there are any new mobile app enhancements on tap, Huxley responded "yes," but said it remains confidential as it won't be launched for another six to nine months.

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