Who Needs Stamps When You Can Make Credit Union Deposits with a Smartphone?
By Gina Ragusa Credit Unions Online
The arduous days of locating an envelope, purchasing an overpriced stamp and waiting for weeks on end for a deposit to clear are over. Credit unions have embraced smartphone deposit technology, which allows members to snap a picture of their signed check and send it directly to their credit union for a more efficient transaction.
Last summer Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corporation were tickled pink by the capability, touting the technology as a better way than using the US Postal Service. "We don't have the pervasive locations that traditional banks and [their] ATMs have," Richard Blunck, Fidelity's EVP/Web distribution told the Wall Street Journal last summer. He said that a smartphone, "is a lot better than stamps and mailing."
Not only is a smartphone “better” than the mail, Schwab conducted a study that concluded that approximately seven out of every 10 Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 preferred using their smartphone to deposit checks--mainly because of the convenience factor.
Convenience Trumps All When It Comes to Financial Services
Both bank customers and credit union members say that smartphone deposit capabilities have brought a whole new meaning of the word “convenience” to their lives.
Massachusetts business owner G. Bradley recently told a local CBS station that the advent of the service has created a new level of efficiency for him.
“It’s honestly one of the best services since the ATM,” he said. “It really keeps me from having to go to the bank at all. I can get my checks into the bank in a day or two, and it’s minimized the amount of bounced checks I have to deal with. It’s really streamlined the process.”
It’s not just banks that are offering the service. More and more credit unions are rolling out smartphone deposit capabilities and are experiencing similar rave reviews.
Georgia United Credit Union ($919 million, Duluth, GA) introduced SWIFT Deposit in December to employees and the entire membership in April. “We rolled it out to internal staff in December of 2011, then we rolled it out to a select group of 4000 members in February 2012 and then to our entire membership on April 1, 2012,” said Mark Bartholomew, Chief Information Officer.
“Activity for SWIFT Deposit, our remote deposit product, continues to increase month after month,” he reports. “Through the use of technology we want to develop products that create convenience for our members. The initial reaction from our members have been extremely favorable.”
Growth Numbers Tell the Story
Digital Federal Credit Union ($4 billion, Marlborough, MA) reports that 70,000 plus of its 354,000 members have signed up for mobile check cashing. The credit union surpassed the $1 billion dollar mark in March for remote deposits and last year 439,000 checks were processed through mobile check deposit.
John LaHair, DCU Spokesperson says smartphone deposit technology is win-win for everyone. “It saves time and money, and they have almost immediate access to their funds in less than two minutes rather than wait for a check to be delivered and deposited manually. It not only saves money on our end, but saves money on the consumer end.”
Other credit unions like Mountain America Credit Union ($3 billion, West Jordan, UT) report that mobile check deposits increased by more than 1,800% since it rolled out its mobile banking smartphone deposit app in July 2011.
"In terms of service, convenience and ease of use, our members compare their financial institution to every other organization with whom they transact business," said Tony Rasmussen, SVP/eServices at Mountain America Credit Union. "So we need to be at the forefront of technology services, driven by member needs and expectations. In fact, we work hard to be ready to provide services our members will need before they realize they need them. Mobile check deposit is exactly that kind of offering, providing a valuable service to our many members who are becoming smartphone users."
“Mobile services are what we at MACU would call a no brainer,” Rasmussen continues. “The growing popularity of mobile devices worldwide all but guarantees that at some point, more people will be using mobile devices more frequently than computers (consider all the countries in the world where people have cell phones but no PCs) to shop, communicate, and do their banking.”
Bartholomew says that while he expects smartphone deposit adoption to grow, he has yet to see a dramatic decrease in mailed deposits. “We have not really seen a decrease in mailed deposits but what we anticipate is a decrease in our shared branching deposits,” he explains.
“Many credit unions such as Georgia United participate in a shared branching network that allows our members to conduct transactions on their Georgia United accounts at other credit unions across the country.”
MACU reports a similar experience in terms of mailed deposits. “With the exception of IRV/Audio Response and online banking, we’ve yet to see the introduction of a new technology significantly eliminate the need for its predecessor--and even in this case, it took years and years before significant decline (in audio banking) was observed,” Rasmussen says. “In almost every instance, all channels continue to grow even as new services are offered. People use the services they find valuable and convenient. Services are like ice cream, not everyone likes the same flavor. Even though mobile deposit has grown month-over-month for the past year, with MACU’s significant branch, multi-state environment, it will be some time before a significant decrease in either branch or mail in deposits is observed.”
Although smartphone deposit solutions are the hot new ticket, credit unions continue to look forward for the next dynamic tool.
“As for future technology we are currently working on a new home banking solution with an integrated mobile banking solution that will provide enhanced functionality for our members,” Bartholomew adds.