Upwardly Mobile Ideas

Everyone’s talking about mobile banking. How will things change, and what are credit unions doing about it?


How money moves has the potential to redefine the financial services industry. The next 10 years could see branches and wallets being jettisoned in favor of one all-encompassing device: the mobile phone.

Mashable, a blog that covers all things technology, passed along a snazzy story and graphic that illustrates the magnitude of the situation. By 2014, near-field communication (NFC) transactions could exceed $50 billion. By 2015, the mobile transaction market could surpass $670 billion. Click on the infographic below for a larger version of it. The chart gives an excellent breakdown of the mobile payments contenders (Visa, AmEx) and the basics of how NFC technology works (it’s all in the frequency).

Many credit unions are on the leading edge of the revolution and in a good position to meet member and market demand. And they need to be. A recent survey on mobile banking habits revealed that 92% of respondents owned a cellphone, and 19% of respondents do banking on their phones. Those numbers seem likely to grow, so it makes sense for credit unions to get involved now. Here are some examples of recent credit union forays into the mobile space.

    • Patelco Credit Union ($3.6B, Pleasanton, CA) offers a mobile banking app that allows members to perform standard transactions such as checking balances and funds transfers. The credit union also offers person-to-person (P2P) payments via a service called Popmoney. Bottom line: Patelco is using mobile banking to maximize convenience for members and get a piece of the burgeoning mobile market.
    • City County Credit Union ($287.9M, Ft. Lauderdale, FL) has a service called Mobile Money that includes viewing balances and performing transactions. What’s great about CCCU’s roll-out of the service is that they offer an online video tutorial to help members figure out how to use the service and take it for a little test drive. Smart move. 
    • Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union ($80.8M, Germantown, MD) offers a vibrant mobile app replete with basic transactions. And to get it, members can download the app via a device-specific QR code on the credit union’s site. Not only is MCEFCU getting members to use the mobile channel but it is also introducing them to QR codes, which could be a useful technology in the future. Sidebar: O Bee Credit Union ($136.2M, Tumwater, WA) has used MS Tags (a variation of QR codes) to get members engaged through contests and something called Capture the Tag.
    • 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union ($538.8M, Newport News, VA) partnered with ZashPay to make P2P payments easier for members. 

Credit unions are proving that they’re well-equipped to be players in the mobile space, which is obviously heating up in prominence. Google’s even getting involved now. The presence of big-name players such as the search giant and larger financial institutions might be slightly intimidating, but cooperatives are proving their commitment to serving members wherever they are.