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Compete With Large Banks Using Mobile Banking

By: Jerome J. Gassen

As large banks provide mobile banking solutions, community banks are fighting back with mobile strategies of their own. The mobile channel changes the game for community banks. Studies show by 2015, 50 percent of bank customers will be mobile banking.

But is offering mobile banking enough? Smartphone technology can provide other services customers want, such as remote deposit capture, ATM locator and money transfer. As smartphone ownership grows, community banks must answer a question: Do we wait until the “water is safe” to give customers next-generation mobile solutions when waiting could mean losing customers to large banks that offer these services?

Malauzai defines a SmartApp as a mobile app that delivers a superior customer experience. The term “smart” is used because the app can be updated in real-time from a centralized location. SmartApps can also be tailored for separate customer segments.

New Castle, Ind.-based Ameriana Bank, with assets of $430 million, launched a SmartApp banking platform because customers wanted to use smart devices for mobile banking. The bank keeps channel strategy simple; it delivers financial solutions to customers through whatever channel the customer uses.

“One of our directors told me about a customer that drove 45 miles to find a bank that offered mobile banking,” said Jerome Gassen, president and CEO at Ameriana Bank. “Mobile became a channel to reach customers, and SmartApps help us attract new customers, which is important to our strategy. We didn’t want this channel to be dominated by large banks.”

Previously, Ameriana had a browser-based solution, but it became clear delivering Internet banking through a hand-held device was cumbersome. The bank evaluated options from ancillary providers, then chose Malauzai Software’s SmartApp platform.

“I told my team I wanted a cool mobile banking app for our customers,” said Gassen. “During testing, our family and friends used the app, and everyone said it was `really cool’; we knew we made the right decision.”

Promoting Mobile

“We didn’t have to spend a lot of money to promote mobile,” said Deborah Robinson, chief marketing officer at Ameriana Bank. “We educated employees about our mobile banking product, so they could explain benefits to customers. We promoted our SmartApp offering with point-of-sale posters in branches and on ATMs. We gave an iPad away to entice customers to sign up. Our staff did a great job talking to customers. We promoted mobile through social media, and customers told friends and family members. Our customers told us they wanted an innovative mobile option, and we delivered.”

Ameriana’s customers adopted mobile banking faster than Internet banking. “It took 10 years to get 40 percent of customers to use Internet banking. We offered SmartApps three months ago, and today, 10 percent of customers mobile bank through smart devices,” said Robinson. “We opened a new world for customers. And judging by how fast adoption is growing, we can tell customers value it.”

The bank adds a percent a month in new users. Recently, Ameriana deployed mobile check deposit within the application, which enables customers to deposit checks remotely by using smartphone cameras to take a picture of the front and back of the check, then send those images to the bank. Since launching MDC, Ameriana receives deposits nearly every day.

Executing Integration

“It was easy to get the app up quickly,” said Robinson. “Initially, we were concerned about how long it would take to get the app deployed. Malauzai was wonderful to work with and they made the integration very smooth. I remember thinking, is that it? Is that all we have to do? I couldn’t believe how easy it was, and their timeline never slipped. They helped us put together a list of frequently asked questions for customers.”

Leveraging Services

Ameriana enables customers to share and like the company’s Facebook page using the app. “When customers download our app, they see a Facebook link to our company page,” said Robinson. “Customers click the link, and it takes them to the Ameriana Bank Facebook page. From there, customers like us or choose to share information about us on their personal pages — it’s integrated within the app. We use our company Facebook page to promote mobile banking, as well.”

The bank is also integrating a knowledge-based software within the app that provides answers to questions a call center representative would answer. For example, I lost my debit card what do I do? Said Gassen, “This provides convenience to customers and helps us cut cost, too.” In addition to this software, Ameriana plans on launching bill pay and alerts soon via its mobile banking app.

SmartApps attracts younger customers, but the bank is not counting out mature customers either. “Once our greyer customers understand the technology, they become the best users,” said Gassen.

Jerome J. Gassen is president of Ameriana Bank. He is also on the board of directors.

Copyright (c) February 2012 by BankNews Media