There are a few dozen financial institutions I follow closely for inspiration. And one of my favorites is University of Wisconsin Credit Union. The 180,000 member, $1.6 billion asset CU, always seems to be at the forefront.
Its latest feat: Remote deposit capture from the mobile web <m.uwcu.org>. That's not a typo. Mobile deposit capture WITHOUT a (native) app!
UWCU is the first in the world (as far as we can tell), that allows smartphone users to deposit checks right from the mobile web (see the CU's blog post for more info). The CU taps new controls in mobile browsers (iOS and Android) to operate the mobile camera to capture paper checks. Image processing and fraud detection technology is powered by Ensenta (with Mitek IP).
The in-house UWCU dev team so far has eschewed downloadable apps in favor of mobile-optimized designs that work cross platform. They are working towards full responsive design, so any user can visit the UWCU site from any size device and receive the optimal design, complete with touchscreen controls when applicable. They are targeting year-end completion for the full package.
But as much as Eric Bangerter (VP Ecommerce & Internet Services) and his team believe in the mobile web, they plan to bow to member pressure and offer a simple native app so they have a presence in the app stores (note 1). As Bangerter notes in a recent interview at BankInfoSecurity.com, "Not being in an app store today is kind of like not having a Google (search) result."
Bottom line: I've been a huge believer in native apps. It's how legions of smartphone users have been trained to access services (see note 2). Many normal people don't even understand the "browser construct" in a mobile phone. That said, I see the logic in UWCU's approach. Like most businesses, they must prioritize their investments. And now that the mobile browser can tap the camera (and GPS), it makes sense to push its mobile power users to the mobile web. But I'm glad the CU is also creating a lightweight native app to satisfy the rest.
UW Credit Union's mobile-browser based deposit capture in action (4 June 2013)
Note: Watch the full 90-second demo posted in the UWCU online banking blog, Source Code.
1. The lack of a native app has seemingly not slowed down its mobile growth. The CU has 36,000 mobile users, an impressive 20% of its member base.
2. For more info, see our recent Online Banking Report: Digital & Mobile Wallets (published Feb 2013, subscription).