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"We really want to be Angry Birds for the financial services industry," says Jim Simpson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at City Bank Texas.
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Using Mobile Tech to Solve Old-School Problem: Ordering Checks

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City Bank Texas has added a feature to its mobile banking app that further distinguishes the Lubbock community bank from its competitors: the ability to order checks.

The app already includes a number of atypical capabilities that let people turn their debit cards on and off, increase their daily ATM withdrawal limit, unblock foreign transactions and pay bills using the smartphone's camera.

"We really want to be Angry Birds for the financial services industry," says Jim Simpson, senior vice president and chief technology officer, meaning he wants customers to use the bank's app. "It's a great goal because you have to constantly deliver nuggets of features and ideas in the app to keep users coming back for more."

The need to constantly refine the design and features of mobile banking apps was one of the main points made by execs from Wells Fargo, USAA and Citi at a recent mobile banking conference panel hosted by American Banker and Bank Technology News. That's because the customer, who pays for the device, controls the experience, including whether he downloads the app and uses the lower cost channel.

City Bank Texas' new check ordering capability also offers subtle proof to the mobile customer that the bank knows her: when reordering, the look of the check in the app's interface will match the physical appearance of the paper check in her checkbook.

When the bank started to float the idea of adding check ordering to its app, some technologists laughed. "People think we are getting away from checks, so why build toward them?" says Simpson.

The bank researched whether the capability would add any value to customers by checking in with line of business, call center and in-branch customer service personnel. These parties all confirmed there was a need to simplify the check ordering process.

For one thing, people are typically not sitting by a desktop when they are writing the last check in their checkbook (the bank also lets customers order checks through online banking). "It's an added convenience," says Simpson.

"At the end of the day, we have to keep customers coming back today, tomorrow and the next day," he points out. "Until checks are off the map, people still have to reorder them."

City Bank Texas processes about 75,000 to 80,000 checks a week.

The bank worked with Deluxe to make the feature available through its mobile banking app, which is based on Malauzai Software.

The new check ordering service is free, but Simpson believes it will set the stage to generate some revenue in two ways for City Bank Texas: The bank will eventually let people purchase customized checks for a fee in-app, and it could obtain fee revenue from business customers down the road.

"It's not a home run everybody is looking for," says Simpson. "It is all about creating many streams of income versus one single home run."

Simpson also thinks this feature could get older generations who have grown up writing checks to log in to the mobile app.

A recent report by ath Power Consulting found that more consumers and small businesses are willing to pay to use mobile banking, which is already a lower cost channel for banks.

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