iPad App Lets Bank Offer High-End Services to Small Businesses

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Popular Community Bank, Banco Popular's U.S. subsidiary, is debuting a new iPad app for small businesses that in the future will offer advanced cash management features such as positive pay. It's one of only a small group of banks in the U.S. developing mobile apps for small businesses.

"Businesses have always been at the heart of who we are," says Manuel Chinea, COO of the Rosemont, Ill.-based bank. "We have made a significant investment over time in cash management technology. This mobile platform lets us take some of the more sophisticated cash management services we provide for larger clients and bring it to a level that makes it economically viable and convenient for the smaller businesses."

Services designed for large commercial clients aren't always practical for small clients, he notes. For instance, remote deposit capture using a check scanner is expensive for a small business that has to cover the hardware cost of the scanner as well as the processing of the checks.

"We have used the mobile platform as a way to 'massify' the offering of certain cash management services, making them more available to smaller businesses" whose principles often don't have time to come to the branch, Chinea says. The bank has 91 branches in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and California.

The new iPad app (as well as the bank's Android and iPhone apps for small businesses and consumers) provides mobile deposit capture, the ability to deposit checks by simply taking pictures of them. Check images received by 8:00 p.m. EST on a business day are processed for deposit the same day.

"I see a lot of demand for it," says Chinea. "One way to look at it is, it's the poor man's version of remote deposit capture. For a certain segment of the small business population, it's great; it doesn't require a hardware investment." The bank has imposed a limit of 30 checks a month, five checks per day on business mobile deposit.

In reality, the bank's small business customers mostly receive credit card payments anyway, taking only the occasional check.

The iPad app also lets small business customers check account balances; find branches and ATM locations with GPS search; search recent account activity by transaction date, amount or check number; pay vendors and other established payees; and transfer funds from one Popular Community Bank account to another in real time.

The bank worked closely with FIS, its main technology partner, to develop the app. It was one of FIS's first adopters of the technology.

One feature in the development pipeline for small business clients is positive pay, a service the bank already provides for larger clients. "Right now because of the way it works and the price points, [positive pay] is not as attractive to the small business clients," Chinea says. "If we're able to bring that to the mobile platform, we'll be able to deliver it at a price point that makes more sense."

The bank is also working with its merchant processing vendor, First Data, on the possibility of offering merchant processing through a mobile device. "It would be similar to Square but integrated into our entire mobile platform," says Chinea. "It would have an advantage --payments would be settled and credited to your account faster than what Square can do."

Another recent tech offering the bank has made to small business clients is a "smart safe."

This is an increasingly popular service in which the bank provides the customer with a physical safe that scans and counts cash as it's loaded into the safe. The bank credits the customer's account immediately, so the customer doesn't have to wait until the cash is transported to a branch or other bank location.

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