Mobile Banking App First To Embed Facebook Link

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PASADENA, Calif.-Some financial institutions offer mobile banking. Some host a Facebook page. Wescom Credit Union here is the first to launch a mobile banking application with a Facebook link built into each transaction.

"Social media is inherently tied to your money," explained John Best, Wescom CTO. "There's not much that we do in life where we don't spend some cash. Financial institutions are almost obligated to integrate social media into mobile banking."

Consider the scenario of a member who finally gets hold of an Apple iPad 2: the member logs into Wescom mobile banking, selects the iPad transaction and can instantly post it to Facebook with a message like "Got my iPad2!" The post includes Apple's Facebook page logo-and, of course, Wescom's name.

"Members can post directly from their transaction history onto Facebook" from the new iPhone and iPad mobile banking applications beginning in May. Until then, the apps support "liking" Wescom on Facebook, Best said. Members can also use their Facebook accounts from the Wescom apps.

The social mobile banking application, Mobile 2.0, is provided by Wescom Resources Group (WRG), Wescom CU's CUSO, said Best, who is also WRG's CTO. WRG will offer Mobile 2.0 with Facebook "liking" to other credit unions later this year, he said.

Social-mobile banking is a natural extension of consumers' mobile lifestyle, Best suggested. "People inherently understand social and mobile," and game application makers have already capitalized on that by adding social media links to their interfaces.

American Express seems to understand the connection between social networking and money. The credit card issuer last year launched Social Currency, a mobile app that allows cardholders to post and discuss their purchases with friends from foursquare, a location-based social app.

But American Express hasn't enabled what WRG has: posting transactions to social media from within mobile banking."Our intent is to connect Wescom with a member's Facebook profile in a secure way that is cool enough to reach the younger generation."

Part of the "cool" factor comes from Mobile 2.0's visual spice: WRG is embedding retailer's Facebook logos into each transaction. Apparently, there is no database of links for company logos for Facebook, so Best said he hired college students to build the database by gathering the links.

Facebook sitting inside mobile banking will help the $2.6-billion Wescom get inside the heads of the younger generation, said Best. "When they're ready to buy a car, we hope they'll think of us. We're planting seeds that we hope will grow."

Nearly 35% of Wescom mobile bankers are in the 18-to-29 age range, whereas 32% are in the 30-to-39 bracket, he said. Of the total membership, 14% are 18 to 29, and 16% are 30 to 39.

The social-mobile banking apps for the Apple iPhone and iPad will be followed by similar versions for Android and Windows mobile devices by the end of the year, said Best.

The $2.6-billion CU will make the social-mobile banking application for iPhone and iPad available mid-year to other credit unions via the Wescom CUSO, Wescom Resources Group (WRG), he said.

Cabrillo CU in San Diego, a WRG client, looks forward to deploying Mobile 2.0, according to Frankie Duenas, VP-IT at the $175-million CU. "Using our mobile banking app to post to Facebook gives the member the flexibility to perform various functions without having to jump from app to app. This will establish a position for us. So as the social media market grows, we can grow with it."

"We have to drive adoption in the mobile channel," Best added, noting a CU's mobile banking program should be the first thing to come to mind when consumers begin using mobile devices to make purchases. Nearly 9% of WCU members use mobile banking.

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