SFCU Aims To Grab Share In Non-Cash Payments

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LATHAM, N.Y. — Boasting an unrivaled 45% of online banking members using mobile banking, Sunmark FCU here is well positioned to capture the mobile payments flag.

"In our market, many businesses already have NFC-deployed readers that accept wireless mobile payments," including soda vending machines, McDonald's and Walmart, said Ryan Hickman, new media specialist at the $400-million CU. "And we know that when members use non-cash-based systems, they spend more money."

Sunmark is working to make sure to get its hands on some of the interchange income when members are able to conduct Near Field Communications (NFC) transactions, Hickman suggested.

First, the CU has to deploy a mobile payments platform, he said. "We're looking to partner with the right mobile payment players," he said. "Credit unions should definitely keep an eye on the ISIS and Discover mobile payment network and Apple iTunes payment platform."

Meanwhile, Sunmark is busy signing up members for mobile banking, continued Hickman. The CU seems to be doing a good job — it's hard to find another U.S. financial institution where so many online members are also using mobile banking.

That means a good chunk of Sunmark's membership will be at the starting gate for mobile payments, which most experts agree will debut within 18 months.

A mobile member is a more profitable member, according to Sunmark research. "Because of the connectivity mobile members have with us, we can be in continuous contact, which results in higher product sales and more engagement with our services," said Hickman. Apple iAds have been particularly successful in enrolling Sunmark members in mobile banking, he said. The mobile banner ads roll in when a user opens an application on an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch, encouraging members to view Sunmark's mobile banking video without even having to quit the original application.

"The user is in the middle of playing Angry Birds and they see our banner that says 'You can access your account all the time,'" said Hickman. "The user clicks inside Angry Birds, and the Sunmark video plays. It's a rich experience."

Sunmark spends more than 30% of its mobile banking advertising budget on iAds, harvesting an impressive 1.5% click-through rate, he added.

Mobile advertising allows for precise targeting, said Hickman. "We can target people who have a specific device and are active application downloaders who live in our footprint market."

Sunmark will soon use mobile with Quick Response (QR) codes for a "huge" membership drive, Hickman said. The barcode-like QR codes will be printed everywhere-billboards, t-shirts, the website and mobile banking-and will contain information about the member referral program. People can use their mobile devices to scan the QR and be automatically directed to a mobile website where they view the incentives and subscribe to the program.

Sunmark will make it easy for members to embrace QR technology by building a QR code reader into the mobile banking application, he said. "The biggest barrier to QR is teaching people how to use the reader. We'll give them the material they need so that they can engage with our promotion."

Hickman said he sees a day when mobile banking is a standard. "Watch the size of mobile device screens. As they get larger, the mobile phone is not going to be considered mobile anymore. It's going to define the Web experience."

Sunmark mobile members can pay bills, transfer funds and check account history via Web, downloadable application or text modes.

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