Title: Executive DIrector, Mobile Banking

Institution: USAA

Latest innovation: iPhone-enabled mobile remote deposit capture

USAA's customers are early adopters by necessity, leading military lives that often place them both thousands of miles from home and light years ahead of the banking tech curve.

The institution would be in trouble if it didn't understand how to match those needs to its IT choices, a task that partly falls on the shoulders of Jeff Dennes, executive director of mobile for USAA and one of the leaders of a eye-catching mobile deployment this year that suggests USAA is indeed in tune with its customers.

"Our customers are often on ships at sea or in the desert in tents," says Dennes, an architect of one of the few mobile banking apps that takes deposits. Earlier this year, USAA, a privately held financial services firm with 7.2 million members, launched an iPhone app allowing members to check accounts, pay bills and transfer funds. While other financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase offer similar products, USAA took an early lead over the pack in August with the additional introduction of Deposit@Mobile.

Based on the institution's 2006 Deposit@Home product - which allows members to make deposits using a computer and a scanner - Deposit@Mobile allows members to deposit checks by capturing and submitting electronic images as legal copies of the original. "Most institutions are still piloting this," says Bob Meara, an analyst at Celent, who says the limited deployments are small compared to USAA's rollout and don't have USAA's numbers.

Deposit@Home was piloted in May and released by Apple's App Store in August. Through the third week of October 2009, there were more than 300,000 downloads of the app with more than 50,000 members using the product for a total of 160,000 successful deposits. Between August and October, there were more than $98 million in deposits, with an average deposit of just under $600. "Just about everything has surprised us," Dennes says of the fast adoption, adding that USAA is also rolling out deposit capabilities to Blackberry and other mobile devices.

His professed surprise aside, Deposit@Mobile's success would not have been possible without the foresight of Dennes and other execs - Dennes himself credits CEO Joe Robles, a retired U.S. Army general that has a keen sense of how technology can meet the needs of servicemen and women.

That culture enabled Dennes to help lead an aggressive effort to develop Deposit@Mobile, which was built internally by an IT team including research and development, enterprise infrastructure and delivery. The team also fostered the design of the remote deposit capture function that drives the product.

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