Boeing Employees Credit Union flirted with introducing home banking for a year before finally going live on Oct. 1.
Making a commitment seems to have paid off for the Seattle credit union, the country's fourth largest. In three months, nearly 5,000 of its 180,000 members have signed up and demand hasn't let up yet.
"The timing is right for home banking," said Patty Schwendeman, vice president of management information services for the $1.9 billion-asset credit union. "It was a little ahead of its time when the banks first introduced it years ago. It's not as intimidating as it used to be."
Boeing Employees is one of fewer than 70 credit unions offering home banking services, but industry observers and officials expect more institutions to hop on the bandwagon - and soon.
"Home banking is probably the next delivery system topic on every credit union agenda," said Charles Filson, president of Callahan & Associates, a Washington-based consulting group.
Mr. Filson said he expects credit unions initially to concentrate on offering personal computer banking rather than screen phone or interactive television technology.
Most credit unions with more than $50 million of assets will consider adding such technology within the next 12 to 18 months, he predicted. There are about 1,000 institutions that size.
The industry will spend $7.6 million purchasing personal computer-based home banking systems in 1994 through 1996, according to the Credit Union National Association. That would dwarf the $399,000 credit unions spent from 1991 through 1993.
And Robert Jensen, national sales manager for electronic banking products for Portland, Ore.-based CFI ProServices Inc., contends that the $7.6 million figure is too low. He noted that CFI, the largest provider of home banking systems for credit unions, claimed more than 30 credit unions as customers during 1994.
Fear and cost-cutting are two forces driving the industry's movement toward home banking.
Xerox Federal Credit Union plans to offer home banking in February 1996, said Kevin Foster-Keddie, president of the $282 million-asset institution in El Segundo, Calif.
The threat that Microsoft Corp. or some other high-tech giant might move into the market was a major reason Mr. Foster-Keddie decided to go ahead with the product.
"This is mostly defensive positioning," he said. "I don't expect this to be a big moneymaker. We just don't want to be closed out of this."
Ironically, Mr. Foster-Keddie went to high school with Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft.
Home banking can mean cost savings for credit unions, said Helen Beckel, vice president of software products at CFI ProServices.
According to figures from CFI, a home-banking transaction costs a credit union between 20 and 30 cents, versus $1.10 for a teller transaction.
Vendors say credit unions might have an edge over banks in introducing home banking.
"Credit unions seem to be more technically advanced than banks and embrace technology quicker than banks," said CFI's Mr. Jensen.
Gene Nigro, vice president of marketing for Paymate Inc., said credit unions are likely to get involved in home banking faster than banks because their management structures are less bureaucratic.
GTE Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Fla., recently became the first financial institution to offer personal computer banking through the Milwaukee-based company.
The Windows-based CU at Home gets a thumbs-up from GTE Federal president Wendell Sebastian.
"It's slick as can be," he said.
Mr. Filson said the chief obstacle to home banking in credit unions is whether members accept it. Ms. Schwendeman of Boeing Employees is confident they will.
"We certainly do have technically minded members, but we have more members" who aren't, she said. "It's not geared just for high-end technocrats. It's for everybody."