It hasn't taken long for Twitter to go from "What's that?" to big time sizzle among consumers. When it comes to using the social media site to deliver financial services, Vantage Credit Union's about to find out how much steak there is.
The St. Louis-area credit union is among the first financial institutions to use Twitter to deliver services beyond very basic customer-service interaction. The credit union's tweetMyMoney allows account access, transaction histories and transfers for members following the credit union on Twitter.
"Vantage should be applauded for what they're up to. They're looking at their customers and saying 'How can I be innovative?'" says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst in Celent's banking group, who like most analysts also cautions that Vantage's position on the social media frontier would not necessarily lead to robust adoption, since Twitter's not been used in this manner.
"When you start look at this and see that nobody else is doing it, from that perspective it's kind of neat to be [first] out of the gate," says Matt Fagala, operations support manger for Vantage. "But I wouldn't be surprised if other financial institutions did it."
The free service offers reports for five different types of deposit accounts, reports on the last five deposits, withdrawals, transactions and checks to clear, reports holds, and transfers between member accounts. Twitter is the first phase of a multi-mode rollout of mobile banking for Vantage, which is planning Facebook, SMS and iPhone apps.
The credit union's security strategy includes use of correspondence authentication codes inside the MyVantage online banking service, with each outbound electronic communication containing a code for each day of the week. The credit union also says no account number or other sensitive personal information is displayed on tweets. "It's relatively benign information and can be sent in a way that's less vulnerable to bad guys," says Mark Schwanhausser, an analyst for Javelin Research.
Vantage did not discuss usage volume for tweetMyMoney, though its basic Twitter site listed 234 followers in mid January (the CU has 110,000 members). While the service may not attract a groundswell of users at first, the credit union will be well-positioned to attract future customers given its foothold on sites like Twitter and Facebook. "Many credit unions are looking to attract a younger base of customers and can establish tech credibility with a Twitter option," says Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group.
Vantage is not entirely alone in exploring Twitter's utility as a delivery channel. Xpenser, a PFM firm that records personal expenses, account balances, forex, and other financial information on mobile phones and other devices, is in pilot with a couple of financial firms to offer a white label product allowing users to enter, record and track expenses on Twitter, and get corresponding tweets back from the institutions.
Tony Darugar, founder and CEO of Xpenser, also considers Twitter to be a companion to other channels. "People are promiscuous across channels, they use email one day, Twitter another. It's valuable to put the pieces together."