FFIN's Casey Sees Quick Adoption of Photo Bill Pay

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  • We heard it again and again from Charaka Kithulegoda and other bankers honored in our Mobile Banker of the Year package this year: simplicity and ease of use are the keys to sound mobile banking app design.
    June 3

"We were somewhat late to the mobile game," says Jeff Casey, vice president of alternative delivery channels at First Financial Bankshares. "Getting in the game is one of our biggest achievements."

Certainly, the $4.5 billion-asset Abilene, Texas bank has more than made up for lost time.

FFIN, which lacked a mobile presence in 2011, now has a Malauzai Software-powered mobile app that includes simplified account access, an area in which many bankers are looking to innovate. Similar to Bank of the West, an auto login lets customers retrieve account balances and transaction histories, while the bank also added in April a PIN-based login that customers can use to complete transactions. Both features free customers from having to enter their user names and passwords.

Further distinguishing the bank's offering is the way its mobile app lets customers pay bills by snapping photos of them with the smartphone's camera. (U.S. Bank and City Bank Texas also offer this feature.)

Originally, FFIN viewed deploying Allied Payment Network's Picture Pay as a great marketing opportunity. Since the launch in January, Casey says he's impressed with the usage. More than 1,800 payments have been submitted. "Our numbers closely mimic when we rolled out mobile RDC," Casey says.

In recent weeks, FFIN further strengthened its mobile app by adding the ability for customers to turn their debit cards on and off. And if a customer uses a customized card, the personalized photo featured on the card will appear in the app.

By enhancing digital features, Casey's goal is to not only increase customer service, but also to shift transactions to lower-cost channels such as mobile. In doing so, the bank has already saved an estimated $300,000, which it primarily credits to increased mobile adoption.

Mobile customers, meanwhile, are free to stay away from online banking. Today, 7% of the bank's customers are mobile only.

Looking ahead, Casey hints at some development areas. "We are trying to put so much focus on mobile to prepare for mobile wallets and the marketing tied to it," Casey says.

"We are looking at adding some couponing options to local deals. We are trying to dig into that and organize the mobile wallet and who to partner with and what technology to support. In the September/October/November timeframe, we hope to have our plans nailed down."

The bank is also exploring layering in voice capabilities, but first wants to ensure the technology can properly interpret western Texas accents. "We think voice capabilities into the app is the next logical step," he says.

Looking further ahead, Casey has his eyes on the role of smartphones in changing the way consumers accomplish tasks. "I think the mobile phone will become more and more important," he says.

He envisions a future in which the mobile phone knows the temperature and his driving location so that thermostat lowers when he pulls into his driveway, for example. "What is really neat about mobile is when sensors tie into one another to intelligently predict our desires. There are some interesting things ahead of us," he says.

"I want our mobile app to help determine what I can spend, how I can save to meet my financial goals," Casey says. "Those types of activities are not fun or glamorous for customers and we have the data to help them."

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