With six total branches, of which five are located inside the walls of the manufacturing facilities and corporate offices of Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., executives at Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union know how important it is to make access to services quick and easy for members who reside in every state and 37 foreign countries.

While ELFCU is able to boost its presence through shared branching, via a network of more than 4,400 locations nationwide, and through the Alliance One and CO-OP ATM networks, which offer members access to more than 65,000 surcharge-free ATMs, the CU still gets pushback from prospective members about a perceived lack of access to services.

So the $1 billion-assets institution decided five years ago to tap mobile banking as a way for members to bank whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted, hoping to dispel such perceptions. "We realize we're not the most accessible credit union so we need to make sure we have the tools available to make banking easier for those folks," says Tim Greene, AVP of ecommerce at ELFCU.

Problem was, after executives had whittled down an initial shortlist to three prospective mobile banking vendors, they realized that adding new services really demanded they first address a longstanding, nagging requirement: The CU needed to replace a decades-old hosted legacy core banking system, Fiserv's Premier Next Generation, so new features could be more easily integrated. While Fiserv had several newer cores, ELFCU was one of the last of the larger credit unions running that particular iteration of that platform, Greene says.

Since there was no point in spending money on integrating mobile into a core that was on its way out, the CU had to put the mobile effort on hold until a conversion to a new system could be completed.

The mobile project was restarted in August 2010, six months after ELFCU converted to Open Solution's DNA for hosted core banking over President's Day weekend in February the same year. This time, the firm narrowed its options to two vendors: Clairmail (now owned by Monitise) and mFoundry. What broke the tie was an account executive telling ELFCU in January 2011 that Open Solutions had selected mFoundry as a partner.

"Usually the pain point of any project is the integration piece," Greene says. "Since we have a core that's a hosted solution, we don't have as much control as if it was in-house. So we find it works much better if we partner with someone that's a preferred provider for that particular core or system."

Then ELFCU did something that's nearly unprecedented in the industry. As part of its mobile banking launch on May 3, the CU offered members the ability to remotely deposit funds by taking pictures of checks with their smartphones, but with no limits on the amounts of each check or on the number of checks they can deposit - a perk rarely given to retail banking customers.

"We still physically review every check that comes through before we approve anything," Greene emphasizes. "Check holds are among the safeguards we have in place internally to help mitigate any potential losses."

Besides smartphone deposit, the launch included native mobile banking applications for Apple iOS, Google Android and RIM BlackBerry devices, with features that allow members to check their account balances and transaction histories and search for nearby ATMs via their handsets; plus SMS text and mobile browser banking.

By June, ELFCUmobile had 1,387 unique users with 995 using apps, 646 using the mobile browser and 136 using SMS text. And during June there were 6,318 sign-ons with 519 deposited checks via smartphone pictures; 1,434 account history viewings, 133 searches for ATMs and branches, and 147 transfers between accounts.

Person-to-person payments are slated to arrive in the next version of ELFCU's mobile offering, which could be released as soon as this month [August], Greene says. The CU's P2P payment provider Harland Financial Solutions and mFoundry were at press time working out the technical aspects of the connectivity of the P2P feature.

A working relationship needs to cohere between ELFCU's payment provider, Fiserv's Checkfree, and mFoundry, before bill-pay - an oft-requested feature of ELFCU members - can be firmly placed on the mobile release calendar, Greene says.

Fiserv spokeswoman Ann S. Cave says Fiserv "looks forward to engaging with ELFCU to support their needs."




FINANCIAL INSTITUTION: Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union

PROBLEM: How to make mobile banking feature-rich enough to attract new members?

SOLUTION: Launch with a trusted partner of the core provider.