As it charts its course in mobile banking, Ameriana Bank faces competition in its eastern Indiana footprint from much larger banks that have been offering mobile banking for years, such as JPMorgan Chase and PNC.
"We're going up against all of the mega banks, particularly in our Indianapolis market," says Debbie Bell, senior vice president and CIO of the bank, which has more than a dozen locations, and also faces competition form Regents Bank and Fifth Third, which have made substantial moves of their own into mobile.
To compete with the likes of JPMorgan Chase, which has filled the airwaves with a national ad campaign supporting its remote deposit capture service; and PNC, which has generated buzz around the market with its mobile wallet, Ameriana has relied on low or no cost venues to draw attention to its foray into mobile.
"We married our mobile app to our social media strategy," says Jerry Gassen, CEO of the New Castle, Ind.-based bank, which is active primarily on Facebook. "Most of our 'friends' are also active on Facebook and on our web banking channel, and that helped contribute to quick early adoption."
In about three months, about ten percent of the bank's customers have downloaded the app. That's behind national mobile banking penetration — which Javelin recently reported to be about 30 percent, but Gassen says the app, which is available on iPhones and Android devices, is growing quickly.
Ameriana is focused on speed to market as a competitive advantage, and is relying heavily on a mobile banking technology platform from Malauzai.
Malauzai builds interfaces to the bank's core banking system and to third party processors to support bill payment, person-to-person transfers and mobile check deposit. The bank is also in the midst of a five-year initiative with Fidelity to upgrade its core platform to ensure the institution can quickly deploy new integrated services such as mobile banking. The bank's executives discussed these programs in a recent interview with BTN.
BTN: How do you see the opportunity in mobile as being different from the web?
Bell: Mobile banking is evolving faster than online banking now in terms of how it can be used to deliver new kinds of financial services, so there's more opportunity to grow. Online banking is a 'been there, done that' sort of thing. With mobile, you can quickly add a number of new services such as RDC and 'knowledge-based services,' such as answering customer queries in real time while they are on the move.
BTN: Beyond social media, how are you pushing mobile banking to consumers?
Deborah Robinson [svp, retail banking and CMO]: We've done some in-branch marketing, and are making sure that everyone can get comfortable with using mobile banking. We make sure that the staff who handle in-bound calls are smartphone users, for example. We are also taking advantage of the buzz around mobile technology; consumers are demanding mobile banking.
BTN: How have you tackled security concerns, which are often cited as an inhibitor to further adoption of mobile banking?
Bell: I'm a little reluctant to say specifically what we're doing because it can provide a guide for hackers and other crooks. But we are using layered security that's an extension of what we were doing online. The key here is 'layers' of security as opposed to just one (level or mode of security protection).
Gassen: We have also formed a risk management committee at the bank that assesses any new product against any and all risks. Our mobile app was fully vetted against what we believe is the risk for a bank our size and have built our firewalls and protections as such.
BTN: You've mentioned peer-to-peer transactions and personal financial management as useful products to include in mobile banking. Are you also interested in contactless payments?
Bell: In our market there's not too much of a market yet for contactless payments, the merchants haven't yet adopted the point of sale technology (such as near-field communication readers) that are necessary to support mobile payments. If the merchants were willing to accept contactless payments, we would be all over that.
BTN: How are you planning to use GPS, or other intuitive technology that that's embedded in smartphones?
Gassen: I've read about the various tracking software that's available, and at this point I'm really not that anxious to use GPS or similar technology as part of marketing, telling people who are entering a branch that we have a special offer at the branch at that time, for example. I don't think that consumers will be comfortable with that.
Bell: I also think that makes people nervous. One thing that we are interested in is using analytics to help deliver the knowledge-based product that we spoke about earlier. We could use preferences or tailor what we put on the app to prior knowledge. For example, we could put a loan application on the screen for someone who asks about a certain type of loan.