This story is part of our Community Bank Tech Projects series. Each day this week we will highlight a technology initiative a community bank pursued in the past year. The aim of the series is to explore where community banks are choosing to invest their limited resources in technology.

Millennials wanted to know why the bank didn’t offer it, people from other age brackets were asking, too. Many competitors had it and the largest banks had been doing it for years.

It was 2016, and National Capital Bank in Washington seemed to be one of the only banks in town without a bank mobile app with features like remote deposit capture.

“Everyone wants it. They want the convenience,” said Debra Keats, the $416 million-asset bank's chief retail administration officer.

In 2015, half of Americans had already banked through smartphones and tablets within the last 12 months, according to Javelin Strategy & Research data.

It's curious that National Capital was slow to add a mobile app to its delivery channels. It is one of the oldest banks in the District of Columbia, and one of the most successful. For instance, its 11.99% return on equity at the end of 2016 is well above the 7.75% average ROE for the 39 banks based in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan statistical area.

Debra Keats, chief retail administration officer at The National Capital Bank
Give 'em what they want
Customers "want the convenience" of mobile banking, said Debra Keats, chief retail administration officer at National Capital Bank.

However, as much as the bank may have wanted to add the channel, doing so took a back seat to other priorities for a few years — namely, finding a permanent replacement for its CEO, Richard Didden, who died in 2013. In May, the bank announced Richard “Randy” Anderson Jr. as its new CEO.

Anderson made technology a top focus, Keats said. It worked with Jack Henry, its core provider, on the mobile app. By leveraging its existing provider’s services, the rollout was smooth and straightforward, she said.

The bank launched its mobile app in July, and updated it with deposit capture in October — waiting on the latter only to make sure the product was working properly before layering in yet another feature.

Jack Henry packages Mitek’s remote deposit technology into its mobile app, so it was just a matter of deciding what limits on deposits to set and other business decisions rather than stressing about technical integrations, Keats said.

According to Keats, the only hurdle was the time it took for the app stores to approve the bank’s mobile app.

Customers were ready. They started using the mobile app and remote deposit capture even before the bank began marketing the features.

“People were looking for it,” Keats said. “They wanted it.”

The bank says it is pleased with results of the mobile app in general, and remote deposit capture in particular. Since its 2016 rollout, it has about 25% of its online banking users also using the mobile app — above what the bank expected. In initial research, National Capital found that the national average rate among the bank’s peers was 20%.

“Usage has been great,” Keats said.

While the bank was far from the first to launch the mobile features, it never wanted to be a trailblazer.

“We didn’t roll out as early as some of the big banks, but we weren’t ready. We have always been a bank that does our due diligence prior to rolling out a product or service,” Keats said. “We don’t want to be first out of the gate. We want to make sure we get it right the first time.”

Mary Wisniewski

Mary Wisniewski

Mary is the deputy editor of the BankThink blog. She also writes on a variety of subjects as part of American Banker's bank tech team.