Wintrust Financial is the first bank in the U.S. to commercialize a technology that pairs the ATM with the smartphone so its customers can preorder cash withdrawals through a mobile app instead of inserting a physical card.

The journey to launching the novel feature began when the Rosemont, Ill., company was chatting with FIS about how to become more creative to compete with the giants like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.

Together, they settled on a mobile wallet strategy that began with getting consumers to use the ATM-linked mobile app, then selling merchants on the product down the road.

"We decided nobody will use the mobile wallet without showing that customers are willing to use the mobile wallet," said Thomas Ormseth, senior vice president of noncredit services at Wintrust Financial.

In February, the holding company broadened its months-old pilot out to dozens of ATMs as it works to collect the usage data. The transaction requires a person to use his phone to scan a barcode to get the cash at the ATM, and in turn, get a glimpse of what a mobile wallet is like.

Ormseth said some individuals have harbored initial reactions of "so what?" until they use the feature. One of Wintrust's "aha" moments occurred when a 64-year-old seemed ho-hum about the update. But after trying it out as a favor to the bank, the senior said: "This was [expletive] cool."

The reaction made Ormseth feel the bank was onto something. And it's not an isolated case. "We are getting good feedback and the age hasn't mattered, which surprised us," he said.

And if the bank markets the feature properly, Ormseth said it will help brand the bank as a company that provides the best of both worlds: Branches and the ability to do tech-related things even the biggest rivals have yet to offer.
The longer term goal is to monetize the investment through a robust mobile wallet in addition to acquiring and retaining customers along the way by providing well-thought out mobile features.