A company that supplies smaller financial institutions with wireless technology says that, despite doubts in the marketplace about the technology's prospects, credit unions are signing up.
"We've seen tremendous escalation amongst institutions" adopting wireless in the past quarter, said Robin Richmond, executive vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at SensCom Inc., a San Diego company that targets financial institutions with $500 million to $10 billion of assets. "By early 2002, this will be a mainstream product."
Competition among wireless carriers and manufacturers has been high, she said, so prices have dropped, and consumer adoption has grown. "We felt the middle tier was ripe for a company like ours to get into the business fairly painlessly and quickly," Ms. Richmond said.
SensCom announced an agreement last week with CUSO Financial Services LP, a broker-dealer and investment advisory company that works with 58 credit unions. The deal lets San Diego-based CUSO, which stands for "Credit Union Service Organization," offer its members the ability to let customers view holdings and track transactions from wireless devices such as Internet-enabled cell phones and personal digital assistants.
SensCom's clients include Farmers Insurance Group Federal Credit Union of Los Angeles, which has $400 million of assets and 30,000 members, and America First Credit Union of Ogden, Utah, which has $1.8 billion of assets and 281,000 members.
"Credit unions are technologically forward-thinking," Ms. Richmond said. She said credit unions are also more "nimble" than banks when it comes to making decisions, since they do not have shareholders to worry about.
Ms. Richmond said SensCom, a privately held company founded in 1999, expects to be profitable by the fourth quarter, putting it "on track to be the first profitable wireless financial services company."
At the beginning of the wireless fever, many wireless technology "companies were going elephant hunting," targeting the biggest financial institutions, Ms. Richmond said.
Among the companies seeking bigger customers are 724 Solutions of Toronto, which has won such big clients as Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Wachovia Corp., and Aether Systems Inc. of Owings Mills, Md., which works with E-Trade Group Inc., Providian Financial Corp., and Charles Schwab & Co.