Finovate Alumni News– June 14, 2012

  • Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Finovate-F-Logo.jpgAlbany Times Union reports CSI’s globalVCard leads execs out of ID theft and into mobile payments.
  • $3.7 bil Patelco CU commits to ThreatMetrix’s malware defense software.
  • Backbase powering online banking platform for Absa Group, a subsidiary of Barclays.
  • American Banker reports Firethorn Mobile to power Burger King’s mobile app.
  • GlobalCollect offers BOKU as Mobile Payment Checkout to its Merchant Network.
  • Financial Services and Big-Data Executive Mary Anne Keegan joins BillGuard as CMO.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Technology Credit Union and TDECU are first CUs with native iPhone Apps

More than 10 months after the iPhone App Store launched, two U.S. credit unions have joined the application marketplace, which numbers more than 40,000 in the U.S. store alone.

The first was Texas Dow Employees Credit Union (TDECU), whose ATM and shared-branch locator, Culoc8, launched on April 29, according to the company’s Twitter page (below, link). image


The TDECU app (see inset) is unbranded and can be offered by other CUs to their members. 

Eaton Family Credit Union is offering CuLoc8 to members on its website (see below).



image Yesterday, Tech CU, became the first credit union with a full-featured branded native iPhone app (App Store link, see note 1). The app (see below) includes full online banking functionality and an ATM/shared branch finder (second screenshot). The credit union also added something we haven’t seen yet, an iPhone optimized feed of its blog, Money Savvy (third screenshot). Nice touch.

Tech CU has offered a mobile website since Sept. 2007. 

image    image   image

1. America First Credit Union was the first CU with native iPhone support via its participation in Firethorn’s shared mobile banking app which launched in Nov. 2008.

PNC Mobile Banking Offered through Verizon’s Website

Verizon Wireless mobile phone users can now download PNC Bank mobile banking directly from the Verizon Wireless site (here). The free service, powered by mFoundry, is housed in the Features & Downloads area (see first screenshot below).

However, unlike Firethorn's mobile banking app which carries a "recommended" endorsement from the wireless carrier (see second screenshot), the PNC Bank app is found only via site search (see last screenshot). The PNC app is currently not available via browsing the business apps.

Users may click on the Send to Phone button, a shortcut that sends an application directly to their mobile phone for easy downloading. Both mobile banking applications are free.

PNC Mobile Banking app on Verizon Wireless site (3 Nov 2008)


Search results for "banking" at Verizon's Tools & Applications area
(3 Nov 2008)


Firethorn's mobile banking app is recommended at the Verizon site
(3 Nov 2008)


1. For more information on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking.

Citibank Credit Cards Coming to the iPhone Nov. 1, Powered by Firethorn

image Firethorn (owned by Qualcomm) has a new iPhone app called Mobile Banking for AT&T Customers. The app is currently ranked number eight in the finance category of the Apple iTunes App Store (see screenshot below). Of the transactional services, only PayPal and BofA’s Mobile Banking are higher.

Firethorn iPhone app (27 Oct 2008) The application can be used to access online banking at any of the ten financial institution holding companies, and their subsidiaries, currently supported by Firethorn:

  • 1st Bank (Colorado)
  • America First Credit Union
  • Arvest
  • BancorpSouth
  • Caroline First
  • Mercantile Bank
  • Suntrust
  • Synovus
  • USAA
  • Wachovia (now owned by Wells Fargo)

The Firethorn application has 27 reviews so far and has scored a 4-star average (out of 5), much better than the typical finance app (see previous coverage here). The main complaint is lack of coverage for the user’s bank, which is not the fault of the app.  In comparison, Bank of America’s app garnered 434 reviews and a 2.5-star rating.

I downloaded the application today and, unfortunately, I don’t have an account at any of the financial institutions; however, that will change next week if they hit the dates contained in the Featured Providers page.

Here are coming-soon financial institutions:

  • Citi Cards (Citibank) “coming Nov. 1” (previous press release here)
  • Chase Bank “coming soon”
  • Regions Bank “beginning this fall”

Firethorn Mobile Banking on AT&T in Apple iTunes App Store (27 Oct 2008)

NY Times Reviews Citi Mobile

Link to NY Times article The May 24 New York Times contains a generally favorable review of Citibank's new mobile phone service (article here). Writer John R. Quain also touches briefly on Bank of America's WAP service and gives Firethorn's application a spin via BancorpSouth's mobile service.

For followers of the space, there's not much new information here. But a 1,200-word article in the NY Times is significant for the mere fact that the editor's found the subject newsworthy. 

The only downside cited, and it's a HUGE one, is the cost from the carrier. In the author's test, it cost him $2.59 in data charges for what sounded like a single Citi Mobile banking session (he did not have a data plan). Ouch. 

Here's the exact passage near the end of the article:

For example, checking my balances, making a transfer and confirming a few payments totaled 244 kilobytes, plus one text message, on Citi Mobile. Total charges from AT&T: $2.59. 

Update: Drew Sievers, CEO of mFoundry, the vendor powering Citi Mobile, emailed to say that the data charges cited in the NY Times article included the initial download. Subsequent sessions, would cost just pennies each, even without a data plan. He also said that the typical user attracted to mobile banking will already have a data plan, making mobile banking essentially free, at least from the carrier.

Wachovia, SunTrust, and Regions Bank Team with AT&T Wireless and Firethorn for Mobile Banking

BancorpSouth mobile banking banner Once Citibank and Bank of America started making mobile banking noises, we didn't expect it to be long before others jumped into the market (note 1). So it came as no surprise today that SunTrust, Regions, and Wachovia announced full-service downloadable mobile banking apps (see press release here). No firm dates were released, but according to the Washington Post (here), AT&T will include the Firethorn software in handsets beginning in mid-year and support the launch with a multi-million dollar ad campaign.

It's a huge win for the Atlanta-based startup Firethorn Mobile, who in a single day picked up contracts with the fourth, eighth, and fifteenth largest U.S. consumer banks (see chart below). Just four months after its coming out party at BAI's Retail Delivery Conference, Firethorn boasts a partnership with one of the biggest consumer spenders on the planet and three of the largest banks the U.S. Not a bad quarter.    

In addition, Firethorn's beta partner, BancorpSouth officially launched the production version today (press release here). The free service works only at AT&T/Cingular and only with the following five phone models: Motorola V3 Razr, V551, V557, L7 SLVR, or the LG CU500. See previous coverage here.

The BancorpSouth website today had a promotional link for mobile banking in its online banking area (see banner above) and a brief webpage and signup form (click on screenshot right for closeup).

Update: American Banker's Steve Bills reported that Wachovia is planning an October rollout and SunTrust is looking at a "test" of up to 100,000 customers later this year, with full rollout in 2008 (full article here).


1. See our full forecast in Online Banking Report 138/139.

BancorpSouth Mobile Banking Trial

link to BancorpSouth website While doing a little end-of-year cleaning, I came across these screenshots from November. They are from Google's cache of BancorpSouth's <> website on Oct. 22, 2006. The pages are no longer available online.

They detail the bank's efforts to recruit 400 volunteers to test mobile banking from their Cingular cellphones. This is the program engineered by Firethorn Mobile (see previous post here.)

The first page below explains the trial, and the second page is the application required to participate. To be eligible, customers had to meet the following requirements:

  • Be BancorpSouth online banking customers
  • Be current Cingular Wireless customers
  • Use a Motorola V-series or SLVR phone
  • Have Internet access from this wireless phone

Participants who completed all three surveys doing the 4- to 6-week trial were to receive a $100 Visa gift card.

See the screenshots below for more details (click to enlarge).

Main BancorpSouth explanation of the mobile banking trial (click to enlarge)

Details on Bancorpsouth's mobile banking trial CLICK TO ENLARGE

Application to participate (click to enlarge)

Bancorpsouth application for the mobile banking trial CLICK TO ENLARGE

Has Mobile Banking Finally Arrived?

During 11 years of publishing Online Banking Report, we've written about 500 words on so-called "mobile banking."

Even though it was a much-hyped topic in the late 1990s, our answer when asked about mobile banking was, "Fix your Web-based banking, add email alerts, and mobile will take care of itself."

Firethorn_homeBut it looks like times may be a-changing. Cingular is throwing its considerable muscle into a phone-centered service using Firethorn's <> new platform (see homepage right), and the U.S. market for wireless services is enormous (per MasterCard & Cingular during their Nov. 16 presentation at BAI's Retail Delivery Conference):

  • 2 billion mobile phone users worldwide, including 218 million in United States (per Cingular)
  • Nearly 80% of U.S households own one (per Forrester)
  • $660 billion of revenue for voice, messaging, and data services
  • 75 million U.S. mobile phone users sent a text message in September (per M:Metrics, 20 Nov. 2006)

Even more interesting, ClairMail shared market research showing that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers aged 18 to 34 have used text messaging during the past three months, demonstrating that even in the laggard U.S. market, a core group of consumers is ready, willing, and able to use the phone for more than just voice calling.

There are three main reasons why mobile banking's time has arrived:

1. It works on common phones: Previous generations only worked on a subset of high-end PDAs; now most mobile phones can handle mobile banking.

2. It has a business case: Mobile banking can both increase fee income by being a core component of a Premium Online Banking service (see Online Banking Report #109) AND lower costs by migrating voice calls away from the IVR and into self-service.

3. The youth movement: Younger consumers interact with each other in real time via text and instant messaging. There is little doubt that they will value the same type of interaction with their bank.

We'll be looking at this subject in much more detail when we publish our first exhaustive report on the subject in January (see Online Banking Report in late January or early February).