ING Direct Releases Home Loan Toolkit for the iPhone

imageHave I mentioned that the iPhone is amazing? I’m not sure if it’s because it’s so useful having a computer in my pocket 24/7, or that it gives me so much material for Netbanker and Online Banking Report (probably the latter).

Now that we are beginning the second year of the App Store, we are starting to see some more interesting things on the finance front. For the first year it was all about tip calculators, balance inquiry, ATM locators, and manual-entry expense trackers.

This summer, we’re beginning to see the bigger potential with the launch of remote check depositing from WV United Credit Union and USAA (which also loaded helpful auto insurance features into its app). And Apple’s new OS 3.0, which supports push notifications, will be a boon to mobile banking apps.

But that’s just the beginning. There will be an app for anything you might want to do with your finances. The latest: a free Home Loan Toolkit for prospective home buyers from ING Direct Australia. The app appeared in the U.S. App Store yesterday (here).  There’s no mention of it on the bank’s website yet, but Google pointed me to the well-designed microsite (here) supporting the app (screenshot below).  

It’s pretty straightforward with just three functions:

  • Calculators to determine how much you can afford to borrow and what the payments would be
  • A call-me request form
  • Average home prices by area

Screenshots from ING Direct Australia’s new iPhone app (3 Sep 2009)

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ING Direct Australia iPhone Home Loan Toolkit microsite (link, 3 Sep 2009)
Note: The five iPhone screenshots (above) rotate through the iPhone pictured below. Alternatively, users can scroll through the screens with the control under the phone.

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Note: For more info on the native iPhone apps, see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.:

Don’t Waste the Marketing & Communication Benefits of an iPhone App Update

image I’ve written plenty about the importance of the iPhone App Store, both here and in Online Banking Report (note 1). But there’s one subtle side benefit I hadn’t thought too much about previously. 

Every time a new version of a native app is released, users must take action to download it if they want the new features. While this process used to be a nightmare in the desktop software days where users had to use floppy disks, CDs or large downloads to reinstall the software, it’s an absolute breeze on the iPhone and usually takes less than a minute from start to finish. And there’s no restarting the iPhone or choosing installation options. It’s just a one-click process plus the input of your iTunes password if you weren’t already logged in.

So why is this process a benefit? Because each time a new release is available a little icon shows on top of the App Store icon (see screenshot 1 below). Users then press the App Store icon, choose update, and they see a list of applications with updates available (screenshot 2). At that point users choose to update them all or look at them individually.

We believe most users are interested enough in their financial apps to take a look at the update, at least until the novelty of the mobile app wears off some years in the future. This provides financial institutions a free marketing opportunity to not only explain the new features of the app, but also deliver other marketing messages. You are much more likely to make an impression with your customers during the update process, compared to sending out a random marketing email.

In the three bank examples below, only USAA (screenshot 3) uses the opportunity to further cement its relationship with mobile customers, touting its new remote deposit capabilities along with several other enhancements. Wells Fargo (screenshot 4) takes a matter-of-fact, “we’re fixing bugs” approach that is OK, but still misses the chance to communicate with users. But Chase (screenshot 5) completely annoys users with two sentences of marketing speak that says nothing about the update. 

Lessons for financial & mobile marketers: Whenever you release an update for your mobile app (note 2), take the opportunity to communicate with your customers as follows:

  • Clearly explain the benefits of the changes to the app
  • Highlight one or two related benefits of the app
  • Mention any related news or promotions
  • Strike a good balance between disseminating technical info and marketing new benefits

Screenshots

1. Main iPhone screen shows                        2. The Updates page shows the 4 apps
    that 4 app updates are                                       that have new versions available.
    available (right side halfway down).

image      image

3. USAA’s latest update explains the specific changes made and provides several new benefits to using the app.

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4 & 5. On the other hand, the Wells Fargo and Chase update messages are sparse. The Wells Fargo update appears to be a minor bug fix, so we’ll cut them some slack for the terse message. However, Chase, with a minor update (2.0.1 update) to its major 2.0 release (released Aug 25), says absolutely nothing in 24 words of marketing-speak: 

We’re listening — You asked for a fully native iPhone banking application. This Chase iPhone app is built exclusively for iPhone and iPod touch users.

Seriously Chase, this is the best you could come up for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of iPhone users waiting for your updated app? At least the bank gets points for brevity.

                   Screenshot 4                                                             Screenshot 5

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Note:
1. For more info on the importance of a native iPhone app see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.
2. The same advice holds true for communicating online banking improvements as well, although the communication methods are different (email, newsletter, statement insert, blog, interstitials, log-off messages, etc.).

Banking Apps in the Google Android Market vs. Apple iPhone App Store

image A few weeks ago, we noted a milestone at Apple’s iPhone App Store, 1000 apps available in the finance category (U.S. store). I was been curious how that compared to Google’s Android Market so today I did a quick comparison.

The Android market now has a respectable 211 apps in the finance category. However, few financial institutions have staked a claim. Only, Bank of America and Alliant Credit Union, had branded apps (see note 1, 2).

In comparison, the iTunes App Store has 11 U.S. banking apps and 3 from U.S. credit unions. That’s up from 6 banks and no credit unions when we published our most recent report on the subject (see note 3).  See the the following table for details. Did I miss any? Let me know in comments or email jim@netbanker.com

  Google Android (Rank) Apple App Store (Rank)
Number of finance apps 211 1,089
Number of U.S. bank-branded apps (note 1)

(number shown is rank in the finance category)

#2 Bank of America #1 Bank of America
#2 USAA
#3 Chase
#4 Wells Fargo
#10 E*Trade
#13 Citibank
#28 & 32 PNC Bank
#43 BBVA Compass
#156 IBC
#409 1st Mariner Bank ATM/Branch locator
#962 Plaza Bank Mtg Calc
Number of CU-branded apps #30 Alliant CU — ATM Locator #185 Tech CU
#327 CUloc8 (TDECU)
#411 iDeposit (WV United FCU)

Source: Online Banking Report tally, 24 Aug 2009

1. In addition, Qualcomm’s Firethorn unit has an app that works with several dozen banks and card issuers including Citi, Chase, Wachovia, SunTrust and USAA. It’s ranked tenth in the Android Market and 15th in the iPhone App Store. Also, in the Android Market, Visa has a beta app that works with Chase cards ranked #77. However, according to commenters, that test is ending in September.
2. There are another 15-20 international banks listed in the iPhone App Store.
3. Our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking was published March 11, 2009.

USAA Hits 1 Million Mobile Users; Grabs Great Press Coverage with Remote Deposit Feature

imageThe New York Times ran a positive piece on USAA’s mobile efforts today, leading with the bank’s innovative mobile rimageemote check deposit service. A feature the bank announced in June and is rolling out this week.

USAA is the first major financial institution to use the iPhone’s camera to allow customers to upload paper checks for automatic deposit. However, it was beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU, which launched a cruder version two weeks ago (previous post).

The San Antonio-based bank with 7.2 million customers, now has one million mobile users, a 14% penetration rate, up from 11% in May. It’s the second U.S. financial institution (after Bank of America with more than 3 million; see note 1) to officially hit the million mark, though Chase/WaMu and Wells/Wachovia are believed to have passed that milestone last year.

Financial institution lesson: Mobile banking, and the iPhone specifically, still make a great story for the press (and customers). If you’re first in your market with an iPhone app, or some other mobile milestone, let the media know.

Live demo of USAA’s Deposit@Home iPhone app
Starts at 1-minute mark

Note:
1. 43% of BofA’s mobile customers access via iPhone or iPod Touch. The bank does not yet support text-banking, so it’s user base is skewed towards smartphone users.
2. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking

1,000th iPhone Finance Application Added to Apple App Store Today

imageToday marked an Apple App Store milestone of sorts, the 1000th application available in the Finance category (USA store). Finance is less than 2% of the total store, which now stands at 63,300, according to AppShopper.com

Lucky number 1000 was Easy Mortgage (iTunes link), a $0.99 mortgage calculator from Italian developer Nexus (screenshot below).

image Four other new Finance apps debuted today, just missing the 1000 mark: 

  • #997 MLM: A multi-level marketing guide from PTAJ Marketing for $2.99
  • #998 Renting: A guide to renting a house or apartment from also from PJAT Marketing for $2.99
  • #999 Forex: A guide to foreign exchange trading again from PJAT Marketing
  • #1001 TaxTax: A $1.99 sales tax calculator from Canbuffi Web Development

Bottom line: These thousand apps are just the tip of the iceberg for the Finance category. It will likely grow to well over 10,000 during the next few years as most major banks and credit unions add their own apps to the mix. 

Currently, there are fewer than 50 financial institutions with their own dedicated app, including eight of the top 15 (most popular based on recent download volume): 1st (Bank of America), 2nd (Chase), 3rd (Wells Fargo), 4th (PayPal), 8th (E*Trade), 12th (Citibank), 13th (USAA) and 14th (multiple banks via Firethorn).    

For more info on the features and benefits of a good financial institution iPhone app, see our recent Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009). 

WV United Federal Credit Union is First with iPhone-based Remote Check Scan & Deposit

imageIn June, we reported on USAA’s upcoming iPhone app that will support remote check deposits. But it looks like they were beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU headquartered in Charleston, WV. Haven’t heard of WV United? They have just six employees, $11 million in assets, and 3,000 members.

But somehow they were able to pull off something that no other financial institution has yet to accomplish, accepting paper check deposits via a native iPhone application (iTunes link, see note 1 and 2). The application was added to the iPhone App Store on July 4, and the CU wasted no time in heralding the innovation with a homepage banner (see screenshot below).

imageThe application could not be simpler. Users take a picture by pressing the button on the left (see inset), verifying that the image is readable, then uploading with the button on the right. WV United uses the member’s mobile phone number to apply it to the correct account. The latest iPhone OS 3.0 is required.

The credit union also accepts deposits via in-home scanners using secure file transfers powered by LeapFile (co-branded site here).

It appears both services simply send images to the credit union where an employee manually converts them to ACH items. According to the E-Deposit customer agreement, the first 10 items each month are free; a $1 fee per item for the remainder of the month is charged. This allows for collection of a bit of fee revenue from small business members, while enabling most consumers to use it free of charge.

Certainly, fraud possibilities exist. But the CU’s normal deposit-processing controls should mitigate most of the risk (see E-Deposit funds availability policy here). 

Mitek Systems introduced a mobile remote-deposit system last year (post here), but it’s not yet in production at any financial institutions. 

imageAnalysis: Although not a feature that will see widespread usage, mobile check deposits will prove convenient for certain customers, especially mobile small businesses. More importantly, it helps differentiate between online and mobile services.

So, for raising the bar in mobile banking, we are awarding WV United with our first OBR Best of the Web award for 2009 (note 3). In the 12 years we’ve given the award, WV United is by far the smallest financial institution to win. 

WV United FCU homepage with iPhone banner (11 July 2009)

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iPhone app landing page (link)

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Notes:
1. Sometimes it’s nice to be small. WV United has six employees total, according to NCUA data. Most large banks would have a project team larger than that just to do the feasibility study on mobile remote-deposit capture.
2. For more info on the importance of iPhone applications for financial services, see our recent full report: Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via the iPhone.
3. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online and mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development. WV United is the 74th recipient of the designation since we began awarding it in 1997.

Another reason for banks to push out a native iPhone app

imageRumors abound that Apple will super-size its iPod Touch next year with a 7- to 10-inch-screen version. VentureBeat has a compelling picture (inset), although it’s not likely to be authentic.

The thinking is that this device fits nicely between the $299 iPod Touch and the $999+ MacBook with a price in the
$600- to $700-range.

The device is expected to run the iPhone OS and use the same touchscreen interface as its much-smaller siblings. That makes it the perfect in-home device for running any of the 40,000+ apps available in App Store. 

Why it’s important
Because there are apps for everything, this device could become the de facto controller for key in-home systems running the television, DVR, telephone (especially if it has a built-in web cam), heating and air conditioning, plus the audio system, of course. It will also be perfect for checking the weather in the morning, the traffic on the way out the door, reading feeds, twittering, and sharing YouTube videos and photos with visitors at the kitchen table. 

And while those are the interesting uses, the Apple device will also be a convenient way to access all types of information, from Google, to ESPN, to your bank balance, all with the touch of button.

Significance for banks and credit unions
If Apple works its magic yet again, this device could end up in the living room of half the upscale households in the world.

image While this device can run a browser to access any website, the user experience is much better with a native app (see note 1). And when push notifications become available in the next OS release, it will be even better.

Note:
1. For more information on why you must build a native iPhone app for your financial institution, see our recent Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking.

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

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).

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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

Note:
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.

Intuit’s Quicken Online Releases Native iPhone App

imageYesterday, Intuit launched its first native app for the iPhone, Quicken Online Mobile. It’s already risen to number four in the Finance category (note 1), and will likely hit number one given the number of Intuit fans using the iPhone. Currently, E*Trade’s new Mobile Pro claims the top spot.

imageIntuit has incorporated some interesting features including this user-friendly “what’s left until payday” feature. Users can access a graphical map of their future balance level (below) and get a warning (right) if the account looks like it will run out before the next payday.

image

image Intuit also uses the GPS/location-based capabilities of the iPhone with a built-in ATM finder (click on inset for larger view). And finally, users are able to input transactions on the fly to get a real-time look at the impact to their budgets on the latest expenses.

The two-minute YouTube video (link) is worth watching to see how to position your iPhone PFM as a mobile financial assistant (speaker is Intuit product manager, Barron Ernst):

There are a number of personal finance apps available on the iPhone platform including Mint, Wesabe (announced Tuesday at FinovateStartup), MoneyTrackin, iBearSoft Software, and dozens more. 

Notes:
1. Quicken’s mobile app is number four in the free apps section of the iTunes Finance apps section as of 8:30 AM Pacific time, 2 May 2009. It has 73 user reviews with an average 4-star rating (excellent). In comparison, Mint which launched its iPhone app in December has nearly 13,000 reviews.
2. According to VentureBeat, Quicken Online passed the 1-million user mark in mid-April.

Apple iPhone Print Advertisements Feature Personal Finance Apps

image_thumb8Apple must be one of the more lucrative advertisers these days at the Wall Street Journal. Apple has bought the back page more times than I can count to show off the iPhone and more-importantly, the diversity of applications available (see inset, note 1).

Lately, Apple has run “theme” ads showing applications related to a single category. Last week (Thurs, 9 April), the back of the A section showed personal finance apps (see left column below). Yesterday, the apps all supported small business and ran on the back of Marketplace (B) section (see right column below).

The only app to make both lists: personal finance superstar, Mint, which even scored top billing in the personal finance page, occupying the upper-left corner, where it’s blurb would likely score the highest readership. 

The Apple website also has themed app guides. The managing money page (see screenshot below) features again features Mint, which gets the biggest graphic, Bank of America, who’s app was featured in dozens of Apple ads in 2008 and earlier this year, Bloomberg, Gas Cubby, iXpenseIt, Save Benjis, and Home Finder.

Bottom line: Financial institutions should think about how to add similar money management functionality to their mobile and online offers. As Aite’s Ron Shevlin pointed out in a comment here last week (emphasis added):

…..(the FinovateStartup participants) you talk about are helping people manage their financial lives, while the banks are [still] focused on helping people manage their financial accounts.

Big difference.

Table: iPhone apps listed in recent WSJ ads (clockwise from upper left)

Personal Finance Theme Small Business Theme
Helping you stretch your budget, one app at a time. Helping you run your small business, one app at a time.
Date: 9 April 2009 Date: 15 April 2009
Mint.com (PFM) Credit card terminal
Gas Cubby (mileage tracker) Print & share (document management)
Spotasaurus (parking finder) FedEx Mobile
RepairPal (mechanic finder) Jott (voice recording/transcription)
AllRecipes.com (recipe finder) iXpenseIt (expense report mgmt)
GoodGuide (product finder) Jobs – Time Tracking
WootWatch (cheap gadgets) Analytics App (website analytics)
Save Benjis (shopping comparison) LinkedIn
RN Dining (rewards dining) LogMeIn (remote computer access)
Find an Apartment YellowPages.com
Cellfire (mobile coupons) Mint.com
Barista (how to guide) Quicksheet (spreadsheet)
Wi-Fi finder Air Sharing (file manager)
CompareMe (price calculator) Nomina (name/trademark search)
Loan Shark (loan tool) SimpleMind Xpress (brainstorming)
Small Spend (mini PFM) Keynote Remote (presentation tool)

Apple’s Money Management page on its Website (link, 16 Apr 2009)

image_thumb1

Notes:
1. My apologies for the image quality, taken via iPhone naturally.
2. For more info, see our latest Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

MasterCard Launches ATM Hunter iPhone App

image A few weeks ago there wasn’t a single dedicated ATM finder in Apple’s App Store, and now there are three, not counting the bank-branded versions (more on that below). MasterCard is the latest entrant with a cute app called ATM Hunter (see inset; iTunes link) launched six days ago.

The free app can lead you and your iPhone to any of more than one million ATMs worldwide. The app automatically senses your location and lists nearby machines. And it’s integrated with Google maps so you can map the location with a single click.

Unlike other ATM finders, MasterCard’s version has a helpful filter to zero in on the following ATM types:

  • surcharge-free
  • drive-thru
  • wheelchair accessible
  • 24-hour
  • deposit sharing

It also has a “share” function (upper-right of second screenshot below) that allows you to text the ATM location to a friend or to yourself for later reference. 

Here’s what’s in the app:

                         Main page                                   List after “location” search

image     image

              Filtering by feature                                           ATM detail

image     image 

The launch is supported with a webpage at MasterCard’s Priceless.com (see screenshot below).

Bottom line: It’s an excellent app that should prove popular; however, I wonder if MasterCard is encroaching a bit on its banking clients’ turf. Location-based ATM/branch finders are one of the cornerstones of a retail bank’s mobile application (note 1). If customers are already using MasterCard’s app, they have less reason to go mobile with their own financial institution.

On the other hand, the vast majority of financial institutions that don’t yet have their own mobile app can safely recommend MasterCard’s app and keep customers from using a banking competitor’s app. 

MasterCard’s ATM Hunter landing page (link, 10 April 2009)

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Notes:
1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking: iPhone Edition.
2. Apple is approaching 1 billion downloads since the App Store opened last July. The company is celebrating the coming milestone with a $15,000 gift to the person that downloads lucky 1 billion. It also has a huge ticker on its website (below) that counts to the big number in real time (here).

Billion-download counter at Apple’s website (10 April 2009, 6 PM Pacific)

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New Features in iPhone OS 3.0 will Help Banking Apps

imageApple’s new iPhone operating system was announced last week. There are more than 100 new features that will make the phone even more valuable plus 1,000 new APIs to keep developers innovating like mad. The new OS will be available “this summer.”

Most changes are relatively minor, but two are significant for online banking and personal finance apps:

    image

  • Push notifications: Apple currently offers this feature only on its built-in email and SMS application (see screenshot below). But with OS 3.0, application developers can push notifications to the iPhone without the app being launched. For banks, that means you can show users when a new transaction, message, or alert is available to view.
  • imageIn-app purchases: This is probably less important for financial institutions who generally don’t charge transaction fees for mobile or online services. However, non-bank financial apps can now charge transaction fees for value-added services such as an expedited payment or a credit score. The transactions are processed via Apple so now customers needn’t provide the app developer their credit card number.

imageBottom line: We believe every financial institution large enough to offer online banking should support the iPhone platform. With OS 3.0, it’s even more important to be in the App Store. For more information, see the latest Online Banking Report on Mobile 3.0 — iPhone Edition (see announcement post).

 

 

 

 

iPhone home screen (30 March 2009) >>>
Here’s my main iPhone screen showing push alerts (clockwise) for new text messages (11), new emails (196), voice mails (6), and application updates (2).