UW Credit Union is First to Tap the Mobile Browser for Remote Deposit Capture

imageimageThere are a few dozen financial institutions I follow closely for inspiration. And one of my favorites is University of Wisconsin Credit Union. The 180,000 member, $1.6 billion asset CU, always seems to be at the forefront.

Its latest feat: Remote deposit capture from the mobile web <m.uwcu.org>. That’s not a typo. Mobile deposit capture WITHOUT a (native) app!

UWCU is the first in the world (as far as we can tell), that allows smartphone users to deposit checks right from the mobile web (see the CU’s blog post for more info). The CU taps new controls in mobile browsers (iOS and Android) to operate the mobile camera to capture paper checks. Image processing and fraud detection technology is powered by Ensenta (with Mitek IP).

The in-house UWCU dev team so far has eschewed downloadable apps in favor of mobile-optimized designs that work cross platform. They are working towards full responsive design, so any user can visit the UWCU site from any size device and receive the optimal design, complete with touchscreen controls when applicable. They are targeting year-end completion for the full package.   

But as much as Eric Bangerter (VP Ecommerce & Internet Services) and his team believe in the mobile web, they plan to bow to member pressure and offer a simple native app so they have a presence in the app stores (note 1). As Bangerter notes in a recent interview at BankInfoSecurity.com, “Not being in an app store today is kind of like not having a Google (search) result.” 

Bottom line: I’ve been a huge believer in native apps. It’s how legions of smartphone users have been trained to access services (see note 2). Many normal people don’t even understand the “browser construct” in a mobile phone. That said, I see the logic in UWCU’s approach. Like most businesses, they must prioritize their investments. And now that the mobile browser can tap the camera (and GPS), it makes sense to push its mobile power users to the mobile web. But I’m glad the CU is also creating a lightweight native app to satisfy the rest.

————————————-

UW Credit Union’s mobile-browser based deposit capture in action (4 June 2013)
Note: Watch the full 90-second demo posted in the UWCU online banking blog, Source Code.

 image       image   

———————————
Note:
1. The lack of a native app has seemingly not slowed down its mobile growth. The CU has 36,000 mobile users, an impressive 20% of its member base.
2. For more info, see our recent Online Banking Report: Digital & Mobile Wallets (published Feb 2013, subscription).

Fees: Regions Adds Time-Based Charge to Remote Deposits

image Retail bankers, we’ve had a sighting of that very rare bird, the North American Newfee. It was thought to have gone extinct in the fall of 2011, when anti-bankers shot down the last breeding pair, a malformed $5 debit card fee at Bank of America.

But surprise. Regions Bank has gone out on a limb and put a fee on the newest banking feature to sweep the nation, remote check deposit. And the bank didn’t settle for the standard per-use fee (in trial at U.S. Bank), Regions got creative with a tiered price dependent on how fast you want the money (see note 1 for exact wording):

  • Immediate >>> 1% to 3% of check amount, with $5 minimum
  • Same night (8 pm cutoff) >>> $3 per check
  • Two days >>> $0.50 per check

There is also a potential $1 additional fee to temporarily raise your daily deposit limit to deposit a large check.

My take: I think Regions is smart to add fee(s) for the huge value mobile deposit delivers, though I think it would be better as part of a feature-laden bundle sold on a monthly subscription fee (note 2).

But tiered pricing is a novel idea worth trying. And I like the three options. But its probably too complicated for new users, at least the way it’s presented in Regions FAQ (note 3). Also confusing matters, is the extra buck for checks larger than the user’s limit. It’s asking a lot for customers to decide among three options, especially when having to decipher jargon and timing rules such as "Funds are available during posting."  

image The multi-choice pricing scheme is an example of the paradox of choice. A theory (and direct marketing rule of thumb) that says you should keep choices to a minimum otherwise recipients become overwhelmed and just give up.

I think the bank would be better off starting with just two tiers, normal and expedited. Then introducing the third tier in v2.0 next year. 

But overall, congratulations to Regions for braving the unknown to see if this newfee has wings (note 6).

———————————-

Notes:
1. Here’s how the fee is explained in the FAQ:

image

A somewhat better explanation is included on the mobile banking page:

image

2. For more info on fee-based banking services, our Online Banking Report on fee-based online services (subscription, May 2011).
3. Hopefully, the choices are better explained within the mobile user interface, which I was unable to see.
4. As expected, the initial reviews from Apple app users are harsh. Currently the bank has just a 1.5 star rating on the new version of the app containing mobile deposit. Down from 2 stars previously.  
5. Sorry for the prolonged bird metaphor. Sometimes you get bored at the keyboard (keybored?). It’s also our second bird-themed post on fees. What’s that about?
6. American Banker: http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/178_66/regions-offers-mobile-deposit-for-a-fee-1058090-1.html?

Feature Friday: Capital One 360 Offers Remote Check Deposit via Simple File Upload (no smartphone required)

image I don’t know how I missed this small, but meaningful, improvement to the remote deposit state of the art. Since last April, Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) has allowed customers to make deposit via the mobile phone app, and (drum roll) via file upload.  

Yes, you heard it right. Simply snap a picture of the check (front and back), save the files, upload to CapOne360, and your deposit is complete (see screenshot below). That means check deposit is available to everyone, not just those with smartphones or scanners.

Does that mean more work for Capital One operations? Sure, processing an uploaded .jpg will take more time. But for the relatively low deposit volume of its savings-account-heavy base, it’s probably not material. And the idea here is to get more deposits, not save on transaction costs.

Will there be more fraud? There will likely be more garbage (duplicate pictures, fuzzy images, and perhaps even a few suspicious attempts to deposit duplicate images). But will file uploads create a statistically significant amount of actual fraud losses? It seems unlikely, though I’m making an educated guess.

image Bottom line: The decision to accept any old .jpg was brilliant. Make it as easy as possible to do business with you. That’s been a driving force behind ING Direct’s success (that and the bouncing orange ball, RIP).

While it’s not going to make our Digital Banking Hall of Fame (note 1), it’s important enough to grab a belated OBR Best of the Web for “raising the bar” in remote banking (note 2). Nice work.

——————————-

Capital One 360 landing page for its CheckMate remote deposit service (22 Mar 2013)

Capital One 360 checkmate remote depost landing page

Step 1: Users must enter check amount ($) and which account to deposit to (and optional memo)

image

Step 2: Interim instruction page

image

Step 3: Agree to the terms and conditions

image

 

Step 4: Choose images for front and back of check
Note: Example images, since I didn’t have any checks on my machine

image

Step 5: Review images & click “Deposit Now”

image

——————————-

Notes:
1. The Digital Banking Hall of Fame is updated annually and published in our year-end Online Banking Report (subscription).
2.  Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online- or mobile-banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. In total, 89 companies have won the award. This is the second for Capital One (previous winner). ING Direct also won previously. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.

Mobile Monday: USAA Taps the Mobile Camera for New Account Opening

USAA ipad app offers mobile check deposit The smartphone has already changed the way we work, communicate, find information, and behave. But it’s had a limited role so far in bank-account opening (note 1).

But leave it to USAA, the pioneering bank for all things mobile (note 2) to lead the way again. First reported this week in American Banker, USAA is testing the use of “blank check” capture to make it easier for certain new customers (note 3) to make their initial deposit (note 4).

Customers can snap a picture of a blank check from their old account and then enter the amount to be transferred electronically (note 5). It’s not really any faster, actually probably slower, than simply typing in a checking account and routing number (twice). But given how frustrating data entry can be on a mobile, some users will love it.

More importantly, it introduces users immediately to mobile capture and removes one more barrier to getting that first deposit on the books. And it makes USAA look cool.

—————————————–

Notes:
1. At Finovate, we’ve seen the mobile camera used in a number of interesting ways. oFlows (now a part of Andera), wowed the crowd in 2009/2010 with various paperless account-opening and -processing technologies (for example, check out its FinovateSpring 2010 “Best of Show” demo).
2. USAA launched mobile remote deposit 18 months before any other major bank and a full 3 years before Bank of America (see our 2009 post).    
3. Only certain USAA members are eligible to use mobile deposit (generally, those with military service or their family members who have acceptable credit).
4. Unfortunately, USAA doesn’t yet support full mobile account opening. New customers must first go online and establish a new account and register a username and password. Then they must go to USAA mobile banking, log in, then take a picture of the blank check. Furthermore, only certain USAA members are eligible to use mobile deposit.
5. In the United States, the funds are moved via ACH, a little-understood system that banks could do a better job explaining to customers. See a rundown of the mysteries of ACH from the customer’s standpoint in this enlightening Deposit Account post from yesterday.

PSECU’s Remote Deposit Honor System Has Processed $1.4 Billion with Only $74,000 in Losses

image Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. Ten years ago PSECU launched the Upost@home deposit service. It allows members to manually enter their deposits in the CU’s online banking system for immediate credit, then mail them to the CU in a postage-paid envelope.

obr_bestofweb The service, launched in late 2001, was little publicized outside of PSECU’s member base during the first two years. We first heard about it in late 2003 when a second credit union licensed the service. We gave it our highest honor, an OBR Best of the Web award (note 1), one of only five given during the post-bubble dark days of bank-tech innovation (2001 through 2004).

At the time, it seemed an almost crazy idea. An online/offline honor system for deposits. But the CU knew what it was doing. It limited the amount that could be deposited and which members were allowed to use the service.

Now the results speak for themselves (see annual totals in table below):

4.5 million items deposited worth $1.4 billion (avg. of $310 per check)
$74,000 in losses
= 0.0053% loss rate (0.5 basis points)
or 1.6 cents per item

Upost has turned into the least loss-prone method of accepting deposit, including the branch!

Another interesting data point: The CU is processing almost 50,000 Upost@home deposit items per month, about one per month per member enrolled in the service, a pace that’s stayed remarkably consistent over time.

Bottom line: We’ve listed PSECU’s Upost@home on our annual list of top online/mobile innovations of all time (it was ranked #24 of those invented in the past 10 years and #42 of all time). But in terms of “bang for your buck,” it’s probably in the top-5.

image

Source: PSECU, 5 July 2011

———————————–

Notes:
1. The original article published in Online Banking Report (OBR #103) is reprinted in the Netbanker archives here.
2. The list of top innovators was published in OBR #188.

U.S. Bank Launches Both PC and Mobile Remote Deposit

I was surprised to see the news release that U.S. Bank had upgraded its Firethorn-powered mobile banking app to include mobile remote deposit. I’ve been following the development of the bank’s PC-scanner-based remote deposit option which also launched yesterday, and I’d never seen the mobile option mentioned (previous post). 

True to form, when I logged in to my account online and clicked on the “Make a Deposit (New)” link, there was still no mention of the mobile option. However, I was greeted with the news that I was now eligible to use the bank’s new PC scanner-based program at a cost of $0.50 per deposit.

I went through the simple online enrollment process (see below), but didn’t test an actual deposit because I don’t have a scanner attached to my laptop.

Bottom line: Congratulations to US Bank for being the second major bank to support both mobile and PC-based consumer remote deposit, trailing just USAA which launched PC-remote deposit in Dec. 2006 and the mobile version in Aug. 2009. Chase also offers mobile consumer remote deposit (launched in July 2010)  but does not offer a consumer PC-based service.

________________________________________________________________________

How it works
________________________________________________________________________

1. Select “Make a Deposit” link on left

US Bank online deposit landing page (15 March 2011)

2. Enrollment
Users must enter their email address, agree to the terms, and answer the following three usage questions:

Enrollment questioinaire US Bank

3. Select “Get Started” on main deposit page

Main deposit page US Bank

4. Choose account to deposit to

Step 1: Choose account to deposit to at US Bank 

5. Enter check details

image

6. Error message requesting Java be downloaded

image

U.S. Bank Set to Launch Fee-Based Remote Deposit Capture for Retail Customers March 14

image Five months after we first spotted the link (see previous post, note 1), U.S. Bank is telling online banking users that they’ll be able to use the new PC-based, remote-deposit function on March 14. Customers will use standard all-in-one scanner/printers to submit checks.

The bank has decided to launch with a $0.50 per-item fee for retail customers. While I’m all for fees for value-adds, my response is mixed on this one.

The fee makes sense in many ways:

  • Value: The customer receives a very real time savings here, and many would burn that much in gas, driving over to a branch. So $0.50 sounds pretty reasonable.
  • Changing perceptions: It’s good to start weaning customers off the belief that every new feature is provided free of charge.
  • Fairness: Customers that use the service, pay for its costs. That’s fair pricing for everyone.
  • Optional: No one has to use the service; there are acceptable free (branch, ATM) or lower-cost (mail) alternatives for most customers.

But here’s what’s bothering me about it: 

  • Sends the wrong message about self-service: If the bank starts charging a dollar or even fifty cents to deposit an item in the branch, then the online fee makes perfect sense. But if the same service is free in the branch, I think it sends the wrong message to online users.
  • Discourages trial: For nearly all potential customers, this is new and unproven technology. They at least need a free trial to get a feel for it.
  • Is it worth the trouble? If U.S. Bank gets 50,000 items remotely deposited per month, the bank nets $300,000 per year in fee income. Would a free service save more than that in labor, while introducing the timesaver to far more customers, perhaps even driving some new accounts?

Bottom line: While it will cut usage dramatically, a fee makes sense if you want to add a new feature without increasing bank costs. And evidently, U.S. Bank doesn’t believe the higher number of deposits garnered by a free service would save enough labor to overcome the lost fee revenue. So the pros must outweigh the cons.

Nevertheless, I’d prefer to see remote deposit bundled together with several other value-added features for a small monthly fee, e.g., $2.95 for a “power user” electronic account.  

Kudos to U.S. Bank for making remote deposit available to retail customers. I look forward to trying it, but given how much trouble I’ve had with my all-in-one scanner over the years, I am much more likely to become an active user of a smartphone version. 

U.S. Bank’s Make a Deposit page inside the secure online banking area (20 Feb. 2011)

U.S. Bank's Make a Deposit page inside the secure online banking area (20 Feb 2011)

————————————-

Note:
1. The service has been piloted in several states, so I’m assuming that’s why it’s been on the menu.

US Bank Adds Remote Deposit Capture to Online Banking Menu

imageI saw a new option today when I logged in to my U.S. Bank account:

Make a Deposit

Clicking on the link brings up a screen (see below) promising that DepositPoint, a desktop-scanner-based service, is “Coming Soon!”

From the little info provided, I can see that it’s targeted to home users using existing equipment (all-in-one printer/scanners) and allows checks to be deposited through 6 PM central time for (I assume) same-day credit.

The webpage shown below is the only info available. There’s nothing posted on pricing, when it will launch, or other terms and conditions. And a search for “depositpoint” on the main website comes up empty. Interested customers are asked to “please stay tuned to this page for more exciting information!” While not exactly state-of-the-art lead capture, at least the bank is getting the word out (note 1).

In other news, PayPal moved one step closer to becoming a bank/credit union replacement with the revelation that it will add remote deposit capture to its iPhone app later this year.

U.S. Bank online banking primary navigation (16 August 2010)

image 

Note:
1. I’m putting this in the footnote since it’s not the focus of this post. But seriously, U.S. Bank, this is the best you could come up with from a design and copywriting standpoint? It looks like a webpage from 1996. All that’s missing is the “under construction” sign. How about some color? Graphics? Links to an FAQ? This is a great development, but the customers drawn to this page from the “NEW” button are unlikely to be impressed.

Mobile Remote Deposit Capture by the Numbers (thanks USAA)

image I love it when first movers decide to brag about their results. For years, Bank of America has released frequent updates on the size of its online/mobile-banking user base (June 2008 figures). Given the bank’s massive market share, those figures are a great help in sizing the entire U.S. market.

USAA is now doing the same for the fledgling consumer-remote-check-deposit market. USAA was the first major financial institution to introduce the service a year ago. Earlier this month, Chase Bank became the second major bank to offer mobile capture.

In a press release last week, the direct banking giant said that more than 1.5 million checks, worth $930 million, an average of $620 per item, had been deposited through its mobile remote deposit app released last summer. Mobile accounts for about one-third of the bank’s consumer remote-capture volume. The online version, introduced in late 2006, still outnumbers mobile volume 2 to 1.

USAA’s banking division has 5 million customers in total.

Here’s a quick summary of USAA remote-deposit stats:

     1.5 million checks deposited via mobile app (35% of total)
     2.8 million checks submitted via online/scan remote capture (65% of total)
  = 4.3 million total remotely deposited checks (100%)

The current run-rate for mobile-deposited checks is now 2.5 million items annually worth more than $1.6 billion.

The bank also said that 95% of all checks are deposited without a teller. The bank did not provide a breakout of how many non-teller checks came through remote scanning vs. mail.

Chase Adds Mobile Remote Deposit Capture and P2P Payments to its iPhone App

imageChase Bank rolled out a major new release to its iPhone app on Thursday (v. 2.3.1) with the addition of both remote deposit capture and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (see inset). Chase is the first to support both those important features in its mobile app (note 1). This post covers remote deposit, and I’ll look at the P2P feature later.

How it works
I had been looking forward to depositing a check via the magic of the iPhone. But sadly, despite following the directions and capturing a good image of the front and back of the check, the software failed to scan the amount correctly (see screenshot 7).

The Chase app said the check scanned in at $0, despite it being a printed $200 check. I was testing with my trusty version 1 iPhone (circa 2007), which may not have a sharp enough camera. I’ll try it on a newer iPhone and update the post. 

Here’s the process for new users (click on the thumbnails to view larger versions):

1. The Chase Quick Deposit service has been added to the main navigation bar across the bottom.

2. Customers agree to terms and conditions. Note: The service is limited to $1,000 per day and no more than $3,000 per month, eliminating many businesses as potential users.

3. On the first screen, users enter the dollar amount of the check.

4. The app provides instructions on how to successfully capture the check image.

5. Take pictures of the front and back of the check.

6. Double check image quality.

7. Error message saying that the dollar amount from the scan ($0) did not match the amount entered ($200).

Summary: Despite the glitch on my first deposit attempt, I’m glad to see Chase moving the mobile state-of-the-art forward. I’m sure we’ll see remote deposit added to most major mobile banking apps in the near future.

1. Signup screen           2. Customer agreement  3. Enter amount

image    image    image

4. Hints on image capture   5. Photograph the check front and back

image    image

6. View photo results                             7. Error message

image       image

Notes:
1. USAA was the first major bank with mobile remote deposit, launching it in Sep. 2009; while WV United FCU was the very first with it almost exactly one year ago.
2. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.