In a recent survey, college students identified four major types of people who resist owning digital devices in the year 2011: the Amish, hippies, abacus enthusiasts and students from the Middle Ages caught in a time warp. Sound absurd? Maybe not entirely, if you consider that 98 percent of college students surveyed were plugged in to digital devices. The survey, conducted by, reveals that young adults are not only using digital devices: They are connected to them. And through their smartphones, iPods, tablet computers and the Internet, they connect themselves to the world.

No surprise, then, that a Juniper Research study cited in Mobile Commerce Daily projects that mobile banking usage will double worldwide between 2010 and 2013, when the market is expected to represent 400 million people. In less time than it took for the industry to ask, “Do we really need mobile banking?” this new breed of technological interface went from novelty to necessity.

And it isn’t stopping there, either. According to this article, mobile banking apps can now do everything from offer location-specific promotional coupons to track commercial accounts, facilitate peer-to-peer payments and help users document necessary information in the event of a car crash.

Are You Ready to Go?

Whether the issue is cutting-edge innovation or basic mobile banking, for many credit unions the answer is, “no.” In fact, mobile banking isn’t universal even among relatively large banks.

Mobile banking may seem like a great idea, but the prospect of dreaming up applications – let alone developing and implementing them – can make even the savviest credit union executive feel a little, uh, Amish. Developing an outstanding proprietary app brings untold benefits: market differentiation, customized features and an undeniable cool factor. But for many credit unions, it’s simply out of reach. Add in the necessity of working across multiple platforms and the potential for technological glitches, and diving into the mobile banking pool seems even more chilling. Better still, today’s killer app is tomorrow’s old news, so whatever effort you put into mobile technology now will need to be renewed in short order.

Working with an outside vendor can be an alternative, but not all solutions are created equal. Look for mobile banking services that:

  • Start painlessly. You don’t want to launch another Apple in your “spare” time, do you? The easier a program is to implement, the better.
  • Work flawlessly. It should go without saying, but any app that doesn’t perform exactly as billed is trash.
  • Are user-friendly. Will members need a four-page brochure to figure out how to make a remote deposit? Reality: They won’t.
  • Are multi-platform. Can members log in by iPhone? Android? Blackberry? The $25 cell phone they’ve been using since 2004?
  • Offer security. Enough said.
  • Integrate, grow and evolve. Mobile banking technology is in its infancy – both in terms of capability and usage. You need a vendor who’s motivated to keep pace with technology. You also want one who’s keen to make mobile banking an integral part of your operations and growth strategy.

CO-OP Financial Services’ suite of e-commerce products – which includes remote deposit capture, mobile account access and on-the-go ATM locators — expanded this year to include text-based mobile banking. “CO-OP has offered a multi-platform mobile banking solution for more than a year, but with CO-OP Mobile Text, it is now easier than ever for credit unions to start and manage a mobile banking program,” says CO-OP president and CEO Stan Hollen. “CO-OP Mobile Text allows credit unions of any size to attract groups such as the young and those living in rural areas, who prefer mobile devices as their access points for everything from music to news.”