August 20th, 2009

USAA Mobile Banking Application – Convenience or Cost Savings?

My colleague Seth Fowler showed me one of the more innovative mobile services I’ve seen in a while. (See NY Times article) It’s USAA’s iPhone application that allows qualified customers to photograph both the front and back side of checks and upload the photos to complete a deposit. How cool is that?

[If allowed, cut paste NY Times photo and give them credit]

I want this service through my bank. (Wells Fargo and Schwab – are you listening?) My banking habits most closely resemble those of a 70 year old. I do not do online bill pay. (Had two bad experiences – one in 1994 and one in 2000, and I am scarred) I do not know the codes for my cards to deposit a check into an ATM. I walk into the branch and hand my check to a teller. Seriously, I do. This service would motivate me to go direct to mobile – skip the Internet entirely. There would be no middle step for me as many think will happen with Internet-based services on cell phones.

When we talk to our clients about how mobile services can help them to achieve their business objectives, we put them into three buckets – revenue-generating, cost-savings, and customer convenience. The catch is, customer convenience often doubles as a cost savings initiative. This USAA application does just that. At a high level, the bank processes less paper and already has an image of the check. For the customer, they save a stamp or a trip to the ATM.

In terms of evaluating the services, I use my colleague James McQuivey’s Convenience Quotient framework where I define mobile benefits as consumer value on immediacy and context combined with simplicity. There is context – my phone knows who I am. My phone can save/store account numbers. It’s simple – I can both take and upload the photo with my phone. Immediacy? Deposit checks immediately before lost, stolen or misplaced let alone the trip to the bank.

And then there’s the insurance stuff … what to do in an accident. For next time ….

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