Ending the year right.

This year my team had some big projects that we spent the better part of the year working on. It’s been a good year, and we’re ending it on a great note, launching two projects of incredible value to our members in the last week.

Vancity Mobile App

On December 6th we released our iPhone App. Earlier this year we launched Mobile Web so members can use any kind of smartphone to do their banking in a way that is optimized for a small screen size, touch screen and browser. It was very important to us to launch Mobile Web first so all members have access to Mobile Banking. Then we could spend our calories on a really great app for our members with iPhones. Why iPhones? When we look at the metrics of site visitors to Vancity.com we see that of the traffic on our site coming from users on smartphones, the vast majority is from iOS. Over time we anticipate adding other apps for other devices, but with our member base iPhones took a clear lead.

I’ve written before of our partnership with Central1, the credit union central for all CUs in BC and Ontario. They created this app with major input from two credit unions: Vancity and Mt. Lehman. We focused heavily on the user experience, which I believe will pay off with members. In only a few days we already have 49 reviews of the app in the App Store, almost all of which are a full five stars. It’s a very rewarding experience.

And today we launched Interac e-Transfers. This is a standard feature in Canada which allows any Canadian to transfer money to any other Canadian via email or text message. All the big banks have long had this feature, but we had lagged behind. So it feels good to play catch up in this way and launch e-Transfers for our members. It is a much needed service, and now it’s available in Online Banking, Mobile Web and our iPhone App.

Launching these great new services wouldn’t be possible without great partnerships. I have amazing staff in my department who bring these projects to life, we have outstanding relationships with our colleagues in our IT division and our partners at Central1.

It’s a fantastic way to end the year, launching exciting new features, responding to the needs of our members who have been asking for these services for some time now, especially e-Transfers, and starting 2012 with the capacity to take on a bunch of new exciting projects.

So have a happy New Year, and here’s to a great 2012!

Take your site Mobile.

A few months back I met Igor Faletski, founder of Handi Mobility, a Vancouver-based company that develops mobile services and applications.

They launched an extremely impressive service for TransLink, Vancouver’s transit authority, that lets you see the next five arriving buses at any given stop via SMS or iPhone. Impressive guy and company.

We chatted about mobile banking, but as a credit union we get our services from Central1 Credit Union, the credit union central covering BC and Ontario. I have spent the last two days with them and my impressive peers from CUs across Canada in User Group meetings covering the future of online and mobile banking for credit unions. We are in very good hands. Their strategy around mobile banking especially is smart, forward thinking and yet also pragmatic. High marks from me.

When I met with Igor, he mentioned he was developing a service he couldn’t quite talk about yet. And then last month I was at a session about mobile applications here in Vancouver, and Igor was on the panel. He unveiled a glimpse of his new service, and now it has launched.

It’s called Mobify.Me, and it is an amazing application. Their initial blog post sums it up nicely.

It will create a mobile friendly version of your website in a snap. For free. And then if you want extras you can pay for them. It’s a way to test a version of your site optimized for today’s mobile browsers quickly to see what it can do for you. I would think that credit unions who want to experiment optimizing their service for smart phones, but don’t know if it’s worth spending a lot of budget on it would be able to take advantage of this service and gain some excellent knowledge. If you have your web developer spend a couple of hours with the CSS this service spits out, you can make it look even better.

And then it will mirror your main site. When you update content on your main website, the mobile site will automatically optimize that content for mobile browsers.

Pretty amazing stuff.

BC credit unions launch mobile banking commercials.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Mobile Banking launching at Vancity. At the time we had just introduced it, as did many other BC credit unions. In fact, 80% of credit union members in BC now have access to this new feature. I also mentioned that all BC credit unions came together to advertise mobile banking province wide.

Credit unions in BC have been working co-operatively for quite a while now (Gene, do you know how long the Province-Wide Advertising Committee has been around?) to advertise our shared differentiators. You can see a bunch of recent BC credit union ads on YouTube.

Each addresses a different perception in the marketplace that we’re collectively trying to address in the minds of consumers. We know we have the emotional, or heart, attributes like giving back to the community, being local, etc… What we need to move the needle on is the intellectual, or head, attributes. These commercials deal with issues like accessibility (Ding Free ATMs), full service options (That Guy, one of the less successful ads in my opinion). And now with the mobile banking ads, we’re dealing with innovation.

I’ve embedded the two mobile banking ads below, so take a look, and let me know what you think. I don’t sit on this committee so be honest. Personally, I like these commercials, and I also like many of the recent commercials credit unions in BC have run (That Guy excepted).

Enjoy!

PS: For those of you who wonder, that is NOT Gene Blishen as the dad in the second ad!

Mobile Banking with VNCTY.

First of all, my favourite quote about Mobile Banking this year has got to be by Avi Pollock Head of Applied Innovation at RBC who simply said at Net.Finance East “I know Mobile Banking is important, I’m just not sure why.”

I feel the same way. So I’m excited to say that Vancity has launched Mobile Banking to our Online Banking members. It’s pretty simple SMS banking where you register your cell number within Online Banking and then when you text to the shortcode VNCTY you get your balance or last five transactions.

Mobile Banking

So it could come in handy if you need to know your balance in a hurry and you’re not near a computer.

But the powerful thing here is getting members’ cell numbers into Online Banking, because that paves the way for text alerts which are of a much greater value. It also starts down the path of a more full-functioning Mobile Banking offer where our members can use an ATM/Branch locator, pay bills and transfer funds via their smart phone. That’s starting to get more interesting.

So I’m excited and proud of this baby step and need to acknowledge the unsung hero of this initiative, one of my favourite strategic partners, Kelly West, the Director of Product Management at Central1. He wrote an awesome Mobile Banking strategy for all credit unions in BC and Ontario. Thanks to him, we’re headed down the right path. Thanks Kelly!

Of the seven principles of a co-operative, the sixth is Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

One of the things I love about my work is that I get to collaborate with other credit unions in the province. At the end of 2008 80% of BC credit union members will have access to Mobile Banking. We worked on it together, we’re launching the same product to our members and next up, we’ll advertise Mobile Banking as a credit union innovative difference to BC residents. I’ll post more about that ad campaign when it launches in the New Year.