SANTA ROSA -- Two of the North Bay's largest financial institutions have unveiled new mobile banking applications, joining others in the region in seeking to address a wave of consumer demand for technology that was once only within reach of the nation's largest banks.
Both Exchange Bank and Redwood Credit Union began offering mobile banking applications late last month, part of a comprehensive effort on part of each institution to upgrade both the visible and behind-the-scenes elements of their electronic banking offerings.
While remote check capture and other features are expected to be added in the coming months, leaders in technology development at both institutions say the new mobile offerings are essential strategy amid changing consumer habits.
"It begins to equalize us against the big banks. We need to position ourselves as being in a place where we can offer the same convenience," said Brad Hunter, senior vice president overseeing technology at Exchange Bank. "That kid who's 17 right now would probably view the branch as dead."
Exchange Bank chose Intuit, maker of the popular Quickbooks accounting software, to develop its mobile platform. As the bank's existing provider for online services, Intuit worked with the bank to upgrade to a real-time online banking platform in July and offered an upcoming mobile platform that would integrate into that new system, Mr. Hunter said.
"It makes it seamless for us," he said.
More than 2,000 customers have the used the application since it launched on Oct. 29, with additional users of new text message-based features. Users can currently use the program to check balances and transfer funds between accounts, and a related Web-based platform called Finance Works also allows users to import and track financial data from Exchange Bank other institutions.
Instant person-to-person fund transfers are expected to be implemented in late November, with mobile check deposit in early December. The bank is also unveiling a rewards program for certain debit card uses.
Redwood Credit Union developed its new mobile platform in partnership with Austin, Texas-based Jwaala. Downloaded more than 10,000 times since its launch on Oct. 17, the application is designed to work within the same technology framework that supports the institution's ATMs, website and other systems.
"One of our main focuses right now is technology integration," said Todd Lindemann, senior vice president of innovation and strategy at Redwood Credit Union.
In addition to providing a means to check account balances and transfer funds between accounts, the program includes the same "Ask RCU" function that provides answers to frequently asked questions on the credit union's website.
The new website, launched in June, also includes a real-time financial planning program. That program is expected to be increasingly integrated into the mobile platform in 2013, along with person-to-person fund transfers, mobile bill pay and mobile payments.
"Long term, it's about how we can turn to mobile platform into a mobile payments device," Mr. Lindemann said.
Both platforms are available as a free download for either iOS or Android operating systems.