Real Accounts, Real Fast

Workers’ Credit Union shifts online account opening to a mobile audience for unprecedented on-demand service.


From text banking to iPhone and Android apps, there’s little that the Workers’ Credit Union ($831M, Fitchburg, MA) mobile suite does not offer for members on the go.

“We decided we wanted to take as many products and services as we currently have online and bring those to our mobile suite,” says Christopher Saari, online banking manager at Workers’ Credit Union.

One huge step in synching those two channels was to develop and roll out an account opening option for mobile devices.

“The industry, the technology, the membership; everything is moving in the mobile direction, so we thought, why not do account opening?” Saari says.

Right now, existing membership can apply for additional checking or savings accounts through the credit union’s wireless application protocol (WAP) accessible website. The site is connected to the core system through a single sign on (SSO) feed, and a member can open an account in just three to five minutes.

“It’s all about convenience,” says Gordon Wetmore, Workers’ senior vice president of marketing. “This is cutting edge stuff for us, but it’s the way you have to go if you want to compete.”

Because there was no existing turnkey account opening solution the credit union could buy, Workers’ developed the solution from the ground up in partnership with its online account opening vendor.

“It was a pie in the sky thought as we were exploring mobile options, but our vendor partner wasn’t ready to develop it,” Saari says.

After some convincing, Harland Financial Solutions decided to move forward and worked with Workers’ to develop, test, and launch an account opening option in July of 2011.

“We did all of it jointly, so there was no upfront cost for us,” Saari says. “But anyone else going forward with this provider will pay some additional cost for the solution.”

The development took between three to four months as the credit union narrowed down how it wanted the screens to appear and assessed the product’s ease of use.

“We had a sound process, so when we went live, we knew it wasn’t going to fail,” Wetmore says.

Developing the solution through a web browser made the process faster and easier than developing it in an app form and it lets the credit union target users in a defined field rather than everyone in an app store scenario.

Limiting the option to existing membership also helps keep the experience fast and quick, as it circumvents some of the more involved customer identification program (CIP) processes involved with opening accounts for nonmembers. Because the credit union has already verified the identity of an existing member, the process is streamlined.

To open an account, members validate who they are with a name, social security number, and member account number. From there, a data match pings the core and allows the member to move forward in the process.

“We are talking about moving to the next level with nonmembers, but it would require moving them through the eFunds verification process and an additional wall of questions,” Saari says. “It’s far more labor intensive.”

This next generation could encompass apps as well, so when members access mobile banking through an app, they could follow a link to the account opening process. Workers’ might also move the next generation of the solution to the iPad, given its larger screen and increased maneuverability.

Reporting on the back end for accounts opened online versus mobile is still in development, making it difficult to separate each channel’s performance, but Workers’ is tracking activity coming directly from the mobile option, says Saari. Approximately 100-150 accounts are opened virtually each month at the credit union.

“People are still discovering mobile account opening and it hasn’t been gangbuster, but when we developed online account opening six years ago, it wasn’t gangbusters then either,” Saari says. “We were very much ahead of the curve then, and we’re ahead of this curve as well. It’s a technology people have to become comfortable with.”

“Soon it becomes an expectation and then you have to have it,” Wetmore says. And as these solutions continue to progress, the audience for them is growing wider.

“When it comes to demographics from a Gen X, Y, or baby boomer standpoint, I think those terms should be disappearing and we should instead have a buzz word for people using mobile technology,” says Saari. “They’re all over the board.”

“It’s not about age,” Wetmore says. “It’s about being comfortable with the different types of technology out there.”

In the larger mobile suite, Workers’ Android and iPhone apps have been downloaded more than 4,200 times despite only being available for a year or so. And Workers’ text banking has approximately 3,000 users. Workers’ hopes its recent focus on marketing, which includes Google and Facebook efforts, will generate more interest in its mobile product.

“We just started mobile advertising in the past few months,” Wetmore says. “We were quite surprised at the number of people who saw our messages via their phone.

Over a four week period from October to November, the credit union spent approximately $1,000 dollars for mobile advertising in one selected market area and received nearly 900,000 delivered impression and approximately 4,500 clickthroughs as a result.

“Technology changes constantly, and consumers are receiving messages from different directions,” Wetmore says. “We want to make sure we’re one of those sources.”

Workers’ future might even bring an option for loan applications on mobile devices to support the online channel that receives 500-800 applications a month.

“Online is our most active delivery channel,” Wetmore says. “We feel pretty good about that for an institution our size.”

This article originally appeared in 4Q 2011 Technology@CU, a technology and operations supplement to Credit Union Strategy & Performance (CUSP).




Nov. 5, 2012


  • Mobile will provide for additional access. Being able to open new accounts via cellphone will allow a younger population to join, and then enjoy the benefits of credit unions. The challenge is to make it affordable for smaller credit unions.
    Steve Bowles
  • We are in the process of adding online account opening and are hoping that it will dramatically reduce the time it takes to open accounts in addition to the convenience for the members.
  • We currently use MeridianLink's Xpress Accounts for online account opening. We will launching their mobile app to make it even easier for existing members to open new deposit accounts as well as new members to begin their relationship with us. People are embracing solutions such as this article points out more than ever. Credit unions are wise to take note and make it available to their members and potential members.
    Jim Johnson
  • Other than CIP for non-members, are there no compliance issues with this? I'm just curious if it is worth the risk.
    Liz C
  • So glad to see a CU devoting more resources to online media spend.

    The numbers work out to a CTR of .5% and a CPC of $.22. Not the lowest CPC for mobile, but by most FI advertising standards that's incredibly cheap; and most importantly that's a campaign you can easily optimize and scale.

    The Financial Marketer