What’s On Your Wrist? Credit Unions Out Front On Wearable Apps

Community institutions are leading the big banks in rolling out apps for Apple and Android wrist gear.

Although we often paint ourselves as industry tag-alongs when it comes to adopting leading-edge gadgets, the credit union space is also often on the vanguard.

A couple news items in recent days prove that out once more. Wright-Patt Credit Union ($2.9B, Beavercreek, OH) is apparently the first credit union to announce availability of an app for the Android Wear watch. That’s in partnership with online banking pioneer Digital Insight.

Meanwhile, Greater Texas Federal Credit Union ($539.5M, Austin, TX) and Alabama Teachers Credit Union ($248.5M, Gadsden, AL) are among the beta users of an Apple Watch app developed by mobile banking startup Malauzai. Well, Malauzai isn’t really a startup anymore. In five years, the Texas-based firm has grown a client list of more than 300 credit unions and banks for its mobile banking solutions.

The app in the Apple Watch will be almost identical to the app we currently offer for iPhone and tablets, Greater Texas marketing vice president Brandy Conway told the Credit Union Journal. We felt like it would be a good fit for us to be on the leading edge.

In an announcement from Digital Insight owner NCR, Wright-Patt retail support director Joel Huxley says the Ohio credit union is making strategic decisions based on member behaviors. In the case of wearable technology, it allows our members quick access to low-risk information, he says. In this case, it’s balance information that will be synced from the credit union’s mobile app to the wearable.

Insight a longtime specialist in serving credit unions and community banks said it plans to launch an Apple Watch app soon.

As for the competition between the two behemoths, Apple is winning even before it gets in the game, some observers are reporting. The watch debuts later this month and is already far outselling its Google Android competitor, according to Business Insider.

By the way, there’s another alternative. Pebble is crowdfunded and, according to Canalys, already has sold more than a million units. Samsung itself rolled out six different devices in 14 months, the think firm says.

Malauzai co-founder Robb Gaynor notes that only one big bank Citigroup is among the eight banks and credit unions to announce Apple Watch apps. We think engagement levels will be higher than mobile, he says in an article in Bank Technology News.

Jordan Modell, co-founder and CEO of Internet Archive Credit Union ($3M, New Brunswick, NJ), shares some of that optimism and thinks there’ll be another big winner out of this.

I think this might finally be what pushes Apple Pay into the mainstream, he says. Think of Fitbit. We’re getting more used to our watches telling us what to do. I think Apple Pay will become a lot more accepted and a lot easier to use as the Apple Watch becomes more in vogue.

April 20, 2015

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