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McClatchy-Tribune  08/30/2014 7:36 PM ET
Local companies expand mobile banking apps [Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah :: ]

Aug. 30--OGDEN -- With a swipe of a finger or a press of a stylus, thousands of people are interacting with Utah financial institutions through mobile apps.

The services available through a smartphone or a tablet go beyond reviewing an account balance or transferring from savings to checking; mobile banking users can pay their light bills, apply for loans or pay back friends for that $20 they lent them.

Mobile banking services will not be limited to personal accounts, either. Businesses will be able to control payroll and wire approvals through smartphones.

"It's an excellent way for our customers to conduct their financial transactions on the go or wherever it is convenient," said Diana Windley, vice president of marketing for Goldenwest Credit Union.

The Ogden-based credit union launched its mobile app in 2009, in addition to its online banking services, which started about 15 years ago. Through its mobile app, it is able to reach its customers 24 hours a day with services that previously would have been done in a local branch.

As the technology improves and mobile banking becomes more popular, the services offered also continue to expand.

In the last few months, Goldenwest began to offer its GoPay mobile merchant services.

GoPay is similar to the "Square," but Goldenwest officials said it has lower fees.

Mobile users can insert the card reader into their mobile device and accept credit/debit cards. All of the transactions are automatically deposited into the member's checking account without having to visit a branch.

The reason for adding mobile banking is not to eliminate a teller.

There are always advantages to automation, said Brice Mindrum, America First Credit Union's mobile services manager, but that is not the driving force behind adding the technology.

Adding new services has an expensive upfront cost, but Mindrum said it is important to offer the best services for the customers no matter the venue the customer chooses.

Investing in mobile services also helps the smaller institutions compete with the large banks.

A national bank is physically everywhere, with branches, ATMs and services available in cities across the country and sometimes the world, but through technology, customers of a smaller institution can do their financial business 24 hours a day, almost anywhere in the world.

"It's expensive to get into the business early on," Mindrum said. "That being said, the benefits and service behind it allows it to move forward."

Through its app, America First Credit Union customers can make person-to-person payments, make a payment through an email or text, and can apply for a loan.

One of the America First app's latest features allows customers to browse a list of cars for sale or scan a VIN bar code and apply for an auto loan immediately.

In June, America First launched ABC Deals. Through the program, mobile app customers get rebates from local merchants that have partnered with the credit union.

Mindrum said the credit union can offer all of these services through mobile banking because of the willingness of their customers.

"When we offer something, they are fast adopters to that technology," Mindrum said. "We have a membership whose reactions to what we are doing justifies why we're doing it. We have a membership that enjoys tech and we enjoy providing it."

The use of mobile banking is growing rapidly, said Julie Conroy, research director for Boston-based Aite Group, which has researched use of financial applications on smartphones.

"We're seeing mobile banking grow by leaps and bounds," Conroy said. "This is the year where mobile banking will outpace online banking."

For most financial institutions, the number of mobile users is still a small fraction of their business. Most people still do their business in a branch or online.

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