U.S. Bank Deposit Point II: Will Pay-for-Deposit Last?

U.S. Bank Deposit Point II: Will Pay-for-Deposit Last?
In March, U.S. Bank launched two consumer/small business products after extensive pilot testing: • Deposit Point, a desktop RDC product bundled with its online banking solution. • Deposit Point Mobile, Initially available to U.S. Bank Mobile Wallet users who have an iPhone. Following up on my previous post, Celent finds two aspects of the product launch noteworthy. 1. U.S. Bank is making both desktop and mobile RDC available to its consumer and small business retail banking clients 2. It is charging $.50 per deposit for the service. The last post addresses the former. This post address U.S. Bank’s move to charge for the service in an environment where most banks charge monthly fees for commercial RDC products while offering consumer RDC free of charge. Some have proclaimed U.S. Bank’s price point for Deposit Point a non-starter. Celent offers two responses: • We don’t think so, and • We hope not We don’t think so: To call the idea of charging consumers and small businesses $.50 per deposit a non-starter denies RDC’s concept strength. RDC saves time and money – and it’s “green”. All three benefits are compelling to many consumers and small businesses. It’s not clear how much testing U.S. Bank did prior to establishing a price point for its Deposit Point. Obviously, some customers will pass on the idea once the price point is known. Fine! Alternatives are available for those customers preferring to drive to a branch or ATM and stand in line. More importantly, launching Deposit Point with an associated fee establishes that the convenience of RDC indeed has value. The bank is free to bundle Deposit Point with other services or to discount the product in the future. We expect it to do so. In the meantime, the bank should be able to enjoy some early-mover benefits. To do otherwise would be leaving money on the table. The fee structures accompanying PayPal, Popmoney and ZashPay suggest there may be some sustainability to a pay-for-deposit RDC model. We hope not: Will the pay-for-deposit model survive? One thing is certain, a raft of large banks are gearing up to launch mobile and consumer desktop RDC products of their own in short order. But for the next year or two, these financial institutions will be in the minority. And most that do launch consumer RDC products will not make them available to the mass market because of the perceived risk in doing so. Most consumers won’t have access to RDC. This opens up a sizeable market for third party, bank-neutral solutions – as long as there is revenue to be had in return for the risk taking. The next six months will be telling.

Mobile RDC: What’s the hold up?

Mobile RDC: What’s the hold up?
Now that the dust has settled on remote deposit capture, RDC, for commercial customers, a relatively small number of financial institutions are looking towards measured expansion of the technology to include wealth management, micro business and private banking clients. Some even contemplate making RDC available to a broad consumer base using suitably equipped mobile phones as the image capture device (a.k.a. Mobile RDC). Yet compared to the meteoric adoption of commercial RDC, this subsequent market expansion is moving at a snails pace. What’s the hold up? More specifically, beyond a handful of financial institution pilots, why have so few banks launched initiatives? The most commonly cited adoption barrier is risk. In particular, some argue, the risk of users depositing the same item more than once. In addition, the FFIEC guidance, Risk Management of Remote Deposit Capture, January 2009, admonishes financial institutions to undertake careful risk mitigation and controls when deploying RDC, including determining which customers are suitable for RDC, training them appropriately, and developing appropriate systems monitoring and reporting capability. Some financial institutions have concluded that attaining all these requirements amidst serving a customer base as potentially vast as the consumer or small business market is untenable – or at least more trouble than it might be worth. Given the state of things in financial services, who could fault a financial institution for being risk adverse? Yet, something tells me that risk is only part of the story – or worse, a convenient justification for inaction. The larger challenge for financial institutions contemplating adopting mobile RDC is what to do with all their branches. Over eighteen months ago, Celent surveyed over 150 commercial RDC deploying financial institutions and found that even then, in RDC’s formative years, a third of banks experienced a significant reduction in branch transaction volume as a direct result of RDC (Figure 1). Since that survey fielded, total RDC client adoption has more than doubled, displacing more branch traffic. A significant small business or consumer RDC initiative would have a more profound impact.

Figure 1 – RDC’s Impact on Branch Traffic, December 2007

Source: Celent FI survey, December 2007, n=157

Source: Celent FI survey, December 2007, n=157

We’re not prophesying the end of branch banking. Rather, we’re suggesting that some amount of branch infrastructure reengineering is a likely prerequisite to enjoying a respectable return on investment in mobile RDC. Many banks already are grappling with declining branch profitability. Fixing that problem will likely be costly and protracted. Branch closures may stop the hemorrhaging, but systemic redesign is needed. In this context, a successful consumer RDC launch would exacerbate the pain already being felt and hasten the need for the really big task of branch redesign. This makes FFIEC compliance looks easy by comparison. RDC (mobile or otherwise) is, after all, a customer self-service channel. Unlike other self-service channels that have largely added customer transactions (yet with great benefit), RDC eliminates trips to the branch by definition. Check transactions remain the #1 reason banks have tellers. Mobile/consumer RDC could change that in a big way. That may be the big reason for hesitation at some banks.

USAA’s Mobile Remote Deposit Capture Initiative

USAA’s Mobile Remote Deposit Capture Initiative
A Different Kind of Bank: Why you’ll Never Need a Branch Again” was the title of last evening’s USAA Webinar merchandizing its mobile banking initiative. USAA was the first bank that we’re aware of to deploy remote deposit capture to consumers in any meaningful scale. With three years under its belt, USAA now supports well over 150 thousand active users on its Deposit@Home product. For perspective, this is more than ten times the number of RDC clients of any other US bank. Now, it’s at it again – this time, enabling mobile banking users to deposit checks using suitably equipped mobile phones. Scoffers are quick to point out that USAA is an anomaly. Indeed it is. USAA Federal Savings Bank serves 5+ million members – all from a single branch in San Antonio. Well, not exactly. The bank happens to have a single branch in San Antonio. Obviously then, USAA cannot rely on its branch network as many banks do to serve its customer base. With assets of $35b (March 2009) and nearly triple the industry average deposit growth over the past three years, USAA appears to be doing just fine without an expensive branch infrastructure. Its transaction mix is rather unlike most banks. Already, USAA has over 1 million mobile banking users, and the service is barely eighteen months old. USAA’s ambition with its mobile banking and mobile deposit service is simple- to make it convenient for its members to bank with USAA whenever and however they wish. Hmmm, that sentiment sounds remarkably similar to that offered by a large number of what we might call traditional retail banks also investing in self-service delivery channels. Observing USAA’s initiative begs the question; will mobile remote deposit capture become broadly adopted by retail banks just as internet and mobile banking has? Mobile RDC is both a great concept and an operationally sound approach – at least the Mitek powered solution is. It represents a powerful way to migrate significant transaction volume from branches to a low-cost self-service channel. In our research, Celent found that nearly 90% of teller transactions involve checks, and a full third are simple check deposits. Why not empower consumers to deposit checks themselves at a fraction of the cost of teller transactions?

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We think most banks will pass on the idea. Why? Because mobile RDC is disruptive. It may delight millions of consumers, but it also would challenge the status quo among retail operations organizations, forcing rapid change in ways few banks may be prepared to embrace. USAA doesn’t have this problem. Over a short period of time, USAA has transformed what was once a significant competitive disadvantage (no branches) into a compelling competitive advantage. Its membership and deposit growth proves it. Retail banks need to pay attention.