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07:49 AM
 Maura Ammenheuser
Maura Ammenheuser
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Colorado Credit Union Rolls Out Mobile Service

CSECU extends its two-year-old online banking services to members with wireless Web access.

Colorado State Employees Credit Union (CSECU) plans to extend its two-year-old online banking services to members with wireless Web access. SensCom will provide the technology that allows the Internet and consumers' handheld gadgets to talk to each other.

Of CSECU's 70,000 members, 11,000 use Home Banking, its online service, according to Ernie Arterburn, vice president of information technology.

Once CSECU goes live with its wireless Internet offering in August or September, members will be able to conduct the same transactions via a Web-enabled cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA), such as a Palm Pilot, as they do from home, Arterburn said. Those tasks include monitoring account balances, transferring funds, paying bills and more.

The wireless version will include "the same functions, the same navigational steps as our Home Banking does," Arterburn said. However, wireless users won't be able to view check images or print information, as they could with a PC.

Very few Home Banking customers will likely use the wireless services initially, Arterburn acknowledged, but if eventually 5% do, he'll consider wireless a success. The service is being offered not to build revenues, but for convenience, he said. The online banking clientele are "people we want to maintain. It's people who are very into technology."

San Diego-based SensCom provides wireless technology to financial institutions. The core technology is basically a digital translator between the WAP (wireless application protocol) that a consumer's PDA uses and the Web programming format of CSECU's Internet banking system, explained Robin Richmond, executive vice president of marketing and alliances at SensCom. SensCom's servers "decontent" the credit union's Web site, stripping out images, for example, to communicate only the information the wireless unit needs, such as account numbers and balances. Then the servers convert the data to the standardized wireless protocol and send it securely across the wired Internet to the wireless system.

SensCom promises nearly unlimited scalability. The company will monitor the credit union members' use of the wireless service, then allocate server capacity to accommodate growth, Richmond said.

That sounded good to CSECU officials, Arterburn said, in part because the credit union hopes to launch a credit union service organization, or CUSO, in about 18 to 24 months. The organization will be a separate company, able to sell investment products, insurance and trust accounts, which credit unions currently are not able to offer under law, Arterburn said. The union wanted assurance that its wireless technology provider could accommodate the extra business long-term, he added.

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