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IBC Builds a Second-Generation Mobile Offering

After coming to market swiftly with mobile banking, IBC Bank evolves its mobile platform to meet skyrocketing consumer adoption and changing user preferences.

To swiftly answer demand for an iPhone app, IBC Bank leveraged its existing online platform. But the Laredo, Texas-based institution, a subsidiary of International Bancshares Corp. ($11 billion in assets), soon outgrew the mobile solution, recalls Jennifer Alvarado, IBC's Internet services manager. "In 2008, we used open financial exchange [OFX] as a communications pipe between our online platform and our mFoundry mobile solution," she explains. "But this created limitations, such as the inability to show pending transactions."

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According to Kevin Mullins, IBC's SVP of electronic services, the bank considered abandoning the OFX technical standard in early 2010. "But our customers were rapidly adopting many different types of Internet-enabled devices," he says. In order to again meet demand quickly, "We decided to roll out wireless application protocol browser capabilities by adding the latest version of mFoundry, which did not rely on OFX," Mullins adds. But now the bank was left running two versions of Larkspur, Calif.-based mFoundry's SaaS-enabled mBanking solution.

Upon the successful debute of the WAP-enabled capabilities in December 2010, Mullins relates, IBC circled back to explore whether consolidating onto the latest mFoundry version or updating the bank's online platform would provide the institution with more return on its investment. Ultimately, Mullins reports, IBC determined that the mFoundry consolidation was the more strategic initiative, as it would enable the bank to offer an app for Android devices in addition to its iPhone app and to provide WAP-enabled bill pay -- powered by Chantilly, Va.-based Online Resources -- across all mobile devices. (The bank postponed the online update to 2012.)

After establishing an October 2011 rollout target, a two-person IBC team, headed by Alvarado, began working on project requirements in June 2011. Development by mFoundry proceeded in tandem. When testing began in August 2011, however, some previously fixed bugs recurred, resulting in delays, Alvarado says. Then mFoundry updated its hosting environment in late fall. "This pushed our rollout into December," she reports.

Holiday Blues

Later, in early December, a planned two-phase rollout began successfully with the launch of online bill pay. But during the second rollout phase, another problem arose. "In mid-December we went live with the new Android and BlackBerry apps as well as an upgraded iPhone app," Alvarado recalls. "But iPhone users quickly began posting reviews saying the upgraded app didn't work. That same evening we pulled the app from Apple's app store."

Because the old iPhone app could not be restored to the app store, IBC entered the year-end holidays without an available iPhone app, until a working version debuted on Jan. 3, 2012. "Since then, we've learned the issue isn't isolated to mFoundry, but frequently occurs when developers upgrade their apps," Alvarado notes. "Regardless, our users are posting positive reviews about all of our new apps. Plus, mobile adoption continues to spike." As a result, Alvarado adds, the bank has enjoyed improved profitability, since "cost per user is definitely less than via the branch channel."

Now the focus has shifted to uncoupling mobile and online banking user IDs. The goal, according to Alvarado, is to establish "mobile only" users rather than requiring users to register through the online platform, as is the case today. "If a mobile customer never uses online banking, other than to register, then we're essentially paying for that user twice," she points out.

Moving forward, IBC plans to continue discussing enhancements with mFoundry, including in the area of analytics, Alvarado notes. "However, we're extremely happy with our mFoundry partnership overall," she says. "Our mobile offerings definitely give us a competitive advantage, and we have robust apps that stand up to those at banks of any size."


Institution: IBC Bank, a subsidiary of International Bancshares Corp. (Laredo, Texas)
Assets: $11 billion (International Bancshares Corp.)
Business Challenge: Update mobile banking platform
Solution: Larkspur, Calif.-based mFoundry's mBanking platform

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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