Old School Goes High Tech: Banks embrace voice, touch, thumbprint and texting

From big banking establishments to local credit unions, many financial institutions are ramping up their security, overhauling their mobile apps or rolling out other new tech features or services to make life easier for their customers.

The growing popularity of online and mobile banking is either pushing banks to invest more in these areas or inspiring them to add new perks and services designed to encourage physical branch visits. The TCBN spoke with numerous banks and credit unions to learn about the latest technology innovations that are affecting local finance.

 TBA Credit Union

According to Marketing Director Christie Dompierre, TBA Credit Union has been busy with tech upgrades and other developments this year. In particular, the credit union has been focusing on improving its mobile and online options to streamline the banking experience for customers.

In May, TBA updated its mobile app to include five different login options: thumbprint, voice, face, PIN code and standard password login. Dompierre says the upgrade will help “add convenience and security” to TBA’s mobile banking platform. TBA also has plans to add card controls to its mobile app, which would allow app users to activate or deactivate their debit cards via mobile.

In addition to mobile upgrades, TBA has also fleshed out its online banking options to offer customers more freedom and flexibility. It’s now possible to open an account with the credit union online. TBA has also embraced a new feature called ClickSWITCH, an online service that helps users transfer automated payments from an old bank account to a new one.

“It saves a lot of time and paperwork,” Dompierre said of the feature.

Clients can now also text with TBA’s text-enabled main line. Dompierre says the new line spurred a 100 percent growth in text message engagement for TBA between January and July of this year.

4Front Credit Union

4Front Credit Union has made headlines throughout northern Michigan this year for the installation of VideoTeller Interactive Teller Machines at its credit union locations. The VideoTeller machines combine the face-to-face personal assistance experience of going into the lobby with the speed and convenience of drive-thru banking. Each VideoTeller machine looks like a standard ATM, but features a video screen that connects the customer to a 4Front team member for a video chat. The system offers a more personalized experience for drive-thru customers and expands the list of transactions and services that 4Front members can complete without taking time to go into the lobby.

In July, 4Front announced that it had installed a VideoTeller machine at its Hastings Street location in Traverse City. So far, VideoTeller has only been available in one of the four drive-thru lanes. However, 4Front says that VideoTeller services should be available for the other three lanes by press time. VideoTeller services are also available at 4Front’s branch locations in Mancelona and Petoskey.

Independent Bank

Earlier this year, the Grand Rapids-based Independent Bank completed a $63.2 million deal to acquire Traverse City State Bank. The old Traverse City State Bank locations have changed branding to Independent Bank and will also be a part of the company’s new policy changes and business upgrades. Technology upgrades fall into that category.

According to Lane Soloman, senior communications specialist for Independent Bank, the bank will be rolling out two major tech upgrades this fall. The first is integration with Zelle®, a money sending platform comparable to PayPal and Venmo. Soloman says that Zelle will allow customers to send money to anyone with a bank account in the United States through the Independent Mobile app, using the recipient’s email address or U.S. mobile number.

Like TBA Credit Union, Independent Bank will also be adopting card controls this year. These controls, accessible through the Independent Bank app, will give customers more say in how their debit cards can and cannot be used.

“[Customers] can control how, where, and when their cards are used, and can turn the card on or off with the touch of a button,” Soloman said. “They can also set location-based controls, set spending limits, and block international transactions.”

Nationwide Banking Institutions

In addition to local or regional banks and credit unions, numerous national banks in northern Michigan have recently announced major new tech developments or innovations.

JPMorgan Chase announced in August that it had enabled “cardless transactions” to the majority of its 16,000 ATMs. Cardless transactions allow Chase customers to access cash through an ATM using a mobile wallet app instead of a physical debit card. These ATM machines use near-field communication to detect mobile devices and communicate with mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.

In July, Fifth Third Bank announced that it would be rolling out “fee-free cash and account access” via ATMs at 7-Eleven stores. Of the 8,500 7-Eleven stores in the United States, Fifth Third customers will be able to enjoy free ATM access at nearly 8,000 of them.