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How a Midsize Credit Union Delivered the Digital Benefits of Apple Watch

by on August 1, 2019

When you begin life as the credit union for IBM employees, you quickly learn that your members are always going to be early adopters. This is why the team at Amplify Credit Union made our new Apple Watch feature a priority this past year. After all, today’s luxuries are tomorrow’s standard features, so we needed to deliver on our promise to be a forward-looking organization.

As of Wednesday, July 24, our members can now enable the Amplify Credit Union feature in their app to access account information directly from their Apple Watch. Members can view up to 20 accounts with a flick of the wrist, including the ten previous transactions for each account. For those members who have enabled Apple Pay – using their Amplify credit card or debit card – this feature ensures that they can review transaction and balance information without the use of their phone.

In short, we’ve brought the most commonly desired elements of the banking experience out of their pocket and onto their wrist. And if the current trends in the smartwatch industry are any indication, now is the time for other financial institutions to follow suit. Here are four lessons we learned from working with digital banking solutions company Q2 to develop an Apple Watch feature.

Stay a Step Ahead of Wearable Technology

Smartwatches are no longer a technology you can comfortably ignore. According to an analysis by Counterpoint Research, smartwatch shipments jumped over 48% in year-over-year growth between January 2018 and January 2019. As the smartwatch market hits maturity, prices will begin to fall, leading some experts to predict even more rapid growth in 2019 and beyond. Smartwatches are no longer a novelty piece of technology. They are the Next Big Thing.

And one company is outpacing the rest. Strategy Analytics recently reported that Apple finished 2018 with a 50% market share; meanwhile, other major vendors like FitBit (12.2%) and Samsung (11.8%) barely finished in the double digits. Even given the rapidly changing marketplace for wearable technology, these numbers provide financial institutions like ours with a clear starting point. Apple’s current market share made it a natural place to begin exploring the wearable market.

Don’t Slow Down the Swipe

But our desire to provide Apple Watch functionality for our members was about more than just the hardware. Our new feature provides our Apple Pay users with their account information when and where they need it the most. In February 2019, venture capital firm Loup Ventures LLC estimated that 43% of all iPhone users had enabled Apple Pay on their devices, a number that has risen rapidly from their previous research in December 2017 (20%) and September 2018 (36%).

For credit union members who have made Apple Pay a regular platform for financial transactions – by linking their Amplify credit union debit or credit card to their Apple Pay account – the opportunity was to enable them to perform the other most common activity on the same device, which is viewing balances and transactions. As contactless payments increasingly become the standard throughout the industry, we wanted to provide users with the access they needed to bank confidently. If they’re still required to take their phone out of their pocket to check their balance, we’re working against their current technologies, and that does not bode well for us in the long run.

Chase Solutions, Not Technologies

These two factors – an expanding market for smartwatches and the increasing popularity of Apple Pay – drove our decision-making throughout the process, but they were always a means to an end. We didn’t start just with a vague desire to build a smartwatch app. We started with a straightforward question: how do we provide our members with fast and convenient access to their account balances, both today and in the future?

By keeping the focus on the experience of our members – and not just on adding new technologies for the sake of adding new technologies – we were able to make informed decisions about the value this functionality could deliver for our members. We don’t have unlimited resources, so listening to our members and finding their pain points allowed us to land on a solution to this particular money management challenge. Once we identified the answer – make it easier for our members to check their balances on the go – the technology was the next step.

Build Up from a Strong Foundation

Finally, it’s worth noting that our decision to invest in delivering an Apple Watch feature only came after years of hard work on our online banking platform. That included adopting upgraded authentication methods – such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanning for the Amplify Credit Union app – to ensure our members were able to access online banking quickly and securely on their phones and tablets. This is probably one of the biggest lessons relevant to any financial institution: avoid adding new products or services if basic functionality isn’t yet delivering what your members need. In partnership with our colleagues at Q2, we prioritized our long-term digital goals, put first things first, then proceeded to expand capabilities for our members.

While we’re still working with our partners at Q2 to measure the adoption rate of our Apple Watch feature, so far, we couldn’t be happier with the feedback from our members. Based on their interests and digital appetite, we plan to continue pursuing new and creative solutions to their banking challenges and staying one step ahead of the technology curve.

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Brad Clutter, Digital Banking Product Manager – Brad has been with Amplify Credit Union since 2017 and working in the industry since 2007. Throughout his career, he has overseen online product offerings at multiple credit unions and digital banking providers.

This content is for CU BUSINESS eMagazine + WEB ACESS and THE TEAM BUILDER (GROUP SUBSCRIPTION) members only.
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