October 17, 2013

Demonstrating that a successful technology initiative often is as much about market insights and customer relationships as the actual technical execution, Fairwinds Credit Union is profiting from a recently implemented iPad new account origination app targeted to students of University of Central Florida (UCF), following UCF's selection of as its official student banking services partner.

Fairwinds has deep ties to UCF, one of the largest universities in the nation with more than 60,000 students. The credit union has been the official credit partner of the UCF Alumni Association since 2005. As part of the student banking program, the credit union provided an on-campus branch and ATMs, and has integrated its card payment services with the university's existing student ID card program, reports Charlie Lai, Fairwinds' EVP and CIO and a 2012 Bank Systems & Technology Elite 8 honoree.

[Read more about what Charlie Lai and other 2012 Elite 8 honorees have been up to over the past year: BS&T's 2012 Elite 8, One Year Later]

"To help heighten our on-campus presence and create a positive initial member experience for students, we needed to leverage technology to extend account origination services beyond the branch, in a simple, streamlined manner," Lai reports. "As is common with any university, UCF hosts student orientation events before each semester and given the size of the university, these events can be quite large. Orientations are often a dizzying experience for new students and parents, and the credit union knew that to be successful, our efforts had to engage students quickly, based on their available time."

To facilitate student engagement, Fairwinds' technology team embarked on an internal development project to extend its existing account origination capabilities to the iPad tablet via a new mobile app designed specifically for credit union staff to use during orientation events. Fairwinds had developed an in-house branch account origination platform in 2011 that streamlines the membership and account origination processes to take just a few minutes. Extending these capabilities through a mobile app required several key elements, including developing to meet specific needs/processes of the students, ensuring the usability and resiliency of the app under a variety of conditions around the campus and maintaining a strong security profile.

As part of this feature set, the app also needed to facilitate the linking of the student's ID card (essentially a dual-purpose reloadable card) to the student's checking account. App development was completed in roughly three weeks and was piloted in December 2012.

The credit union so far has opened more than 1,500 student accounts using the app. Furthermore, Lai explains, the solution has enabled Fairwinds staff to move out of the branch to interact and provide financial resources to students and parents on their own terms, in a simple manner – the essence of today's concept of a great, omnichannel customer experience. The app will also serve as the foundation for the credit union's other branches to transform in-branch retail service delivery, a move that is planned for later this year or early in 2014, Lai reports.