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Today there are eight community credit unions and banks that have gone LIVE with an app for watch banking. That’s right, you got it, only one top ten bank announced an app for the Apple Watch and there are ten in total according to recent press in American Banker. Eight of those ten are small when compared to the other behemoths in the top ten. In fact, you could add ‘em all up, times 100 and they would be smaller than those big money center banks. And yet, these community organizations are out-innovating BofA, Chase, Wells, etc. This is the future. Community financial institutions are out-innovating money center banks and, now that Apple Watch is live TODAY, eight have a “watch banking” app in the App Store.

Building SmartwearApps was an interesting road. Would the apps be ready? It was close but our teams worked right up to the minute. The development tools almost brought us down but a lucky trip to the Apple Watch Labs in CA saved our bacon. For obvious reasons we did NOT have access to the Watch for early testing. However the stars aligned and we gained entry to Apple Watch Labs. Turns out the app behaved differently on the actual Watch hardware than it did on the desktop simulator we had been using, the only tool we had to test the app. While at Apple Labs we ran SmartwearApps on the actual Watch, made a quick fix and all was good.

One by one, all eight apps have been approved and released to the App Store. Eight out of eight, wow! What fun! As when we launched our first mobile banking app four years ago, we had a lot to learn. When you submit to Apple for approval, you learn. And you resubmit, and resubmit, and resubmit… We can attest however, that Apple clearly was encouraging Watch app submissions as the review process was “wicked-fast”. Apple was really engaged in giving feedback on the apps and all in all it was an enhanced experience over submitting an iPhone or iPad app.

It is a proud day for community financial institutions and I will predict here that we will have many more live in the coming months well before the big banks decide to act on watch banking. Watch banking will get a huge starting today when millions of Apple Watches hit the street. It is an exciting time once again in the world of alternative, self-service channels.