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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. Eight of those ten are small when compared to the other behemoths in the top ten. In fact, you could add them all up, times 100 and they would be smaller than those big money center banks. And yet, these community organizations are out-innovating the bigger competitors. This is the future. Community financial institutions are out-innovating money center banks.


The Diary Begins

Watch Launch Matrix

“Hell yes!”

That was the response from one of the first customers we asked to join us on this crazy journey. That was the end of March 2015. From there we knew we were on to something….

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.

The Wheels are in Motion

One by one, all eight apps were 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.

Watch Demo

Features at a Glance

What’s interesting, when thinking about wearables, there is the issue of secure login. There is not a keyboard on a smart watch. V1 of watch banking mainly contains glances of data that are presently available in mobile banking apps. For example, you can get a quick balance view without having to log in. Watch banking has extended the quick balance feature to a new, easily accessible screen that sits right on your wrist, again without having to log in. It’s still secure and authenticated but no ID and password data entry is required, particularly convenient when dealing with a significantly smaller mobile device. You can also view transaction history for all available accounts and access a branch locator. It also offers advertisement /educational space for the institution. The app provides multi-language capability to support English and Spanish-speaking users.

Why Did We Do It?

The fact that we had this platform already built where we could just build a new UI experience on top of it like we had done with mobile banking, iPad, and Internet. This was really good test of that, it was a test of that concept – can we build one platform that can drive all UI and user interaction experiences, and doing it a condensed timeframe, and can it really stand out?

We really wanted to show that community financial institutions could out innovate everyone else. Eight out of the 10 apps on the watch that are live today are from banks under $5 billion. That’s a huge success. We also thought it would be a fun test to see how much buzz we could create. We love to go fast, so for us to show innovation at speed in less than 40 days into market, it is almost impossible to do, and it was kind of neat as a stretch goal. 1,2,3, we did it-all three of our objectives.Watch for Employees

What’s Next?

In V2 of watch banking we will go beyond glanceable data and move into transactions. This requires additional security to make a payment, for example. Or what about ACH approvals? You better have the end-user sign in for that. So, how do you do that on a tiny device without data entry functionality like typing in a user ID and password? What’s funny is that login failures already hover at 15% on the much larger smartphone. That means people fail to log in more than 1 out of 10 times. Imagine how bad this will be on the tiny Watch! But alas, there are solutions. PIN-based login is very feasible. This is where an end-user has already set up a four digit PIN for mobile banking and it can be extended to the Watch. Out-of-bank authentication can be used to send a one-time passcode to the end-user via their mobile device and this code can be entered into the watch.

This has been a fun journey, we’ve learned a lot, we’ve validated our business model, our team gained valuable skills and as an added bonus we treated all Malauzai employees to a private viewing at the local Apple store to pick out their brand new watch. Priceless.