Mobile banking picks up speed in California Wine Country

US consumers are using mobile digital apps more than any other method to connect with their banks, based on a nationwide online survey.

And North Bay financial institutions are taking advantage of this technology to reach customers who are increasingly not physically visiting their branches.

“The ABA survey shows that consumers overwhelmingly appreciate digital tools that make banking easy. It also shows that Americans recognize how the (banking) industry’s investments in technology are helping to bring millions more unbanked households into the banking system, an acknowledgment of the role technology is playing in promoting financial inclusion,” said Rob Nichols, American Banking Association president and CEO.

Survey results show mobile banking remains the most popular banking access channel for consumers by nearly half (45%) of respondents, followed by online banking (27%) and branch visits (14%).

Nichols said 95% of those surveyed this year rated their bank’s online and mobile app experience as excellent (47%), very good (38%) or good (14%), and 84% said tech improvements make it easier to access financial services . The survey was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the association Sept. 16–17 from samples of 2,211 adults.

While electronic digitization of financial operations has been underway since the mid-1980s, mobile “Neo” banking adoption exploded during the pandemic resulting in a marked spike in digital access beginning after 2019 and accelerating as banking customers sheltered in place and stayed away from indoor public gatherings, including the workplace.

Mobile banking apps are becoming multi-generational and universally used. Google found that 5 out of every 10 mobile uses prefer to use them over mobile websites and other platforms to manage their accounts, and approximately 90% of users use mobile banking apps to view are account balances.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation biennial survey found some 43.5% of households saying mobile is their primary method they use to access their accounts, compared with 22% that chose online banking. FDIC based its findings on Census Bureau data gleaned from 30,000 US households in June 2021.

Local bank and credit union outlook

North Bay financial institutions have benefited from mobile app digital conversions that offers the ability to take a photo of a check and digitally deposit in a bank account using a smartphone — also enabling consumers to take advantage of other financial services any time day or night.

“Exchange Bank has seen a 17.5% increase in mobile device logins since January 2020 and a 38.9% increase in mobile app check deposits,” according to Tony De Mattei, digital channels product manager.

According to De Mattei, Exchange Bank last year consolidated its Bennett Valley branch with the Reinking branch in east Santa Rosa shopping center Montgomery Village. Also in 2021, it reopened an ATM across the street from the previous location on Yulupa Avenue in the Bennett Valley community of east Santa Rosa, and consolidated the College Avenue and Coddingtown branches on the west side of the city, but kept the Coddingtown ATM open .

The bank opened a new branch in Sebastopol in 2020 for west Sonoma County customers.

Tony Hildesheim, chief operating officer of Redwood Credit Union, which has 19 North Bay and San Francisco branches, said the Santa Rosa-based institution has focused on convenience and online security.

“Like many others we saw a sharp spike in the use of digital services due to COVID-19,” Hildesheim said. “We’ve always taken a holistic view of our members and have worked hard to offer as many convenient and secure digital banking options as possible.”

About 85% of RCU’s membership uses digital banking channels, averaging 4 million log-ins a month. Of that total, 63% use mobile apps as the primary form of account access, trending upward; 22%, a combination of mobile apps and website-based access, remaining constant; and 15% web only, continually decreasing.

Hildesheim said that for five years mobile app use has surpassed the website as the preferred method for accessing accounts and conducting business. Members are using the app typically every other day to deposit checks, review balances, send money or manage their payment cards, he said.

During the height of the pandemic, all the credit union’s locations remained open.

“Our focus in times of crisis is staying open and serving our members — making sure they have access to their accounts and to the services they need,” Hildesheim said. “We also took the opportunity to introduce those members who did visit our branches to the benefits of saving a trip and convenience of conducting transactions from the safety of their home.”

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