15 Minutes With … John Schulte

John Schulte
Chief Information Officer of the $2.8 billion-asset Mercantile Bank of Michigan in Grand Rapids, Mich.

IB: Tell us about Mercantile Bank?

Schulte: We are headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., and have locations from Lansing to Holland. West Michigan is known for having a diversified economy with specialties in office furniture, manufacturing (auto suppliers, biopharmaceuticals, aerospace), medical education and research, and a large base of successful and philanthropic family-owned businesses.

IB: What’s your favorite thing about being an IT leader?

Schulte: I enjoy having the freedom to develop strategic partnerships and back them up knowing I have the people here who can execute and make them successful.

IB: Tell us about your bank’s partnership with PayPal. How did this opportunity develop?

Schulte: Our partnership with PayPal began with a simple phone call to discuss opportunities to bring PayPal innovations to the banking world. We felt strongly that mobile payments would be a key offering, and knew that PayPal had the exceptional experience, reach and brand to help us get there faster.

With PayPal’s help, we integrated their payment functionality into our online and mobile platforms, providing a seamless experience that allows our customers the convenience of managing all their payments in a single app. We are able to process the transaction real-time and allow the recipient immediate access to spend those funds in their PayPal account. This innovation has helped us replace higher-cost traditional transaction methods, like check or cash, and offer our customers another reason to use our mobile apps by having convenient solutions to everyday needs.

IB: What project are you working on right now?

Schulte: We’ve been gearing up for a transition in online/mobile banking services that will allow us to deliver a broader base of online/cash management services with a seamless, integrated customer experience across all customer access points. This will allow our customers to access mobile banking in an optimized manner suited to whatever device they are using.

IB: What’s the next mobile solution you’re planning?

Schulte: We are excited about our soon-to-launch partnership to deliver a truly next-generation [personal financial management] experience both online and mobile. Another element we are piloting is the integration of desktop/mobile video chat support using the same backbone as our Virtual Banking platform just launched at a local university.

There are also great opportunities for community banks to participate in the evolution of mobile wallets. We are talking with our strategic partners to look at ways to “localize” the wallet experience to our communities/merchants and integrate value-added banking services like [personal financial management].

IB: What is your favorite app on your smartphone?

Schulte: Besides my obsession with banking and finance apps, I really enjoy Flipboard for browsing through various content sources and social media feeds, and the Animoog Synth is great for fooling around with making music on the go. You should check it out.