City Bank Texas

Point-and-snap bill pay keeps mobile customers happy

By Elizabeth Judd

For some banking consumers, the most taxing part of paying a bill is snapping a photo of the payment coupon, and a little additional thumb twiddling.

This spring, City Bank Texas introduced a bill payment app for its mobile banking customers. The Lubbock, Texas-based community bank, which has $2 billion in assets and roughly 34 retail locations, already had a large and loyal base of mobile bankers. But those customers began telling the bank they wanted to pay bills from their iPhones, iPads or Androids, a feature the bank’s main banking app didn’t offer.

Not having a bill-pay feature for mobile customers became “a pain point,” explains Jim Simpson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at City Bank Texas. He emphasizes the importance of a bank knowing its customers and catering to their preferences.

“Statistics show you can lose your wallet and not realize it,” he says. “But if you misplace your phone for five minutes, you’re in a panic. Our customers like to bank by phone.”

City Bank Texas’ mobile bill payment app system, called Picture Pay and provided by the Allied Payment Network Inc. in Fort Wayne, Ind., frees users from the tedious task of manually entering payment information, such as business name, address and account numbers, into an online system. The mobile device’s camera is used within the app, so users can photograph the payment coupon themselves.

After verifying the amount to be paid, the app’s user sees a calendar, selects a payment date and then hits “submit.” The following month, when the same bill arrives, the user hits “pay again” and adjusts the amount and payment date. The next payment is set to go.

Simpson notes the bank’s mobile app provider was the first (and at the time, the only) vendor providing mobile bill pay solutions he found. Even so, he did his due diligence. “You want to get face to face with the top brass of the third parties you’re going to use,” he says.

Simpson appreciates the vendor’s administration portal, which lets the bank review all payments. If a customer contacts the call center to ask about a payment, a bank employee would have all the information necessary to answer knowledgeably. “Even though we’re working with a third party, we’re the ones held accountable for that bill,” he says.

As of August, the average mobile customer at City Bank Texas paid just over two bills a month through his or her smartphone, with a typical payment totaling around $190.

For City Bank Texas, the mobile payment app is one key piece in a rapidly growing list of mobile capabilities. Immediately after launching its mobile app in November 2011, the bank began texting account information to customers. A year later came mobile remote deposit capture, allowing users to photograph both sides of a check and deposit that check automatically into their accounts. Coming soon are mobile solutions for the bank’s business customers.

Today, more than 60 percent of City Bank Texas’ online banking customers are active mobile banking users, who average about 37 years of age. Within the mobile banking contingent, more than 10 percent tried the bank’s mobile bill payment system this summer, and those numbers are steadily growing (mobile bill pay usage at the bank jumped more than 20 percent between July and August).

For Simpson, the greatest boon has been customers switching to mobile bill payment and other mobile offerings. “When a customer will leave another bank for our mobile app, that’s definitely a win,” he says.

Elizabeth Judd is a writer in Washington, D.C.