By Ron Daly, President/CEO
Virtual StrongBox, Inc.

No. 1 on my list of overused, misunderstood phrases is “mobile first.” Google it and you’ll likely see: Mobile first means …

  1. “smartphones, tablets and task-specific apps employees use as work tools.”
  2. “a customer who manages his bank account on a mobile app instead of online or the branch.”
  3. “millennials, who do everything on their phones.”
  4. “advice for marketers to rethink their ‘customer experience’ and remap their ‘customer journey.’ ”

One prominent bank core-processor’s definition of mobile first is depressing: “It’s consumers who prefer to bank only on their mobile devices, or turn to the mobile channel first – so-called ‘mobile-first’ users.” Wrong. Mobile first isn’t a group of people, or today’s marketing push, or just another channel.

What’s mobile first … really?

IMHO (to borrow from my teenager’s texting lexicon), Technopedia’s definition nails it: “Mobile first strategy refers to companies’ increasing tendency to design their products for mobile phones or devices before making correlate designs for traditional desktop and laptop computers.”

In his book, The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company, former Director of Merchant Integration, John Rossman, writes that much of Amazon’s success is tied to “designing capabilities from the user backwards.”

Think about this. If we started from scratch, would we bolt mobile banking onto another program bolted onto a legacy system? Or could we look at it from the user backwards?

My friend, Jeffrey Pilcher, CEO/Publisher of The Financial Brand addressed this topic in his May article, Core Banking Systems: The Industry’s Achilles Heel. Pilcher says it’s time for major core upgrades: “Many have been nursed along for decades with little more than bandaids, duct tape and some chicken wire. If you’re going to compete in the Digital Age, it’s time to bite the bullet and get serious about a core conversion.”

Is cloud technology a safe solution?

While it’s costly to replace legacy systems, connecting existing systems and workflows to cloud technology isn’t. It’s a smart way to connect your technology to members’ technology, with employees using the same consumer tools: smartphones and tablets.

Most institutions fear switching to the cloud because of security concerns – and rightly so. It’s vital for high-security-risk industries, like banking, to safeguard consumers’ private information. But it’s possible to have both security and up-to-date technology.

Moving legacy systems to the cloud allows streamlining your operations so you can redeploy employees to areas needing human touches. It also positions your credit union to offer members simple, intuitive mobile-banking services – just like they expect from other mobile apps.

At Virtual StrongBox, we’ve addressed clients’ security concerns through our patented, highly secure, end-to-end encryption technology. Credit unions provide individual, online “safe-deposit boxes” to members for storing important files like deeds and wills. Then they use that same secure process for exchanging files, like members’ loan documents.

Legacy core systems represent a huge investment; but against new technology, they’re quickly outdated. Cloud technology can work with legacy systems so your credit union remains competitive in a mobile-first world.