Boeing Employees' Credit Union, the nation's fourth-largest based on assets, has
signed agreements with Firethorn Holdings LLC and MShift Inc., two companies that will offer mobile banking and, in a few years mobile payments to the credit union's
550,000 members.
  The credit union, also known as BECU, signed an agreement to use a mobile-banking
application from Firethorn that members download to turn cellular telephones into
mobile-banking devices.
  The credit union also signed a multiyear agreement with MShift, Gary A. Morrison,
director of mobile banking and mobile extensions at NCR Corp., tells ATM&Debit
News. NCR, a Dayton, Ohio-based ATM manufacturer, is a reseller of MShift's products.
BECU, which is based in Tukwila, Wash., purchased 50 SelfServ ATMs from NCR in
February. NCR provided MShift with a prominent place at NCR's 2008 Self-Service
Universe executive conference in April in Orlando, Fla.
  MShift offers cellular-phone access through its Wireless Application Protocol, or
WAP, browser application, and Short Message Service, or SMS, which is the world's
most widely used data application, Morrison says. WAP provides the basic services of a computer- based Web browser, but it is simplified to operate within the restrictions of a mobile phone.
Consumers download Firethorn's application to their mobile phones or purchase
cellular phones with the application already downloaded from one of
Firethorn's three partners–AT&T Corp., Verizon Wireless Inc. and Cellular South
Inc., says Kelly Buday, Firethorn spokesperson.
  BECU plans to offer its members a choice between MShift and Firethorn.
The credit union encourages members to interact remotely when conducting
such simple transactions as checking balances. BECU suggests members visit
branches when conducting complex transactions, such as applying for a mortgage,
says Todd Pietzsch, a BECU spokesperson.
  Some 80% of BECU members prefer to bank online, withdraw cash from ATMs
and communicate with their financial institution with an interactive voiceresponse
system.  "They already have told [BECU's management]
by their actions they want mobile banking as another way of interacting
with the credit union," Kenneth Myhra, the credit union's senior virtual banking
manager, tells ATM&Debit News. "We have 45 branches in western Washington, but
only two branches carry cash." The credit union operates 150 ATMs.
  Firethorn, which is based in Atlanta, and MShift say they will turn BECU members'
cellular telephones into mobilebanking devices and eventually into
mobile wallets. Mobile banking enables cellular phone users to check balances, pay
bills and transfer funds between accounts, Morrison says.
  Mobile payments, which would turn consumers' cell phones into electronic
wallets, requires the owner to equip his cellular phone with a Near Field
Communication chip for short-range, high-frequency wireless communication.
That enables the exchange of data between devices 4 inches apart.
Once cellular phone owners have the chip, they would pay at the point of sale
by tapping their cellular phone on a NFC reader, Budkay says.
But Morrison says mobile wallets will not become widespread until as late as
2012, when NFC readers are expected to reach critical mass in the United States.
  NCR has invested in Vivotech Inc., a leading NFC software provider. BECU is facilitating the payment function of electronic wallets through recent agreements with
Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide, Myhra says. CheckFree Corp., now part of
Fiserv Inc., has signed an agreement with BECU to process electronic-wallet transactions, Myhra says. The agreement between Firethorn and BECU calls for
the credit union to begin offering mobile banking by the first quarter of 2009,
Myhra says. NCR expects to offer BECU members mobile banking in eight to 10
weeks, maybe quicker, Morrison says.
  Qualcomm, a digital wireless company based in San Diego, owns Firethorn. BECU
has assets of $8.3 billion.

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