USAA is the first U.S. bank to announce a retail remote deposit capture app for the iPhone, yet another coup in the single-branch bank's stealth dominance of mobile banking adoption.

The iPhone-based RDC tool comes three years after USAA began offering consumer remote deposit capture using scanners to its seven million members, who have proven to be willing adopters of remote access technology.

"The iPhone-RDC offering is pretty compelling," says Nick Holland, a senior analyst at Aite Group, who says the USAA's range of mobile banking products and high adoption numbers are impressive given market conditions and the budgetary restrictions in place. "Banks are not evolving their mobile products now, it's not seen as mission critical."

Mobile banking is mission critical for USAA, and has given the bank the opportunity to turn a competitive weakness into a competitive advantage, says Jeff Dennes, executive director of mobile and money movement at USAA. More than 11 percent of USAA's members - about 800,000 customers - use its mobile banking services, making it the second largest publicly announced mobile banking deployment after Bank of America's milestone of two million customers. (JP Morgan Chase and Citibank likely have more than USAA, but both are mum on adoption.) "What's notable is [USAA is] actually making noise about it, whereas we're finding other institutions have it on the back burner for the moment," Holland says. "With the exception of Bank of America, there just aren't a lot of metrics out there."

Texas-based USAA presented its business case at SourceMedia's Mobile Commerce Summit in Las Vegas in June, and along with it detailed numbers on its mobile banking deployment. Among them: The bank had 7.9 million mobile logins in the first half of the year, after about 7 million total in 2008, with a one-week high of 476,000 logins. About 35 percent of these logins come from Blackberrys, another 35 percent from iPhones.

The bank's original mobile banking iPhone app is one of the most popular in the financial services segment, with 55,000 downloads and 45,000 logins during the first week it was available in May. The iPhone app, which was built in-house at USAA, gives customers banking and investment access - including the ability to trade stocks - as well as services related to car insurance.

USAA currently offers three modes of access: Browser based at its Website, mobile.usaa.com; downloadable apps from Firethorn and for iPhone; and two-way text banking. Holland says the downloadable Firethorn application and mobile browser are valuable, but it's text banking applications that have become "critical," with the others "less important than having a good text messaging component that allows you to get alerts and real-time information to the customer."

On tap are downloadable apps for other smart phones and a person-to-person payments application for the iPhone. And in the first publicized development of its kind, USAA will offer social networking and personal financial management tools connected to bank accounts as a mobile app.

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