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USAA Dials Up iPhone App

USAA unveils iPhone application that gives customers mobile access to their insurance, banking and investment accounts.

Recognizing the growing popularity of mobile devices in general and the iPhone in particular, USAA has released its own iPhone application. USAA Mobile App allows users to manage their insurance and other financial services products from their Apple iPhone.

Through the application, users can view their USAA insurance, bank and investment accounts and account histories, according to the San Antonio, Texas-based financial services provider. The app also allows users to pay bills, transfer funds among accounts, receive stock quotes and view electronic copies of their insurance cards. Additional features include a rental car locator, a loan calculator tool and an auto accident checklist. The app is available for free download from Apple's iTunes store.

USAA ($119 billion in owned and managed assets) has placed a priority on mobile technology over the past few years, notes Jeff Dennes, the firm's executive director of mobile and money movement. In December 2007, for instance, the company launched a mobile-optimized version of its Web site. Today nearly 11 percent of USAA's membership uses the company's mobile service offerings, according to USAA.


USAA executives estimate that currently 40 percent of all traffic to the mobile site originates from users on iPhones. In the first quarter of 2008 it was even higher -- roughly 70 percent of traffic to the site was from iPhone users. "As we continued to see that trend and Apple opened up its App Store, it became apparent to us that the iPhone is the best experience, and if you create an app for the phone, it's that much better an experience," says Dennes.

USAA offers insurance and other financial services products to the members of the U.S. Armed Services and their families. As such, USAA's customer base is both young and transient, as the military moves them around the globe, making mobile access a key component to maintaining a high level of customer service, Dennes explains. "They're also a little bit more technology-savvy than your average U.S. consumer," he adds. "So they tend to adopt our technology quickly, and mobile just fit right in line with that."

USAA Mobile App was developed internally, Dennes says, within the company's research and development lab. "Because this was all new technology to us -- it was a different software development kit, etc. -- we handled it all as R&D work and took that work all the way to production, which is not something we would normally do," he reveals.

A team was put together in September 2008 and development work for the app started a month later, Dennes estimates. The app went live and was made available for download in mid-May. "It's not small," Dennes says of the development work. "When you're talking about an integrated financial services company, that [systems] integration is tough. But the app itself is pretty simple."

Since the initial release, the company has rolled out additional functionality, Dennes reports. In late June it announced a remote deposit capture (RDC) capability for its banking customers. That new function allows users to take a picture of a check with their iPhone and submit it to USAA for deposit. At press time the RDC capability was expected to go live in early August, according to a USAA source.

Perhaps a key differentiator for the new USAA iPhone app is that its functionality expands across financial services, suggests USAA spokesman Paul Berry. "There might be other apps out there that do one thing," he says. "This is one that handles all your financial services needs all in one place."

Dennes adds, "The big thing for us is that we didn't just focus on one thing, be it banking or insurance. We made sure that we offered the full suite of everything that we offer to customers within the app. With one app they can manage their finances and also take care of their insurance and investment needs." --Nathan Conz

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