First Financial launches Picture Pay; First regional bank in the country to offer Mobile Photo Bill Pay

Q&A with Jeff Casey, Senior Vice President at First Financial Bank, N.A., Abilene Texas

Q: First Financial is the first regional bank in the country to offer Mobile Photo Bill Pay – you are calling the service "Picture Pay" - how did this come about?
Jeff: With the popularity of First Financial’s mobile services and mobile deposit in particular, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with mobile financial services. With smartphone sales outpacing PC sales, consumers are forgoing the traditional desktop or laptop and choosing mobile or tablets as their primary connection method.  We realized that we can’t force our customers to flow through the online channel.  We didn’t want to bolt on a mobile delivery option with our online services – We wanted a distinct mobile channel that could stand on its own.  As part of our mobile strategy it was important to have a robust mobile check deposit solution and bill pay solution. 

After successfully deploying Mitek's Mobile Deposit in the fall, we found that customers love the convenience of using the mobile device camera to snap a picture to deposit a check. We believe applying the same concept to paying a bill is the next generation of bill payment and would be an incredible new convenience for our customers. We worked with Allied and Maluzai to create a really compelling app that leverages Mitek's Mobile Photo Bill Pay technology. 

Q Why is the mobile channel so important?:
Jeff: Mobile is critical to the growth of our bank and all banks as people become more dependent on the mobile channel. We believe over the next ten years, accessing your financial data through the online or mobile channel will be as commonplace as using a debit card, ATM or writing a check, today.  As more and more users untether from traditional online access and move towards smartphones and mobile devices, mobile banking will become increasingly important as a primary interaction channel. In fact, we found that five percent of our retail user base are mobile-only users. The commonality of mobile users is the camera on their device. Some transactions on the mobile device have been challenging, for example the bill pay enrollment process on the mobile device was difficult. But Mobile Photo Bill Pay makes it easy for our customers to simply snap a picture, enroll and pay bills.  

Q: How has "Picture Pay" been received so far from customers?
Jeff: In just two weeks we've had 125 mobile payments, and a surprising number of expedited payments. We believe that this technology is perfect for not only onboarding and ongoing bill payment, but also for those bills that get buried under a pile on the counter, or get forgotten in a briefcase and need to get paid immediately or face expensive late payment penalties. We are offering our customers overnight and two-day services that our customers are taking advantage of.  The demographics are surprising, we always expected our younger customers to embrace the technology, but some of our most frequent users have been baby boomers.  One customer said it best, “I like to think I’m as smart as most teenagers, so I can do it too!”.

Q: How do you think "Picture Pay" will impact First Financial?

Jeff: We believe that Mobile Photo Bill Pay - "Picture Pay" is going to make our customers mobile champions for the bank.  Let’s face it, early adopters love having the latest and greatest features.  We view the mobile channel as strategically as or more important than the online channel.  As we continue to strive to innovate with our mobile services these customers are an invaluable source of feedback and act as our mobile advocates. We believe they are going to be proud to have this service and will show their friends. Allowing our customers to “show-off” what their bank can do is a  huge win for the bank and our customers!