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We got the chance to interview Eric Acree, executive vice president at Vantage Credit Union (VCU) about the TweetMyMoney program VCU launched in 2009. VCU was early to the social scene when they launched TweetMyMoney, the world’s first banking-by-Twitter service, on September 28, 2009. The service is available exclusively to Vantage members and is free of charge. With TweetMyMoney, members can monitor their account balances, deposits, withdrawals, holds and cleared checks with simple commands. Members can also transfer funds within their own account to different account types (checking to savings, checking to loans, etc.).

We chatted with Eric to learn more about the program:

Q: Where did the idea for the campaign come from, and how have you seen it grow over the past three years?

A: The idea for TweetMyMoney came out of an internal online brainstorming session between some technology staff and business staff (all participants were social media users as well). At that time, we did not have a ton of money available to hire a firm to create a mobile app, but we desperately wanted to provide something to our members. So, we were discussing possible ways to create a mobile banking solution for little money. There was much discussion on how we could possibly use SMS technology, which then led to ways to possibly use Facebook and Twitter. The Twitter platform provided the perfect opportunity for us and we were already familiar with it. Not everyone uses Twitter and not all Twitter users are comfortable using TweetMyMoney. So the growth of the service (when compared to more traditional/mass market mobile banking solutions) has been relatively small. However, we have several hundred members who use the service a lot, on a regular basis. It’s important to note that Vantage is currently developing more traditional mobile banking apps and plans to offer them to members late this summer. We will have a native mobile banking app for the iPhone, Android and iPad.

Q: What (if any) benefits do members receive from using TweetMyMoney versus SMS banking notifications?

A: There isn’t much difference between the two technologies since TweetMyMoney operates in a similar way to SMS. From a cost standpoint, using TweetMyMoney is a much cheaper option for Vantage since we did not have to invest money into a SMS infrastructure. For members who are Twitter users, the benefit is using a familiar technology to quickly and safely obtain information about their accounts. Obtaining information via TweetMyMoney is faster than using a web page (or even a mobile app) since TweetMyMoney does not require the same log-in steps.

Q: How have you addressed security concerns/questions around using Twitter to send and receive confidential banking information? Do you get many member inquiries about security concerns over using Twitter, or are they excited to have a new way to access financial information?   

A: Like other technology innovations launched in the past, TweetMyMoney quickly generated a lot of passionate commentary and opinions in the technology blogosphere after we announced its launch. We have incorporated several security layers and measures to ensure it is safe to use. When members use TweetMyMoney, the information contained in their tweets, as well as the information sent back to them, is generic, e.g. transaction commands, dollar amounts, dates, account code types, etc. In fact, most of this type of information is sent to millions of people every day by virtually all financial institutions in the form of e-alerts. If a member’s Twitter account was somehow compromised, all a hacker would see is this generic information, which is useless to the hacker. The key point is: no account number, nor other sensitive personal or account information, is displayed in TweetMyMoney. All the sensitive information is kept safe at Vantage behind the online banking firewall. Vantage also implemented a new security feature called Correspondence Authentication Codes inside our online banking service. So, every outbound electronic communication originating from Vantage (including tweets from TweetMyMoney) contains a unique code for each day of the week, thus ensuring the message is authentic when the member recognizes their unique code. Members can view and change these codes from their user profile section of our online banking service. In summary, we have taken extraordinary steps to ensure TweetMyMoney is safe. We ran its design and security controls by an industry-leading firm that has an exceptional track record in their line of work. They provided an unbiased opinion and helped validate our approach before we launched TweetMyMoney. Just for the record, in the nearly three years of the TweetMyMoney service being live, we have experienced ZERO security problems. Not one single security breach of any kind has occurred with TweetMyMoney.

Q: Vantage CU is socially savvy, with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels. What platform do you see the most member engagement on? Are members more interested in interacting with Vantage CU via Twitter or Facebook?

A: We are active on our Twitter handle and Facebook page. Our YouTube channel has few subscribers and we plan to utilize this platform more in the future. But, we see the most engagement with our members via Twitter.

Q: Final thoughts before we wrap up this interview?

A: The real beauty of TweetMyMoney is we have devised a safe and innovative way to communicate important financial information via an unsecure social media network. TweetMyMoney was our first (and boldest) mobile banking step, but we are excited to be bringing the native mobile banking apps for iPhone, Android and iPad users later this summer.

Want to see more of TweetMyMoney? Check out VCU’s videos about the program or connect with VCU on Twitter.

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Compelling voices and contributed content from around the web

James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Brad Strothkamp

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/brad_strothkamp

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.