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Investing in future via mobile app

Florida’s Axiom Bank pursues underbanked market using digital offering

AxiomGO is the mobile app specifically designed for the underbanked by its namesake bank. AxiomGO is the mobile app specifically designed for the underbanked by its namesake bank.

Axiom Bank, N.A., tends to think out of the box, and now it is thinking way out of the branch as well. Recently it launched an effort that will take it from a presence in central Florida to a national stage, with a product designed as an investment in the potential of underbanked consumers.

For much of the $560 million-assets bank’s history, it was a savings institution, initially a mutual and later a stock savings organization. Two years ago Axiom converted to a national commercial bank charter. All but two of the bank’s 24 locations are based in Walmart stores.

Axiom, based in Maitland, Fla., has offered mobile banking for some time, through an app that its core provider maintains. However, last December the bank launched a new mobile app, AxiomGO, not to replace the existing service but to provide an entirely different channel designed initially for underbanked consumers.

The app, intended in part to attract immigrant workers, is available in both English and Spanish, and includes a full-suite of mobile services, including person-to-person payments, payment via mobile bill pay, and more.

“We were trying to bank those people who don’t have a laptop,” explains Ron Strand-Sorrell, executive vice-president and COO—customers whose digital life occurs completely on a mobile device. Marketing, given the audience and the medium, has been a combination of word of mouth and social media outreach via Facebook and Instagram.

Serving the mobile-first population

Indeed, Sorrell says AxiomGO was conceived as a way of reaching consumers who were unlikely to even visit a Walmart branch and who wanted a low-cost, convenient, mobile-based banking alternative to prepaid cards and traditional checking accounts.

As the design process got underway, the bank was influenced by the BankMobile mobile app that was originally launched by Pennsylvania’s Customers Bank, with which Axiom had a business relationship. (Last year Customers sold BankMobile to another Florida bank.)

From the bank’s perspective, given its target market, the ability for applicants to download the app and then handle the opening of their account completely within the app was key. This includes all the essential elements for customer identification under know your customer standards.

Strand-Sorrell notes that as the bank’s former Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money-laundering officer, a reliable process was critical to him.

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“We’ve seen a few denials,” he says of a process that includes elements from multiple vendors.

Malauzai was the main partner for design and deployment of AxiomGO, but additional partners playing a part in development were BOLTS—for account opening; Geezeo—for personal financial management software built into the app; Allied Payments—for PicturePay service; Payveris—for P2P service; and Ensenta—for consumer remote deposit capture.

How the account works

Strand-Sorrell says the chief direct source of profits on the accounts, which have proven popular not only among the target audience but also among mobile-primary Millennials, is fees.

The account has a $25 minimum opening deposit. Any time the balance falls below $500 a monthly charge of $5.99 is due. (So far the average balance has been a bit under $100, according to Strand-Sorrell.) Payments can only be made electronically or via plastic, with no checking available, but transactions are free at 55,000 Allpoint ATMs nationwide as well as at the bank’s own machines. (The account also entitles the user to a debit card.)

“For us, AxiomGO is a toehold,” explains Strand-Sorrell. “We can start marketing other products to them.” In May the bank plans to roll out a credit card option, and in time CDs and other savings options will also be promoted to these customers. Strand-Sorrell says the bank hopes that AxiomGO will be a relationship-building tool.

A major part of the account’s appeal has proven to be the budgeting tool built for the bank by Geezeo. Strand-Sorrell says this helped sell one of his daughters, a young mother of two who prefers to do everything on her mobile device

In mid-April the bank plans to roll out AxiomGO nationally, after piloting it in six southeastern markets.

Steve Cocheo

Steve Cocheo’s 39+ years in financial journalism have taken him to all 50 states and nearly every corner of financial services in companies from fintech startups to community banks to regional and national giants. He is executive editor of Banking Exchange and digital content manager of www.bankingexchange.com. Previously he spent 36 years on the staff of ABA Banking Journal and 22 years concurrently as editor of ABA Bank Directors Briefing. He is the only journalist to have sat in on three federal banking exams, was a finalist for the Jesse H. Neal national business journalism awards, and a winner of multiple awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. In 2017 he received three awards from ASBPE: National Gold, National Bronze, and Regional Silver. Connect with Steve Cocheo and Banking Exchange on LinkedIn. Follow Banking Exchange on Twitter

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