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CO-OP's new venture expands cooperative model vision
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (2/4/13)--With the introduction of CO-OP Sprig last week, CO-OP Financial Services took what it believes is a major step toward creating the virtual credit union branch.

What was once a "pie-in-the-sky" idea--the ability to make transfers from any account to anyone from a mobile device--is fast becoming a reality, especially for consumers who are credit union members.

CO-OP Sprig, CO-OP's version of the virtual branch, is built around credit unions' shared branching model.

"Because of how shared branching is built, we have the ability to move funds between credit unions," said Stan Hollen, CO-OP Financial Service president/CEO. "If you have accounts at different credit unions and those credit unions are connected to the switch, you can move money. If you have the need to make a payment to a friend or neighbor or co-worker, you can make that transfer."

The model offers credit unions a strategic advantage over their banking counterparts in an area of financial services that is primed for growth, according to Hollen.

"There's a lot going on in the payments arena," he said. "It's accelerating. But this is unique. It is something that is special to the credit union industry and it's because of the movement building shared branching."

CO-OP Sprig is the first phase in CO-OP's multi-phase plan to expand the product's person-to-person features and network range into a true digital wallet and beyond, and to make it perform as a virtual credit union branch. In its initial phase, CO-OP Sprig is an in-network solution, allowing members to make transfers between, or payments to, any of their accounts.

Transactions can include savings, checking or loan accounts residing at any credit union participating in CO-OP Shared Branching or connected to CO-OP Connect, the switch that enables CO-OP Sprig. 

In-network "me-to-me" and "me-to-you" payments are supported in this release of CO-OP Sprig, and remote deposit capture via Apple iPhone.

Future phases of the service will include out-of-network "me-to-anyone" payments, a point-of-sale option and remote deposit via Android-enabled smartphones.

Me-to-anyone payments likely will be enabled with a cell phone number or an e-mail address, Hollen said.

Using CO-OP Sprig, credit union members transfer money from their deposit accounts based on real-time good-funds-availability model, rather than the delayed automated clearing house model. Members can make transfers between their accounts and immediately verify funds are available in the destination account.

"It's no different using your smart phone than using your PC at home," Hollen said. "Most credit unions have apps that will lead you straight that credit union's online banking system. While it's called mobile, it's really smart phone access to the Internet."

And the ability of smart phones to connect to the Internet will drive payments growth, including the development of such applications as CO-OP Sprig, Hollen said.


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