CU Wireless Brings Secure Mobile Banking To Customers with Twilio SMS

Chris Giles

Credit unions are known for great rates—but not necessary great technology. The mission of CU Wireless, a subsidiary of Maps Credit Union, is to change that. Formerly known as Credit Union Wireless, the company offers technology services and financial apps to nearly four million credit union members around the country.

In the course of rolling out a mobile banking initiative, the technology team at CU Wireless sought a telephony partner that would provide secure, scalable and reliable service at an affordable price. It was particularly important to the team to provide credit union members with information in real time to increase the value of their SMS banking application.

After hearing about Twilio on developer forums, Loren Paulsen, the team’s lead software development manager, decided to move the SMS banking application from an existing provider to Twilio’s cloud communications platform.

“On the technical side, Twilio had the cleanest, most modern API that we saw in any vendor in the SMS space,” Paulsen said. This made it easier for Paulsen to build new products to benefit credit union members, as well as to add features to existing products.

After testing a prototype, Paulsen contacted the Twilio team to move the company’s existing short code from its current provider to Twilio. CU Wireless leases a short code, which is a special five or six digit number, for mobile banking services to ensure that all messages are delivered in real time.

“One of the things that was helpful was that I could sign up and start using a sandbox number without any financial commitment,” Paulsen said. “That made it easy to evaluate the service.”

Once the short code was transferred, Paulsen quickly integrated the text banking app with Twilio. He said the process took less than a week, noting Twilio’s REST API and C Sharp helper library made the process of porting the application particularly easy.

The goal of the text banking app is provide a secure and convenient way for members to access their accounts on the go. By texting certain key words to the short code, members can check their balance, recent transactions and the details of any loans they have from their credit unions.

In addition, members can use text messaging to transfer money or to sign up for proactive notifications. also known as SMS alerts, so that they receive a text when they have a low balance or make a deposit.

Though the primary goal of moving to Twilio was to gain access to better technology, CU Wireless has also enjoyed substantial cost savings. Paulsen said the company is saving almost 50 percent on text messaging costs and 33 percent on short code costs.

But the biggest gain is member experience. Chris Giles, general manager at CU Wireless, underscores the importance of reliable, speedy and accurate mobile services. He and Paulsen use the applications they develop and evaluate them from an end-user perspective. Giles said Twilio is helping them meet their goal of making the services as low friction as possible. “We are heavily invested in the customer experience,” Giles said.