Banks get a bad rap for not being innovative enough. But at least one provider is proving the haters wrong: Early this year, U.S. Bank launched Mobile Photo Bill Pay, a feature that lets mobile bankers add a new payee simply by taking a picture of a paper bill or statement.

This mobile feature – powered by technology solutions company Mitek – goes beyond “nifty” With it, U.S. Bank offers customers an easier, more convenient, and more elegant cross-channel experience for a common activity. It helps the bank by increasing the number of customers who use digital bill pay – and deepening relationships with customers. According to Niti Badarinath, SVP and head of mobile banking at U.S. Bank, “Getting people to become active users of bill pay is key to our digital strategy, because we recognize the value and stickiness of the relationship when people pay bills." (taken from a recent article in American Banker)

How it works

When U.S. Bank launched mobile photo bill pay, I immediately pulled up my U.S. Bank iPhone app and took this new feature for a test drive (see screenshots below). Put simply, this is an innovation that delivers: A customer can go from opening a bill he got in the mail to enrolling a brand new payee to paying that bill in under 150 seconds (a.k.a. less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds). This is without setting up any bill payment options in advance, or entering any information manually – the mobile photo bill pay feature even corrects for image distortion, reads relevant data and auto-populates all the information.

Why it’s good for U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank makes it easier for consumers to switch banks – or deepen their relationship with the bank – with mobile photo bill pay. Why do banks love online and mobile bill payers? Because they’ve got their electronic hooks into them and know these customers will be hesitant to switch banks because of the hassle of having to unwind online bill pay and establish their payees all over again at their new bank. The simplicity of U.S. Bank’s mobile photo bill pay will also help the bank encourage existing bill payers to increase the number of bills they pay digitally. As such, there is value for both parties: Customers get a more convenient way to enroll a payee and pay a bill, while the bank gets more – and stickier – digital bill payers.

What it means for the future of mobile banking

U.S. Bank’s mobile photo bill pay is both a next-generation mobile banking feature, and a step forward in banks’ efforts to enhance digital banking experiences.

For mobile banking strategists, this new feature reveals a new opportunity – one that’s been a topic of discussion for a while now. It is also further evidence of the role mobile can play in other areas of banking, such as supporting account opening and application processing: it’s easy to envision customers taking pictures of drivers licenses, uploading documents for application approval, taking copies of checks to fund an new accounts, and more.