A few weeks ago, Oklahoma’s largest bank hit a key milestone, one its been watching closely for the past four years.

For the first time, BOK Financial had half of its deposits made digitally — at an ATM that scans checks or via a mobile phone the same way — across its eight-state footprint. That meant the company’s customers were, like most of those with bank accounts, embracing the mobile reality of modern banking.

Officials from three local banks, including BOKF, say that mobile adoption rate is only going to increase as existing consumers become more comfortable with technology and as younger consumers, who are already more comfortable with smart phones, become a larger part of the customer base.

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For a mid-sized regional bank holding company like BOKF, it signaled that its investment in digital is paying off. Other banks with a strong Tulsa footprint, such as Arvest Bank and RCB Bank, said the same, having hit similar benchmarks with digital deposits over the past few years.

BOK Financial — the parent company of Bank of Oklahoma — is the largest bank in the Tulsa area by market share of deposits. Arvest is third and RCB is fifth, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

Tulsa seems to be no different than most markets nationwide. In some of the same ways e-commerce has rattled the foundations of the brick-and-mortar store, mobile banking by itself surpassed the use of bank branches for the first time in 2015, according to a study from research group Javelin Strategy.

Hundreds of bank branches have closed in recent years. BOK Financial has shuttered most of its grocery store locations and either not replaced them or, built smaller, more technologically advanced branches.

Telling story of convenience

Hardly a commercial break between innings in the Major League Baseball playoffs has gone by without a national bank using it as an opportunity to push its mobile banking application.

Arvest, RCB or BOKF don’t have the same scale of the national brands trying to capitalize on sporting events, but executives say that the national messaging helps their customers download their product, too.

“As you can imagine, the larger institutions that have the ability to have a very broad and loud voice, they’re only helping us,” said Thomas Hay, senior vice president and director of product management at Bank of Oklahoma.

Hay said banks all across the country are helping each other by telling the “underlying story” of convenience.

James Weddington of RCB Bank agreed that the messaging of the larger banks such as Chase helps RCB get downloads on its mobile app without even advertising it.

“We don’t have to do the TV advertising,” said Weddington. “Because it’s led by them.”

Kim Adams, executive vice president and sales manager at Arvest Bank, said customers were waiting for Arvest to roll out mobile deposit because of the broad impact of the national banks’ messaging.

Brick and mortar falling

Hay is confident that the mobile and digital deposits will continue to grow. The industry is too. Javelin forecasts that more than four-fifths of customers will use mobile banking.

That anticipated reality has affected how BOKF and RCB are building and formatting their branches. On Campus Corner in Norman, RCB has a branch with two employees compared to the dozens branches used to have and that some still do. Using television screens, customers can consult someone at the Claremore headquarters more than 100 miles away.

BOK Financial has video-conferencing available at some branches. Hay said the convenience of digital banking has changed consumer habits and how the bank branch operates.

“It definitely changes the dynamics of the banking center,” said Hay. He said customers now do a lot of research online, but still make decisions in the branch.

Bank of Oklahoma’s new branches around the state are being built with that in mind, adding more meeting space and natural light to make it more welcoming and less associated with the transaction-heavy past.

Adams said Arvest is adapting to the slight decline its seen in branch traffic that comes as mobile and desktop deposits grow every month.

“When those changes occur, we have to adapt to that,” said Adams. “What we’re trying to do is train our associates for other functions so that they’re more of a universal banker.”

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Samuel Hardiman 918-581-8466

sam.hardiman@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @samhardiman