Fintech mobile applications and the new era of personal finance

11 min read
June 2, 2021

Mobile technologies have transformed consumer industries, but none as profoundly as financial services.

Mobile apps have become the touchpoint of choice for millions of banking customers to manage their finances. With expectations rising, digital banking teams know they need to continuously iterate their mobile apps to ensure that they build their mobile banking experiences around customer needs.

Forrester

As installations, session times, and retention rates of fintech mobile applications continue to rise, engineers and managers working in the financial sector or at fintechs must innovate to keep ahead.

This article provides an overview of the 2021 fintech mobile app market, including key consumer trends, mobile app technologies, the impact of Europe’s PSD2 regulations, and how financial mobile app development experts like DECODE can help.

What is the Significance of Fintech in 2021?

Historically, “financial technology” has been used to describe multiple innovations in finance.

Today’s “fintech” centers around consumer-facing technologies that streamline financial activities for which consumers traditionally turned to banks—saving, investing, and making payments, for example.

AREAS IN FINTECH

DESCRIPTION

Lending

Marketplace lending and alternative underwriting platforms.

Blockchain / Crypto

Companies leveraging blockchain technologies for financial services.

Regtech

Audit. risk and regulatory compliance software.

Insurance

Companies selling insurance digitally or providing data analytics and software for (re)insurers.

Personal finance

Tools to manage bills and track personal and/or credit accounts.

Payment / Billing

Payments processing, card developers and subscription billing software tools.

Capital markets

Sales and trading, analysis and infrastructure tools for financial institutions.

Wealth management

Investment and wealth platforms and analytics tools.

Money transfer

International money transfer and tracking software.

Mortgage / Real Estate

Mortgage lending, digitalization, and financing platforms.

In most cases, fintech provides these capabilities to consumers without another human getting involved.

Fintech startups are therefore disrupting established market competitors like traditional banks and investment firms by providing similar services, often with improved user experiences and reduced costs.

Increasingly, this newfound accessibility is making it easy for atypical customers to participate in finance, especially younger adults.

Each new capability of this kind is designed specifically to compete with traditional, cumbersome processes that appear outdated compared to capabilities in other consumer verticals.

They are designed to accommodate underserved but high-opportunity markets as well.

Now, mobile apps have become a critical platform for most fintechs—no matter their purposes, capabilities, or markets.

Case in Point: Mobile Payments

2020 and 2021 are characterized by dramatic changes in how we interact with one another; how we exchange currency is no exception.

But the 2021 fintech trends driving the mobile payment processing market actually have been underway for some time.

Today, mobile payment applications are facilitating intuitive, UX-driven payments between individuals and companies.

Streamlined navigation, simplified transactions, and the ease of access mobile apps provide make these tools worthy competitors in the traditional payments market.

That’s why traditional banks are embracing mobile payments as well—by building their own solutions, partnering with fintechs, or acquiring fintechs themselves—some of them searching quite aggressively.

Today’s mobile payments platforms provide services that traditional banks have not approached themselves, including:

Mobile wallets that integrate with traditional banking accounts to streamline payments to other individuals and businesses, often through the ease of a mobile app

fintech mobile applications

Proximity payments that allow consumers to use their smartphones when paying in person, often through “contactless payments” via near field communications (NFC) technologies

near field communications NFC technologies

Post-payment or “post-pay” mobile applications that allow consumers to make a purchase online now and receive an invoice for that purchase later, often after the product is delivered to their homes. And others.

What each of these capabilities has in common is that they integrate with our daily lives in ways banks have not been able to before.

Beyond simply providing services, mobile apps allow fintechs to provide additional, value-added capabilities in the same platform—such as budget management tools, spending tracking, and automated reminders—which can be easily updated or improved via mobile connectivity.

A Closer Look at the Evolution of Fintech Mobile Apps

Broad consumer adoption of mobile payment apps has led to more widespread acceptance of other types of mobile apps as well.

Venture capital investments in fintech startups grew from $1.1 billion (USD) in 2009 to $44.1 billion in 2020 as fintech markets diversified and mobile apps became more accessible and accepted.

Fintech 2021

In addition to mobile payment apps, mobile apps for digital investments and “regtech” have seen unexpected increases in adoption. Here is a closer look at how fintech mobiles apps are expanding:

Investments apps allow users to trade stocks directly from their mobile devices; they often provide automated services like reminders and analytics, and integrate with traditional platforms for tracking market trends as well.

The growing popularity and accessibility of platforms like Robinhood and Revolut have shown us the staying power of this new type of mobile app.

investement app installs
Source: Apptopia

Regtech apps help financial service firms streamline complex compliance requirements so they can ensure a superior user experience for mobile app users; they “help reduce costs, streamline transactions with government, and see technology be used for better monitoring” as ZDNet describes.

The RegTech market is expected to grow from $6.3 billion in 2020 to $16 billion by 2025.

opportunities in regtech
Source: RegTech Market – Global Forecast to 2025

Both investment and RegTech apps exemplify how mobile apps can empower users and provide a better experience, even in a complex industry like finance.

Traditional financial institutions (FIs) are experiencing their own growing demand for superior mobile app development capabilities as a result.

What Are the Most Active Areas of Fintech Innovation?

Today’s fintech revolution is a step forward on a much longer path to consumer empowerment in finance.

Key trends and technologies in fintech mobile app development include:

  • Automation
  • Gamification
  • Voice commands
  • Open banking
  • Microservices
  • and others

Technology will increasingly remove barriers and uncertainties around financial health, and empower consumers to make better daily decisions with their money and financial relationships.

Innovations with machine learning and artificial intelligence mean automation can work on behalf of users even when they aren’t using a fintech’s mobile app.

Apps will learn about users themselves, developing a deeper understanding of their habits—good and bad—for more personalized recommendations about financial decision-making.

Fintechs will streamline customer service as well, eliminating barriers to online customer care, with which many banks continue to struggle today.

Still, both fintechs and traditional FIs have accepted that mobile apps are an ideal way of delivering new capabilities to consumers.

“Consumers are turning to finance apps at record levels amidst volatility in the market and uncertainty over the economy from the coronavirus pandemic,” Amir Ghodrati, App Annie Director of Market Insights told Forbes in 2020; by 2021, half of U.S. retail banking customers had used a mobile app, including 14% increase in mobile app usage among the largest banks.

That is to say, these disruptions have not gone unnoticed by traditional FIs who are aggressively investing in fintech-style technologies themselves.

Goldman Sachs launched Marcus, their consumer lending platform, in 2016, for example; other major FIs are taking steps to become less entrenched in “business as usual” as well.

The Rise of Super Apps in Fintech

As fintechs consolidate a wider variety of complex financial services into mobile apps, they are driving adoption of individual apps that capture an even wider variety of functions—“super-apps,” which have several or even dozens of capabilities in and outside the realm of traditional finance.

super apps in fintech

Already popular in Asia and Latin America, fintechs in other markets are increasingly embracing a super-app approach.

Super-apps may soon become a disruptive force in other financial markets as they use “their vast wealth of data to deliver better services” than traditional FIs and even modern fintech companies, as KPMG describes.

A combination of superior, data-driven insights; universality of financial services; and the ease of use facilitated by mobile apps means super-apps could soon become a dominant force in U.S., European, and other major markets.

How super apps create more value for businesses

  • Drives growth
  • Creates more ways to engage with existing customers
  • Open new customer bases via partnerships
  • Reduce re-acquisitions cost
  • Attract large amounts of investement
  • Create a uniform and individual user experience

Popular super apps like WeChat and Alipay are gaining enormous success in Asia.

WeChat managed to achieve a $7 average revenue per user (ARPU) which is 7X the ARPU of Whatsapp. At the same time, it exceeded 1Bilion daily active users in 2021.

“Super apps are the natural evolution for digital titans,” one digital business expert describes. “There’s no need to download other apps, get acquainted with their use dynamics, entering personal or payment information several times, and [interact] on different sites.”

PSD2 Increases the Relevance of Mobile Apps in Finance

The new PSD2 directive in Europe is only increasing the relevancy of mobile apps in fintech.

The ‘Revised Payment Services Directive’ is designed to improve consumer access to banking data; but also, inspire innovation as it requires secure exchanges of data between FIs and third parties, to the benefit of consumers.

In practice, banks and other FIs will have to create APIs open to any third-party provider that wants to initiate payment services on behalf of consumers.

With more incentive for collaboration on behalf of consumers and motivation for increased interoperability, traditional FIs have greater incentive to partner with fintechs where otherwise they might not.

Developing Mobile Apps Under PSD2

Mobile app developers are building their familiarity and expertise with PSD2 compliance to improve development service offerings to fintech companies as well as FIs.

Key points in the PSD2 are the implementation of Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) in remote payment transactions and the integration between banks and third-party payment service providers.

There are several development best practices available that ensure the app and consumer data are protected, even while available to other organizations under the conditions of PSD2.

Multiple layers of security of a mobile solution

  • Communication protocol security including encryption (transport layer / messaging layer), use of secure protocols (e.g. Open ID Connect)
  • Application layer: bank app / authentication app including software protection e.g. whiteboxing, jailbreak and root detection, Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP)
  • Mobile operating system including access to biometric drivers
  • Hardware security element: SIM, Trusted Execution Environment for isolated execution environment, Integrity of applications stored on it and confidentiality of associated credentials
  • Phone hardware including fingerprint sensors, GPS etc. enabling security in combination with other layers

Even if mobile app developers comply with security best practices, such as writing secure code, carefully vetting libraries, using only authorized APIs, using only least privilege, etc., none of that will be good enough if the device or operating system on which the app resides is compromised.

DECODE’s Success in Fintech Mobile App Development

In addition to superior custom mobile app and CX development for fintech, our team at DECODE has formed a deep understanding of mobile app development best practices under PSD2. Our recent progress with Asseco SEE, one of the leading European software providers in the fintech industry, demonstrates our success in this area.

Specifically, our iOS and Android teams joined forces with the fintech company’s in-house team to build a bespoke mobile banking solution, which included: a mobile wallet, a mobile security token, a currency exchange, a card, receipts and payments management, and streamlined compliance with PSD2:

  • We ensured highly secure online and mobile payments as well as better consumer protection.
  • Integrated the Open Banking components with the existing technology architecture.
  • Developed API in line with the technical specifications and made it available for registered TPPs.
  • Ensured that the system is running smoothly and make regular reports to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
  • Implemented Strong Customer Authentication.

As Slavko Žnidarić, mobile solutions manager at Asseco SEE describes, “Working on several successful projects together, DECODE developers have become a valuable part of our team, supporting us in our mission of delivering top quality mobile banking solutions to our customers.”

Final Notes to Keep in Mind

Whether they’re for payments, investing, or a “super” combination of services, mobile apps are now an essential part of the FI landscape.

But while features like streamlined capabilities, easy compliance, and sophisticated CX are critical to their success, it’s customer closeness and responsiveness to customer feedback that make mobile apps successful.

In fact, poor customer service is a top reason consumers leave companies, including FIs in the first place.

Forbes

Despite rapid industry changes in other areas, this is unlikely to change. FIs and fintechs who provide mobile apps to meet specific user demands, and who update or improve those apps when those demands evolve, hold the key to future success in the industry.

Partner with DECODE for Fintech Mobile App Success

DECODE can help you define, build, and launch your mobile app, then realize its true potential.

We’re more than a tight knit team of skilled developers—we’re partners and visionaries in realizing your goals. Our approach involves incremental improvements over time to deliver tangible results to customers and prove ROI to stakeholders.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help make the case for your mobile app’s success.

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Written by

Marin Luetic

Head of Partnerships

A seasoned software engineering executive, Marin’s role combines his in-depth understanding of software engineering processes (particularly mobile) with product and business strategies. Humbly boasting 20+ years of international experience at the forefront of telecoms, Marin knows how to create and deliver state of the art software products to businesses of all sizes. Plus, his skills as a lifelong basketball player mean he can lead a team to victory. When he’s not hopping from meeting to meeting, you’ll find Marin listening to indie rock, or scouring the latest IT news.

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