What makes a great fintech mobile app?

14th January 2020

Hear that? Of course you do! The unmistakable, distant roar of old ways and tradition being redefined and reinvented by bold imagination, pioneering vision and an unshakable belief that there are, surely, better ways to do finance. And there are. Generating £6.6bn in revenue per year, powered by over 1600 UK firms (expected to more than double by 2030) and coming to a smartphone near you in the very, very near future (if not already), Fintech is making an entrance, and everyone’s taking notice. We’ve recently covered off how to leverage the power of conversational banking and how RegTech innovations are taking the complexity out of compliance, today we’re exploring what makes a great fintech mobile app.

We make a lot of noise about Fintech here at WHQ, and for good reason. The emergence – and huge growth – of a tech phenomenon that few saw coming, has so far delivered countless innovations, and they keep coming … From Monzo to Atom and Starling to Revolut , there’s not a week goes by without another challenger fintech innovation landing in the app store, ready to make managing my money a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more fun. And we all of us enjoy the availability, choice and simplification that these innovations bring. Today, the highest performing sector in our tech industry, and contributing a staggering £130bn to our economy each year, we’re all excited about where fintech is taking us.

This convergence of two worlds – technology and finance – is creating both disruption and harmony, and it’s not just the young ‘uns that are up for change. Most of the big banks and financial stalwarts are already some ways down the road, collaborating with eager fintech startups and trailblazers to deliver the progressive services and products that their customers are looking for. Now, way past the ‘new kid on the block’ phase, fintech is taking on new dimensions, powered by emerging technologies that are seeing it move from ‘risky’ to ‘no-brainer’ status as any and every ‘maybe’ now has the foundations to make it a reality …

The Fintech App – an overview

A quick jump on ProductHunt and anyone can take their pick when it comes to fintech mobile apps – and the great thing is, they’re all high-value when it comes to making life, and our finances, easy. Like to try your luck on the trading floor? Try ClosingBell – helping users discover and use “knowledge and real trading activity of thousands of stock market traders managing millions of dollars in assets”. Or how about putting small change to good use? Then Lawnmower’s the app you need, converting spare change into Bitcoin so that it’s doing something worthwhile (that’s that spare £50 taken care of) … or maybe Monk is more your cup of tea, offering banking and borrowing for groups, rather than individuals. They’re all just the tip of the iceberg, and all very different but all with one thing in common … they’ve all got something that keeps users returning to use them … a great CX. But wait a minute … don’t all mobile apps need to have a great CX? Of course – if you want to keep your audience interested and ensure longevity … but with fintech apps, it’s different. With fintech, it’s all about trust, efficiency, simplicity and speed – a tall order to deliver in one tiny piece of tech.

There’s a widespread (and often incorrect) perception that fintech apps haven’t been the most exciting apps to use (and many still aren’t – be warned!) – devoid of ‘personality’, somewhat dry in delivery, and not particularly engaging, those struggling to measure up often feel as corporate as the corridors from whence they came. But – this is changing. We’re a demanding bunch, and it’s technology’s job to keep up with these demands. With so many apps vying for our attention these days (how many have you got on your smartphone right now?), all-singing, and all-dancing is what most of us are looking for – even from our bank. But as a slice of complex kit, some can struggle to do even the basics. That balance of meeting usability goals and complex industry requirements (compliance, anyone?) in an app is a tricky business, but it can be done! If you’re thinking about taking that great idea of yours to the global fintech stage, we’ve put together our take on the key elements that will give you a head start …

Fintech apps – the essentials

First things first. It goes without saying that whoever you’re designing your fintech app for, your audience must be motivated (more than once!) to use and to continue using it – getting it right lays the foundations for a powerful, enriched CX. Here lies speed, simplicity, intuitiveness and efficiency, all critical in delivering a successful fintech app – with transparency (in the top 5 of 21st-century customer expectations whoever we’re dealing with) and security built in. This recipe will greatly increase your chances of reaching a wider audience and generating healthy revenues. A seamless onboarding process is absolutely essential in the context of any mobile app experience, but this is particularly true when acquiring new users with a fintech or banking app. Generally speaking there will only be one opportunity to onboard the user in a fast and friction-free manner and any kinks in the process will cause users to abort the process and try another product. Slick onboarding screams trust and quality and this is particularly applicable when it comes to banking and fintech apps.

It’s worth looking at one of the best examples out there of a fintech innovator that’s making huge waves in the sector by delivering a service via their app that places the customer in the driving seat all the way. Within just four short years, Monzo, an app-based bank (ie, not on the high street) has managed to onboard over one million customers and isn’t shy about blowing its own trumpet – “55,000 people open a Monzo bank account every week to spend, save and manage their money. Join them in less than 10 minutes”. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I call an invitation to a party I want to be at.

Monzo is like any other bank, minus the obvious friction – which is what makes it so likeable. For starters, opening a Monzo account is super-easy and very, very straightforward – users just download the app, sign-up and they’re off. And they’ve thought of everything – from receipts saving to expense tracking (great for spending breakdown), bill-splitting and 24hr chat support, an expenditure graph and auto-budgeting, paydays a day early (if your salary is paid through the bank) and fee-free finances while you’re travelling. And we’re not kidding when we say that’s just for starters. With a ton more features and functionality that’s actually useful, this high-value functionality is extremely attractive – and sticky.

Mobile app fintech

But that’s not all. Most innovators are savvy to the fact that their customers expect technology – in whatever form its delivered – to address a myriad of pain points they don’t even know they have. And that’s why Monzo has been branching out to offer high-value services beyond finance – services like switching energy providers for you. And once they’ve done it? They’ll give you cashback for all their hard work. Who would have thought that being able to manage your life via one app is easier than managing it through ten? That’s probably why Monzo is onboarding these 55,000 new customers every week.

This is fintech innovation that has the customer at the very heart of it, every step of the way – and it just keeps coming. Monzo is continually looking at new features and functionality that makes banking more fun, more useful, and more value-add than simply providing your balance when you have a mind to look. Monzo has done an exceptional job in terms of developing a super slick and intuitive customer experience, particularly in terms of their onboarding process and making the app easy to use. This is particularly attractive to a younger generation of banking users who value ease of use and simplicity over trust and reputation, which often can only be associated with large established banking institutions.

The Trust

Equifax: 143 million accounts in the US, and 400,000 in the UK; CitiFinancial: 3.9 million accounts; JPMorgan Chase: 76 million households and 7 million small businesses. In one 2018 study, out of the 1,500 people asked, two-thirds were “extremely worried” about their personal data and its privacy whilst using fintech apps – and it’s small wonder, the financial data breach is alive and well. So coming in joint first place with the customer when it comes to a great fintech app has to be trust and security. Slick onboarding and UX are great, but for an older generation of banking customers, simply having a great app is not enough. Trust, security and reputation are paramount and striking a balance between these two elements can be very difficult. Challengers and neo-banks often have a head start when it comes to developing a slick mobile experience, but lack the credibility associated with large, established financial and banking institutions. Conversely, large and established banks have all of the processes and years of delivering sophisticated services in a highly regulated market, but maybe lack the agility and speed of challengers and neo-banks when it comes to developing great mobile apps.

The raison d’etre of fintech is to make things easy, yes – but they can’t be so easy that it’s even easier for customers to make errors. When it comes down to it, there’s a very fine line to walk between irritating users by presenting them with too much “friction” – the act of requesting information and action from a user, and abundant in fintech apps the world over – and successfully reassuring them with a range of security elements. So how do you find the sweet spot? Testing. Testing. Testing, of course! With most fintech apps, there’s a lot of personal information required from users – not just from a functional perspective, but also because providers need to meet an increasingly huge array of compliance regulations.
It’s absolutely critical that our very personal data is in safe hands – regulatory compliance ensures that financial providers are legally bound to be protecting our credentials, with eye-watering fines if they fail to. But meeting these regulations also means that providers need to ensure robust app security when logging in and out, and of course, while using the app. These requests can often feel excessive for users, creating a good deal of friction around the fintech app UX. Our job is to make that friction as frictionless as possible, ensuring the app has a clever balance of accessibility, simplicity and ease-of-use, and robust, reliable safety/security.

The personal touch

By delivering what customers want, when they want it, and in a seamless and meaningful way, businesses stand a very good chance of developing strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their audience, that’ll see them thrive in this cut-throat, hyper-competitive enterprise landscape.

A successful fintech app, then, will have found the right balance between providing value-add services that everyone will find useful and treating each and every individual customer as just that – an individual – after all, my financial life is very different from yours. Understanding your customers well enough to implement an interface that addresses everyone’s needs in ways that make each of us feel unique will pay dividends in ensuring app success. The good news? Emerging technologies are your friend in the quest for personalisation – artificial intelligence, machine learning, and disruptor extraordinaire, biometrics technology, will all go a long way in personalising each interaction your customers have with your services, and at the same time ensure you’re furnished with all the data you need to fine-tune these interactions over the lifetime of your relationship.

The simplicity

For the successful fintech app to stay successful, it needs to be more than secure, it needs to have ease-of-use built in. Sure, most fintech apps need to deliver at least some friction in order to meet regulatory compliance and provide a safe user environment, but that friction shouldn’t be at the expense of an enjoyable, seamless customer experience. This means avoiding bombarding users with too much information, and ensuring that when are providing relevant, important information, that it’s delivered in such a way that it’s easy to understand – no technical, industry-only jargon, please! It also means a clean, uncomplicated UI that provides only what it needs to – in other words, don’t make me work hard to access one simple piece of information. Too many features and too much functionality on one screen has every chance of confusing – or worse, intimidating – users. It’s crucial that fintech apps can take complex data and deliver it to me in a simple, actionable format – not only does it mean I’ll be able to do what I need to quickly, it also means I’ll stand a better chance of doing it without making mistakes. What’s more, this simply means I feel in control – so I’ll stick around longer, and, even better, I’ll probably come back!

And The Fun

Fun isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think about managing our finances, but this is 2019, and yes, making finance fun again is on the agenda for any fintech outfit serious about success – and it’s all down to millenials.

According to one survey, over 70% of millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to their bank, and yet this first generation of digital natives are the growing focus of fintech innovations that are serious about being more than a flash in the pan. This ambitious, demanding bunch who want everything now – along with a splash of fun, innovation and simplicity and a healthy dose of thanks for doing business with you – means the way you were doing things 5 years ago isn’t going to cut it.

When we think about a few high-profile fintech apps out there that are doing ‘fun’, we can start to get a good idea of how we could approach things from a less traditional, more millennial standpoint. Monzo, PensionBee, Lemonade .. they’re all looking at finance with a new set of eyes, enhancing user-engagement, delivering personalised experiences, providing high-value (often unexpected – remember Monzo’s utilities switch service?) and all via fresh, clean, colourful UIs. These apps aren’t only providing a useful service, using them is also enjoyable, engaging and sticky and they make it very easy to forget that I’m ‘doing’ finance at all. That’s what we’re aiming for when we’re thinking ‘engagement’.


Fintech may already have redefined the financial landscape in the relatively short space of time it’s been with us, but it’s still really only just getting started. A sector with some of the most pressing pain points for both customers and commerce, it’s ripe for new innovations and creative solutions that deliver quick, painless ways that put us all back in the driving seat of money management. The best fintech apps can are the ones that take the stress and complexity out of money management. When complex becomes easy, then concern becomes trust. Whether it’s easy investing for the uninitiated; simple, frictionless banking that’s quick and seamless, or clever budgeting and savings support that empowers us, the opportunities are there for those that can leverage great design with smart technology and deliver responsive solutions. Who knows, that idea of yours might just be the killer app the world is waiting for …

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