How To Build A FinTech Mobile App
In our guide “How to build a personal finance app?”, I explained how personal finance apps have become vital to many people. Such apps belong to the broader category of FinTech (“Financial Technology”) apps, and the great news is that FinTech apps are a rapidly growing market.
Many enterprises, as well as start-ups, are trying to gain a share of this burgeoning market, however, because of the competition, they need to build an app that stands out!
Are you planning to tap into this market? If so, you need to know how to build a FinTech mobile app, and that’s exactly what I explain here.
The bullish market for FinTech mobile apps
If you are still wondering whether the market for FinTech mobile apps is rewarding enough to build one, then you can put your doubts to rest! Take a look at the following:
- A 2019 report states that the adoption of finance apps has increased by 354% over the past 5 years. Read “2019 edition | Mobile finance apps | Trends & benchmarks” to learn more about this.
- This report also states that such apps saw a significant rise in the number of user-sessions.
- Most smartphone users use a FinTech mobile app. The report “63% of smartphone users have at least one financial app” cites a 2018 survey, which shows that two-thirds of American smartphone users use such an app.
An example of a FinTech app
Mint is available on the web, Android, and iOS. It offers the following features:
- You can manage all aspects of your finances in one app.
- The app enables you to track bills and account balances.
- It shows you the payments due along with due dates. You can avoid late fees and penalties since Mint gives you reminders.
- Mint offers tips for budgeting and saving money.
- Users can create their budgets using Mint.
- The app informs users about their credit score and how to improve it.
- Mint has industry-standard security features including multi-factor authentication.
- You can sync the Mint mobile app with its web app easily.
- The app has the push notifications feature.
Building a FinTech mobile app
You need to meticulously plan and execute a software development project to build a FinTech mobile app. Such a project involves the following steps:
1. Choose the right project methodology
Hire a competent project manager (PM), a capable IT architect, and a team of business analysts knowledgeable in the FinTech sector. You will likely launch a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) first, subsequently, you will enhance the app based on market feedback.
Agile is the right methodology for such projects. It supports iterative development, which makes it suitable here, as I have explained in “Waterfall vs Agile: Which methodology is right for your project”.
2. Define the scope of the MVP and the overall app
You ought to methodically define the features to include in the MVP as well as the overall app. Take the following steps for this:
- Define your market with the help of market research, moreover, research your business idea meticulously.
- With the help of discovery sessions, identify which features you should offer.
- Prioritize these features using tools like “Pain and gain map”, prioritization matrix, etc.
I have explained these steps in “5 tips to create a sleek MVP”.
I recommend that you define the MVP scope as follows:
- Offer a web, an Android, and an iOS app.
- Include the features that Mint has.
- Support English-speaking users.
3. Formulate an effective development approach
Plan for the success of the project, therefore, formulate an effective development approach. I recommend that you include the following building blocks in this approach:
- Use managed cloud services platforms like “Platform-as-a-Service” (PaaS) and “Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service” (MBaaS) smartly. This way, you can concentrate on design and development, without getting bogged down with IT infrastructure management.
- Develop native Android and iOS apps since they deliver the best user experience.
- Decide on an appropriate architecture pattern.
- Design and develop “Application Programming Interfaces” (APIs) to implement your core features, which helps the front-end to access the backend of your application consistently.
- Use 3rd party APIs for non-core features like push notifications.
- Focus on application security and API security.
- Utilize appropriate tools, frameworks, and guidelines for development.
- Use a mobile device lab on the cloud to enhance your test automation.
I have elaborated on the importance of this approach in “What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?”.
You should design and develop your app keeping the “app internationalization” guidelines in mind, which will help you to support more languages in the future. Follow best practices like keeping the code separate from the content, and learn more about these best practices in “The ultimate guide to mobile app internationalization”.
4. Choose the right managed cloud services platforms
You can boost your web app development efforts by using a PaaS platform like AWS Elastic Beanstalk. PaaS platforms offer many advantages, e.g.:
- A PaaS provider manages the cloud infrastructure, networking, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment. You focus on designing and coding.
- You can easily integrate APIs when using a PaaS platform, moreover, you can add services like databases.
- Prominent PaaS platforms offer matured DevOps tools, moreover, they have auto-scaling solutions.
Read our guide “10 top PaaS providers for 2020” for more insights.
Sign up for AWS Amplify, i.e., the MBaaS offering from AWS, using the same AWS account. This helps with your mobile app development in the following ways:
- Amplify manages the cloud infrastructure, persistent storage, etc., therefore, you don’t need to build and manage the mobile backend.
- Integrating APIs is easier with Amplify, moreover, you can easily implement features like user management and push notifications.
- You will be able to scale your mobile app easily when you use an MBaaS platform like Amplify.
I have explained the advantages of MBaaS platforms in “How to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?”.
5. Form the project team
It’s time to hire developers! Consult our guide “How to find a good software developer”, and onboard the following roles to form a complete project team:
- UI designers;
- Web developers with Node.js skills;
- Android developers with Java skills;
- iOS developers with experience in the Swift language;
- DevOps engineers.
Developing a FinTech app can be complex since the financial services industry is heavily regulated. You should onboard a field expert development teams. Such teams work cohesively, as I had explained in “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams”.
6. Organize the team for productivity and collaboration
I recommend that you organize the team as one or more “Scrum teams” since this will foster collaborations. As I have explained in “How to build a Scrum development team?”, scrum teams are important for the “Scrum” technique, which helps to improve the productivity of Agile teams.
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Scrum teams have the following characteristics:
- The PM acts as the “Scrum master” and forms cross-functional teams, and these are small teams where developers and testers work together.
- A “Product owner” provides the requirements in a document named the “Product Backlog”, and the team estimates them. The team works with the business stakeholders to schedule them in “Sprints”, i.e., iterations.
- The team conducts “Daily stand-up meetings” to track the project status, and it demonstrates the app in a “Sprint review meeting”.
- Scrum teams also conduct lessons-learned exercises, which are called “Sprint retrospective meetings”.
You should use a modern PM tool like Trello to manage the project.
7. Design and build APIs for the core functionalities
Let’s talk about the core features like tracking bills and accounts, payments, budgeting, etc. If you already have an existing business where you offer these features, then you could use your existing capabilities. You need to build these capabilities if yours is a new business.
Either way, you should design and build APIs to facilitate streamlined and consistent access to the backend from the front-end. I recommend that you build RESTful APIs, which involves the following:
- Utilize the managed cloud services you have already bought to host the API backend.
- Use an effective tool like Postman to develop and test the API.
- Document the API using a tool like Swagger.
- Secure your APIs using techniques like authentication, data encryption, etc.
- Effectively manage development, staging, and production environments for the APIs.
- Use robust database solutions like PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc. for developing the APIs.
- Design URL paths effectively.
- Create effective rules for API requests and responses.
Our guide “How to build RESTful API for your mobile app?” can help you to design and develop RESTful APIs.
8. Plan to secure the app and APIs
Security is key to the success of a FinTech app, therefore, you need to proactively mitigate application security risks. The top application security risks are as follows:
- Broken authentication;
- Sensitive data exposure;
- XML external entities (XXE);
- Broken access control;
- Security misconfiguration;
- Cross-site scripting (XSS);
- Insecure deserialization;
- Using components with known vulnerabilities;
- Insufficient logging and monitoring.
The “Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) top 10 application security risks – 2017” report can help you to mitigate these risks.
Secure the APIs you design and develop by the following means:
- Established trusted identities and use authentication tokens.
- Incorporate industry-standard digital signatures and data encryption techniques.
- Use quotas, throttling, and gateways.
Read “What is API security?” for more insights.
9. Use a 3rd party bulk-SMS API solution to implement the push notifications feature
Given that push notifications isn’t a core feature in this app, I recommend that you use a 3rd party API solution to implement it. Twilio is a robust choice, and you should use its “Programmable SMS” offering.
10. Sign-up for a mobile device lab on the cloud for testing
You need to make your mobile app work with all devices, therefore, you need to test it against a wide range of mobile devices. This requires a mobile device lab on the cloud, therefore, I recommend that you sign up with Experitest.
You can sign-up for the following Experitest offerings:
- Its mobile device & browser lab on the cloud, which has over 2,000 device-browser combinations;
- Its SeeTest Reporter, which provides excellent test reports and analytics.
11. Develop the web app
You need to take the following steps to develop the web app:
- Design an effective user interface (UI), by following the guidance in “User interface design guidelines: 10 rules of thumb”.
- Use js to code the web app since this open-source runtime environment is suitable for developing performant and scalable web apps.
- You can use Eclipse, the popular IDE for coding, however, you should also use Nodeclipse, a Node.js plugin for Eclipse.
- Integrate your APIs as well as the Twilio programmable SMS API.
- Test your app, and deploy it on Elastic Beanstalk. You can read “Deploying Node.js applications to AWS Elastic Beanstalk” for guidance.
12. Design, code, test, and deploy the Android app
Developing the proposed Android app involves the following:
- You should design the UI for the Android app in line with the “Material Design” guidelines.
- Code the Android app using Java, and use Android Studio as the IDE.
- Integrate your own APIs and Twilio APIs in your code.
- Use Espresso and the Experitest mobile device lab to test the app.
- Publish it to Google Play, by following the instructions in “Publish your app”.
13. Develop the iOS app
Your steps to develop the proposed iOS app are as follows:
- Follow the “Human Interface Guidelines” to design an effective UI.
- Use Swift, the powerful language championed by Apple to code the iOS app.
- Xcode is the preferred IDE for developing apps for Apple platforms, and you should use it.
- Integrate the APIs you have developed for your app, moreover, integrate the Twilio API.
- Test the app using XCTest and the Experitest mobile device lab.
- Read “Submit your apps to the App Store”, and use the instructions therein to publish the app to the Apple App Store.
Planning to launch your FinTech mobile app?
FinTech apps have a growing market, however, your app must have a competitive edge to do well in this market. Developing such an app could be complex, therefore, work with a reputed software development company. Our guide “How to find the best software development company?” can help you to find one.