DevTeam.Space Product Development Blog

Explore our in-depth product development tutorials and new technology announcements published by our software development experts

All articles

How to Build an Investment App Like Acorns?

Three mobile investment apps shown on smartphones

The cumulative capitalization of all stock exchanges in the world stood at $80 trillion in mid 2018. By 2016, 52% of all American adults had investments in the stock market. These two statistics are excellent indicators as to how big investment really is. If you wish to learn more you can read detailed statistics in “39 stock market statistics that will blow your mind+[Infographic] 2018”.

A MarketWatch report quotes TD Ameritrade, an online trading firm, as stating that retail investor exposure to stock market stood at an all-time high in 2018.

It is important to note that there are many crucial differences between retail investors and institutional investors. One such difference is that retail investors need effective tools to guide them through the process, unlike institutional investors who are experts.

Mobile investment apps are increasingly becoming a central tool for retail investors.

The fact that apps are replacing more traditional trading tools is not surprising considering the how ubiquitous mobile apps have become. A Statista report shows that there were 178.1 billion mobile app downloads worldwide in 2017, a number which will reach 258.2 billion in 2022.

Mobile investments apps provide important services to their users, for e.g., market data, investment coaching, etc. With retail investors increasingly keen to trade in stock markets, these apps re predicted to see phenomenal growth.

You can make a mark in this landscape by creating your very own investment app. In this article, I will explain how to create an investing app like Acorns.

Contents

Key features of an investment app
Examples of popular mobile investment apps
How to create an investment mobile app: The approach
APIs to develop an investment mobile app
How to manage the mobile backend for the investment app
The cost to develop a mobile investment app
A project team for the mobile investment app development project
Project management approach for investment app development
The cost to develop a mobile investment app

Key features of an investment app

Three examples of investment app dashboards on smartphone screens

The market for investments apps is increasingly competitive. To compete with established apps like Acorns, Robinhood, or Stash, you need to offer competitive features. Consider the following features if you want to build an investment app like Stash or Acorns:

  • More than a feature, this is a must-do. You need to follow all regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction. Make it explicitly clear in the app functionality and design that you conform to the required regulations. For e.g., investment apps in the US need to follow the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. Read more about this in “Is Robinhood safe? Here’s how it’s regulated”.
  • The app should a have bank-grade security. It should have the highest category of SSL certificates, which is the “A+” category. The app also needs a 256-bit encryption. Read more about this key feature in this Quora thread “How safe is investing in a mutual fund through mobile apps like funds in India?”.
  • A mobile investment app should allow users to transact and invest on the go.
  • It should generate and track the complete investment portfolio of the user.
  • The app should provide insightful investment recommendations and coach users. It’s important these recommendations are unbiased. Biased recommendations can impact the apps’ credibility adversely. Read more about it in “How investment apps coach their customers through a volatile market”.
  • Redeeming investments should be easy with the app.
  • The app should use a credible ranking methodology to rank top investment options.
  • Retail investors using the app should receive portfolio recommendations that are aligned to their age, risk profile, and financial capability.
  • The app should also help users to review and adjust their portfolio periodically.
  • An easy-to-use ‘User interface’ (UI) is very important.
  • The app should be available on popular platforms like Android and iOS.
  • Push notifications are important for increasing user engagement.

Examples of popular mobile investment apps

I recommend you review the following investment apps for Android and iOS. These are popular apps, therefore, it’s worth reviewing their functionalities. You may also come away with useful design ideas.

Robinhood

Robinhood offers zero-commission trading. The app is fast, simple, and intuitive. Users can easily learn to use it. The app provides a personalized newsfeed therefore, users can view their favorite stocks. Users can also find new stocks.

Robinhood follows the relevant regulations, additionally, it provides a bank-grade security. The app allows options trading. The company has also recently added cryptocurrency trading features. There are both Android and iOS versions of this app.

Acorns

Acorns is another popular mobile investment app that’s available on both Android and iOS. Users with an account balance up to US $ 5,000 pay a small monthly fee of US $1. The fee is 0.25% for accounts with over US $ 5,000 balance, additionally, students get a four-years free period. It follows the mandatory regulations.

The app enables you to invest automatically at regular intervals, which requires you to link your credit or debit card. You can find top brands hence when you shop you can earn and the app invests the earning. The app provides useful insights and investment advice. You can get a checking account with a debit card. The Acorns app uses strong 256-bit encryption and doesn’t store data on phone, tablet, or computer.

Stash Investment App

Stash has both Android and iOS versions. It’s an SEC-registered investment advisor. The app lets users learn investment in a hands-on manner. Stash provides useful insights and effective tools for investors. Users can invest in stocks, additionally, they also have the option to trade in ‘Exchange Traded Funds’ (ETFs).

Stash doesn’t charge any add-on commissions or trading fees. Users pay a flat charge of US $1 per month. When users have over US $ 5,000 balance in their account, the fee is 0.25 %, which is competitive in the industry. The intuitive app enables users to build their portfolio and track it. 256-bit encryption and other bank-grade security features keep users’ money and their transactions safe.

How to create an investment mobile app: The approach

An investment app dashboard example on a tablet

Developing an investment mobile app is a development project. Broadly, you need to do the following:

  1. Develop the UI of the mobile app. Your UI/UX designers should know relevant Mobile navigation menu examples. Your Android and iOS developers need to develop the front-end for the respective platforms.
  2. Common functions can be built using investment ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (APIs). This saves some development effort.
  3. You can expedite the creation of the investment mobile app by using a ‘Mobile Backend as a Service’ (MBaaS) provider. More on this later.
  4. Test the app thoroughly.
  5. Publish in the app stores. For ‘Google Play’ and ‘Apple App Store’, check the respective guidelines here, and here.

 

APIs to develop an investment mobile app

In this section, I will describe a few API options for building an investment mobile app. Depending on your requirement, you might need to combine more than one options.

API option #1: Plaid API to connect bank accounts to the app

Plaid offers API for developers to implement the key function of connecting a bank account to the app. Access their API here. Banking and brokerage are a few key use cases of these APIs, and you can learn more about it here.

You can review the API documentation here. Their quick start guides are here. To get their pricing details, visit their pricing page. Contact them for more information.

API option #2: Xignite Market Data Feed and API

Xignite provides market data feed APIs. These can help you with the market data feed functionality of your investment mobile app. They provide the market data feed for a variety of investment instruments, for e.g., equities, funds, ETFs, fixed income instruments, indices, futures, options trading feeds, forex data feeds, commodities feeds like metals, derivatives, etc.

They have a wide range of data sources, including exchanges, data vendors, and public data sources like SEC. Learn more about their data sources here. The company provides cloud-based real-time, historical, master, and fundamentals data. Read more about this here.

Access their entire developer documentation here. Visit their pricing page for the details about their flexible pricing plans. Contact their sales team to buy their APIs.

API option #3: Ally Invest APIs

Ally offers their investment APIs that you can use in your mobile app. With this, you can offer features for self-directed trading, and managed-portfolio in the app.

Some of the features are as follows:

  • Streaming charts;
  • Market and company snapshots;
  • Watchlists;
  • Option chains;
  • Profile/loss calculator;
  • Probability calculator;
  • Market data.

Access their API documentation here. The documentation is comprehensive. For e.g., it includes the following:

  • Security;
  • OAuth;
  • Trading;
  • Account calls;
  • Order/trade calls;
  • Market calls;
  • Member calls;
  • Watchlist calls.

The above list is not exhaustive. Contact them for their API pricing plans.

API option #4: Quandl API for stock data

Quandl is a well-known source of financial, and economic data. They offer their APIs for stock data. You can include the following data in your investment mobile app with their APIs:

  • End-of-day stock prices;
  • Historical stock fundamental data;
  • Harmonized fundamentals;
  • Financial ratios;
  • Indexes;
  • Options and volatility;
  • Earnings estimates;
  • Analyst ratings;
  • Investor sentiments.

The data is available in various organizations, for e.g., time-series, and tables. Their databases include US stock prices, US stock fundamentals, financial ratios, global stock data, etc. Access their APIs here. You can access their comprehensive API documentation here. Sign-up for their APIs and contact them for their pricing plans.

How to manage the mobile backend for the investment app

I have addressed the mobile front-end and APIs for key functions above. However, you also need to address the mobile backend. You can develop the mobile backend and manage everything including the infrastructure, however, it’s time-consuming.

I recommend using an MBaaS provider. They manage key aspects of the mobile backend, for e.g.:

  • Infrastructure;
  • Database;
  • Persistent storage;
  • Security;
  • User management;
  • API integration;

This enables you to focus on the front-end and key business functionalities, therefore, you can get a better ‘Time to market’. There are several MBaaS vendors like AWS for Mobile, Google Firebase, Kinvey, etc. You can consult our comparison guide “How to choose the best mobile backend as a service (MBaaS)?” for more details.

Mobile investment app development: Important tools

I recommend you use effective tools for this end-to-end development project. You should consider a good test automation tool. There are many such reputed tools. ‘TestComplete’ is a good choice.

A mobile app is a ‘System of Engagement’ (SoE). Such applications undergo frequent updates and enhancements. You need a good tool to seamlessly manage build and deployment. There are quite a few such tools, for e.g., ‘Maven’ is a reputed tool for this.

A project team for the mobile investment app development project

SoEs require iterative development, therefore, ‘Agile’ is a good project management methodology for these. You should build an Agile team for this project. Consider our guide “How to build an Agile development team” for more details.

You need to assemble a team with the following skills:

  • Business analysts;
  • UI/UX designers;
  • iOS developers;
  • Android developers;

You also need a competent project manager (PM), who should know project management best practices. While I recommend that you co-locate your team, sometimes you may need to work with a remote team. The PM should know how to manage a remote team. Our guide “10 essential tips to managing remote employees” can help.

Project management approach for investment app development

‘Scrum’ is a well-known iterative development technique within the larger body of Agile methodology. I recommend this technique for this project. The PM acts as a ‘Scrum master’, whereas a ‘Product owner’ (PO) provides the features or requirements in a document called the ‘Product backlog’.

The scrum team estimates the features, and the scrum master plans ‘Sprints’, i.e., iterations based on this estimation. The team first builds the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP), and then enhances it in further sprints. During the project execution, the scrum team conducts a ‘Daily stand-up meeting’. This meeting is to discuss the project status, additionally, the scrum master uses it for issue resolution.

When the features are ready, the scrum team conducts a ‘Sprint review meeting’. Features are demonstrated in this meeting, which enables the project stakeholders to approve the features. The team also conducts a lessons-learned exercise, and it’s called the ‘Sprint retrospective meeting’. You can find more information about this technique in our guide “How to build a Scrum development team”.

You should also consider effective project management tools for this project. Zoho is a good option. You can find more choices for PM tools in our guide “The 10 best Agile project management tools in 2018”.

The cost to develop a mobile investment app

MBaaS providers display their price on their website. You need to contact the API providers to get their pricing plans. You also incur the development manpower cost, which depends on your requirements and the labor rate in your local labor market.

Since this is an end-to-end development project, you may need to get professional help if don’t have access to a skilled development team and a PM. Our guide “How to find the best software development company?” can help you to find a good development partner.