10 key elements of a better user experience for financial apps

Though retail banks lead by Monthly Active users, pureplay fintech apps take the lead when it comes to customer satisfaction. With the increased importance of mobile in the customer journey, what can banks do to keep up?

The demand for a better mobile experience for financial institutions is soaring. Combined iOS and Google Play finance app downloads grew 45 percent year over year in Q3 2016, according to a new report by App Annie, an app analytics company.  People aged 25 to 44 years old used banking apps the most often of any age group during the quarter and also experienced the greatest growth in monthly sessions, increasing 15 percent over the past two years.

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In order to keep up with the growing demand for good mobile experiences, App Annie suggests retail banks focus on the following strategies:

Your app should not be a copy of your website

The user’s intention and interaction on website and mobile are different. Prioritize the features that are important to users on the go, such as account information, transfers and simple requests. Do not try cram all of your website’s products in the mobile app.

Make financial interactions easier

Mobile users do not like to type. Remove the friction of simple financial interactions by auto loading account details from recent transfers.

Prioritize the user interface and user experience

The look and feel of the mobile app should be pleasant and intuitive. Navigation should be clear and simple. As the saying goes: UX is like a joke, if you need to explain it, it is not very good.

Establish and reinforce trust

Trust is one of the main competitive advantages retail banks have compared to newcomers. Leverage that trust to increase confidence and user loyalty with features such as touch ID.

Reward users

Increase the stickiness of of your mobile app with easily redeemable rewards.

Use ratings and reviews to inform your roadmap

Knowing exactly what features the customers are expecting before a launch is impossible. Use app analytics, ratings and reviews to inform improvements and additions to the user experience.

Incorporate mobile payments

Mobile payments are hailed as the next big revolution in banking with many attempts to dethrone cash and plastic. Though adoption rates are lackluster, mobile payments should be part of a bank app’s functionality.

Partner with innovative apps and services

Customer expectations are changing quickly as consumer technology advances. Partnering with other services allows a bank to meet customer expectation without spending the time and money to develop those products in house.

Build off competitive advantages

Though fintechs typically win when it comes to designing cutting edge products, banks have brand recognition and scale. Even when banks are not first to market, they can easily take the lead when leveraging those assets. Zelle, a payment network created by banks, is a good example of this.

Provide deeper insights and valuable information

Banks have a trove of data about a user’s lifestyle, needs and challenges. Banks can really go the extra mile by leveraging that data to assist the user in managing his finances, proactively suggesting products in a relevant and non-intrusive manner, and cross-selling relevant services.

Robinhood ramping its free trading app via integrations, global expansion in 2016

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Robinhood, still the posterboy for helping out the little guy, has traded in his quiver of arrows for some new thinking about how stocks should be bought and sold.  For this current incarnation, the vision isn’t spreading the wealth by stealing riches from the rich, but by enabling everyman to trade stocks and ETFs online with no commissions.  According to Robinhood’s Head of Communications, Jack Randall, “Robinhood launched at the perfect time: distrust in Wall Street had never been higher, mobile usage was rising rapidly, and the brokerage market was ripe for disruption.”

Bringing investment transactions into the age of the Internet

The story of commissions is tied to the history of stock investing: if you had a funded account at a brick and mortar brokerage, you could call your stockbroker who would then place an order through their representative on the trading floor of the appropriate exchange.  In 1988, Ameritrade offered the first touch-tone entry system to place trading orders, and WealthWeb offered the first online trade orders in 1994. Flash forward to 2015: brokerage services like Capital One Investing and Firstrade offer trades with no initial funding requirement and charge $6.95 per trade. “Decades ago, there were large costs associated with executing trades. Tech wasn’t there, it was largely a manual process with people passing order tickets on the floor of the NYSE,” says Randall.  Today, “paying to trade is like paying to send an email. It’s an electronic transaction, and one that consumers should not be paying for.”  

The stated mission of taking “a complex system of regulation, financial institutions, and assets” and making the trading platform “simple, focused, and immediately understandable” seems to be paying off.  Randall says, “The median age of a Robinhood customer is 28 years old. While we’re a wonderful tool for first time investors, 75% of our customers are not first-time investors. Robinhood is simple enough for first-time investors and sophisticated enough for more seasoned investors.  Since we launched publicly in March, we have transacted over $2 billion through our platform. Also, our growth rate makes us the fastest growing brokerage in the world. (This is unique given we launched recently and were only available one one platform – iOS – until August when we launched our Android app.)” 

Integrations key part of Robinhood’s expansion strategy

And it seems like Robinhood’s mission has only just begun.  Since November, the educational investing platform Rubicoin and the crowdsourced hedge fund Quantopian both link with Robinhood accounts.  The popular social trading networks StockTwits and Openfolio now integrate usage of Robinhood directly into their platforms.  Apple just named Robinhood as one of ten apps on their Apple Design Awards for 2015 list.  According to Apple, geolocation, Apple Watch integration and “thoughtful notifications” are key parts of the Robinhood app.  Designed to be the best mobile stock-tracking tool on iOS, Robinhood distinguishes itself with a clean, content-centric design and beautiful typography that nicely balances app branding and iOS design conventions,wrote Apple about the award-winning app.   

“Next year, we will continue to release additional features and explore international expansion,” says Randall. New features in the offing include margin accounts, support for Mint, broker-to-broker transfers, and more expansion of Android support within other apps.  Global expansion plans have kicked off with a $50 million round of funding and an announcement that Australia will be their first overseas market.  

So, even with breakneck speed, cutting edge technology and global plans, how do free transactions equal making money?  According to Randall, “Robinhood generates revenue by accruing interest off of cash balances and collecting interest on margin (margin accounts will be offered next year). It’s worth noting our cost structure is dramatically lower than our peers — no brick-and-mortar branch locations, no legacy technology, no Super Bowl ads. We’re built from the ground-up using the latest technology which allows us to automate where others can’t.” There is also talk of revenue share with apps that integrate their service.

Photo credit: PinkPersimon via VisualHunt / CC BY