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3 Pillars of App Development for the Banking Industry

9 Pillars of App Development for the Banking Industry

Developing a mobile app for any industry is a serious endeavor. But the banking industry is on a whole new level. Banking to app development is what Olympic medals are to sports: a successfully developed banking app should hit so many home runs that it instantly becomes a staple. That’s because banking is at the forefront of so many technologies. You have cybersecurity, online payment integrations, authentication, UX/UI and much more. All of these are properly blended together in a functional banking app.

But how do all great banking apps get there? How can you, as a decision-maker within a bank, make sure that your app performs just the way you want it to?

When communicating your requirements to the developer of your future app, you should keep in mind certain things. But what’s more important is that you have to keep these things in the developer’s mind. The method is not important: whether it’s user stories, technical documentation or a presentation of your app requirements. Make sure that the following requirements are met and understood by the developer right from the start, as these are the pillars of app development for the banking industry.

Secure

Security

You might say that making your app secure is just common sense. But it’s not always about the app’s code, depending on the dev team that you want to go with. If you don’t personally pick the developers, you need to be able to stress the importance of security. We’re talking about secure coding and secure coders.

The app may be ‘unbreakable’ once it’s out. But you never know what coding practices were enforced by the team members. A breach within the team means a possible breach within the app. Yes, the scenario is unlikely, but you have to be prepared for anything when millions are at stake.

Security is a multi-dimensional issue. That’s why you also have to keep in mind your end users when working on a banking app. Let’s face it, people are really bad with online security. Some don’t even know the basic things, like what a properly secure password looks like.

You have to account for these things. Don’t let your potential users control the security of the app. This means that you have to control the password that they create, to the point of generating it for them. Consider multi-level authentication login options. Sure, this makes the app less usable in certain cases. Like when a person has a habit of using public networks and the usual authentication might take longer. But, in the end, you’ll be sure that human factor doesn’t play such an important role in your app’s defense.

Other best practices for banking app security include:

  • Making sure that the app doesn’t store any actual sensitive information on the device itself.
  • Including auto-logout. Always. Don’t even provide the option of disabling it. It’s better to be a small nuisance by making the client re-enter their login details.
  • Using SSL for any communications between the app and the bank’s servers.

Adding a text notification for every transaction. This way the customer will know about any unauthorized transactions immediately.

Future-Proof

If you already have a complete set of technical requirements for your banking app, it’s likely that they are outdated by now. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. There are thousands of security breaches happening around the world every year. Hacking and intrusion methods are getting much more sophisticated all the time. Just wait until the hackers start employing AI for their operations.

The same goes for the underlying technology for the app and its possible functions. You absolutely have to account for obsoletion when starting your work on the requirements with the app’s developer. It’s either your job or theirs to make sure that the technologies used for the app are not just simply industry standards. They have to go above and beyond in terms of being future-proof.

For example, it’s pretty obvious that the traditional banking is reaching the end of its life cycle. With fintech companies taking over the banking services, it’s imperative to be able to compete with them. A banking organization has to follow the market. And the market is clearly going for convenience, accessibility, mobility, and functionality. Does your banking app reflect that? If the answer is ‘no,’ it’s already obsolete, even before it gets to the preferred app store.

Competitor + 1

Any bank has at least one or two major competitors on the market. If they have apps, then your job is to have a similarly functional product out. But if you want to have any competitive advantage, then follow this formula: competitor + 1 = your app.

It’s quite simple: all of the features that are included in the app by your competitor, plus at least one element that makes your product stand out. Of course, you can go ahead and revolutionize the banking industry with an entirely new set of features and products. But that’s an incredibly costly endeavor.

Having the same functionality and adding just a single outstanding feature can have a dramatic effect on your brand and on how potential clients perceive your bank. Of course, mobile banking application development is quite complex, so make sure that this feature is not enormously taxing on your dev team or the budget.

Different From Your Website

If your app is very similar in functionality, UI, and the overarching logic to your bank’s website, then you have a big problem. People download apps because they want the purified experience. They want to be able to manage their money with less hassle and in as few clicks/taps as possible.

The only common thing with your website that your app should retain is branding. Everything else has to be minimized, simplified, and decluttered. That is why it’s called ‘application.’ It has a specific purpose. And ‘being a marketing/sales vehicle for the bank’ is usually a terrible primary goal for the app.

Personalized

Banks have thousands of customers. Many of them would love to have a better experience with the app provided by their bank. This fantastic potential has to be used to generate ideas for the app.

Sure, copying what the competition has done is excellent. This will at least level the playing field. But that doesn’t quite answer the user experience requirements from the perspective of your actual customers. Your customer base might be different demographically and have different user experience expectations.

There are plenty of ways that you can gather and use this information. Your best bet is identifying the customers who use your current app most and reaching out to them personally with a carefully crafted questionnaire. Don’t start your mobile banking app development until this customer category is contacted.

Combining Offline and Online

There are plenty of standard features in various banking apps. But those that can seamlessly blend offline and online experiences for their users stand out from the crowd. There’s nothing special or fancy about the ability to check your balance using the app. However, it is pretty unique when your customers can take a photo of a bill and have that information scanned by the app to use for future payments. What are some of the other perks that can make your app stand out? The ability to deposit checks by taking their photos; being able to update their personal information by snapping the driver’s updated license or any other document, and so on.

Diverse

We’re getting back to the pool of potential users for any banking app. The bulk of them will probably have an iOS device as their daily driver, so their expectations about the functionality and UX are pretty much universal. But what about other options? There are Android and Windows too, and some might even have a BlackBerry. Here, everything is essential, but you’ll have to pay special attention to hardware requirements.

What runs smoothly on one of the older iPhones might have issues with budget Android devices only because of the hardware differences. To consolidate your development and cater for all of these, strongly consider going for one of the cross-platform banking application development tools that can save valuable time for your developers. Also, think about the overall size and hardware requirements. It makes sense to minimize the app’s footprint on the hardware by making it as simple and minimalistic as possible.

Supported

Even after all the careful planning and execution, there will be times when people are going to get confused by the app. And for some clients, the app might become the primary source of communication between them and the bank.

For both of these categories, and for anyone else who might need your assistance, it’s crucial to include customer care options straight in the app. Of course, creating a full-fledged customer care team is not always a good option, especially for smaller banks, but including a channel within the app is doable. There are plenty of chatbots that can provide essential automated assistance, for example.

You also want to make sure that the support is easy to find. Preferably, a few clicks away. Otherwise, it’s useless, and people will just go to your site in frustration and vent to the support there.

Tested

Testing

Any app goes through a round of testing before it goes live. However, with a banking app, you have to test it more rigorously than anything else. It has to support thousands of users simultaneously. It has to integrate with numerous third parties. It has to perfectly report user activities. It has to handle a large database. And these are just some of the things that have to go smoothly within the app.

That’s why your testing routines and KPIs have to be as extensive, as the actual development process. And this is why you should include all of this testing in your development budget. Yes, it’s expensive. But it’s not redundant. You’re paying for the future stability of the product. You’re paying for potentially avoided lawsuits.

It may as well become the most monumental part of the whole development process. But don’t be scared. All you have to do is make sure that your testing requirements are clearly communicated to the development team. Write this down. Don’t accept the final product, until all of your testing requirements are met.

Have your IT guys rip it apart. Make your developers cry and bash their heads. Make them question their expertise, by finding bugs/inconsistencies/UX flaws that they missed. Only then can your team rely on the code and its quality.

On a final note

To sum it all up, make sure that your banking app is secure, technically advanced and that your development team has done everything to fully test the app and its features before it goes live.

Have your IT guys go over the code together with the developers. Allow this collaboration to make sure that your team understands everything about the final product. This also benefits the developers, as they get to know the people, who are going to take over. A smooth transition from the devs to your team is just as important for the final technical integrity of the banking app.

So here’s a short conclusion to the article: you need to make sure that your banking app is secure, technically advanced and that your development team has done everything to fully test the app and its features before it goes live.

Darya Shmat

Darya has spent over a decade in the banking industry, working on various projects and in multiple capacities since 2003. In the early 2000s, a lot of the processes were manual, and no one had even conceptualized mobile payments and other technologies that are prevalent in the niche today. Darya witnessed the technological growth of the industry from within, as banks digitized and embraced mobile technology. Over the span of her career she has participated in a variety of projects that deal with operations automation, analysis, beta testing, auditing, efficiency evaluation, and other modernization efforts undertaken by banking institutions. She knows firsthand about the technological transformation that the banking industry is steadily going through. Today, Darya works as a business development representative at Iflexion and expertly applies her practical experience to help our banking and financial industry clients find the right development or QA solution.

9 Pillars of App Development for the Banking Industry
Darya Shmat September 13, 2016
  • Hannah Thompson

    I’m so glad you touched on both security and future-proofing because I feel like some banking apps don’t emphasis these enough.
    I get so frustrated with apps that require ridiculous standards for a password, (we’ve all seen the meme: 1 uppercase, 1 number, 1 symbol, tears of a unicorn and 4 leaf clover, etc), yet have no two-factor authentication.
    I also read that in South Korea banks are still using ActiveX for banking platforms. I’m not sure how much this carries over to their banking apps, but talk about lack of future-proofing. It’s like having a Ferrari but only being able to drive in 1st gear when you want to go to the bank.

  • Micheline Logan

    Retail banking is not a complex process, traditional banks have made it so, and are grappling with legacy systems at the back end. Very few of them run genuine omnichannel environments, but tack on a mobile app through which the customer can engage, in the belief that it is just another channel to add, like Internet banking. The frightening reality is that the banks really believe they are at the forefront of digital disruption: I was at an event a couple of months ago, where a very bright young man was talking about how the bank was using design thinking to bring exciting new products to market. Unfortunately he works at my bank, where the card division, mortgages, current accounts and retail asset finance have been in silos for the last 30 years and show no signs of consolidating.
    Another problem with security of banking mobile apps is that there is a 3rd party in the loop, the telco. When something goes wrong, and it does, there is much fingerpointing between the bank and the telco, with little relief for the customer.

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