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    Developing a Mobile Banking Application: Must-Have Features, Stages, and Challenges in 2023

    During the global pandemic, while visits to physical bank offices were limited, mobile banking gained traction. This forced financial organizations to devote attention to developing mobile banking applications or improving existing ones. Now, it is only a matter of time until many of these companies move into the digital space, decreasing their physical presence to just an essential minimum.

    The fintech domain, which refers to digital technologies used within banking and finance, is rapidly growing. Cutting-edge approaches like blockchain technology, contactless payments, cloudification, ML & AI transform the way people manage their money, buy things, invest, and budget. By 2024, the number of people using online banking solutions globally is forecasted to go beyond 2.5 billion — almost a third of the world population, and the demand has no reason to halt at this point. The situation offers huge possibilities to mobile finance applications.

    Surf has been in custom application development since 2011, having created effective solutions for banks and trading platforms, as well as companies in other industries. In the article, we’ll discuss the eventual difficulties in banking app development, review cases of beneficial digital finance products, and explore the essential steps of mobile banking application development.

    Surf has an extensive portfolio of banking apps.
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    What is mobile banking and what advantages it offers for businesses 

    Mobile banking provides individuals and enterprises with the possibility to carry out financial operations, such as opening up an account, exchanging currency, and transferring money via smartphone. This not only brings convenience to customers but benefits the organization as well, which explains the increasing number of banks that are mobile-first and operate exclusively online.

    Among the advantages an app delivers to the bank itself are:

    • Decreased spending on physical offices. Fewer bank branches mean smaller expenditures on rent, staff, and security, which allows allocating this part of a budget into business growth, scaling, and developing innovative customer solutions.
    • Increased income. 24/7 availability makes customers more eager to use the bank, which in turn increases the number of operations and profitability. Meanwhile, support via digital channels drives customer satisfaction because it allows them to solve issues more conveniently than visiting a bank branch.
    • Improved analytics. When the majority of customers engage with a bank through its app, it provides a valuable opportunity for analyzing customers’ behavior, use patterns, and preferences. Such insights help discover the best strategies to attract new customers and improve the engagement rate of the existing ones.
    • Better security. Physical bank branches and large amounts of cash require tight security measures that come at substantial costs and increase exponentially: the more offices a bank has, the more it pays for security. Surely, digital banking requires guard measures as well, but they can be developed and scaled to all customer accounts more cost-effectively.

    Successful examples of mobile banking apps 

    To get insight into current customer demands in mobile banking it is useful to review examples of successful apps.

    Chase Mobile

    An application by Chase bank provides centralized access to an extensive range of banking services. Among its notable features are QuckPay — a real-time P2P money transfer; QuickDeposit, which allows scanning checks to make digital deposits; card management, covering locking & unlocking of a lost credit or debit card and ordering a replacement; setting up of budget and saving goals; as well as Chase Ultimate Rewards — a collection of personal offerings.

    One of the unique Chase app features is Today’s Snapshot, which shows a user’s daily and monthly spending with a breakdown into categories. The application also provides investment management, wire transfers, and location services to search for a nearby ATM or the bank’s office. 

    Revolut

    UK-based Revolut was developed in 2015 by Nikolay Storonsky, who, as a frequent traveler, regularly experienced sky-high fees for international transfers. The bank started as a currency exchange for 30 currencies and gradually gained increased functionality, growing into a full-fledged mobile-first neobank.

    Revolut customers can make international money transfers at current exchange rates across over 200 countries as well as make payments, exchange currency, including crypto, make investments in stocks, and withdraw money at ATMs all over the world in 120 currencies. Currently, the bank operates in almost 40 countries and caters to both individuals and business customers. The bank offers three subscription plans: free Standard one, Premium with extended functionality and benefits, and Metal, which comes with exclusive metal cards.

    App for Neobank by Surf 

    Developed by Surf, an application for Pakistani neobank was created in less than a year. It provides convenient and secure access to all common financial features, including remote sign up, account and card management, transfers and bill payments, along with online support chat. New customers can start banking without a visit to an office by simply taking a selfie and a photo of their passport for verification.

    The app is created with Flutter cross-platform development framework, using Surf’s own open-source solution — an Elementary library that helps building a clear and transparent architecture. Because of the project’s tight schedule, it was decided to use ready-made SDKs for several features, such as IDWise for user identification during registration and I2C to carry out financial operations. We also implemented an integration with OneSignal third-party service for delivering push notifications. At the development stage, the project had the highest percentage of test coverage among all Surf applications built with Flutter, with unit tests created for each feature. 

    First Flutter banking app in Europe

    A while back, Société Générale was the first finance service group in Europe to choose Flutter cross-platform framework for one of its apps. Created by Surf, it provides digital finance services to the bank’s corporate clients. The application boasts a bright modern design and user-friendly interface that allows users to carry out banking operations in just a few taps. It has an adaptable home screen that can be adjusted according to the user’s preferences. The Document tab provides extensive filtering options to search documents according to date, amount, and type, as well as a tool to create new ones with templates in a few clicks. Thanks to Flutter, the application is built with a single iOS and Android codebase and easy to test, maintain, and scale.

    Challenges in mobile banking application development 

    The boost in mobile banking popularity drives tighter competition in the area, meaning that a bank’s app must satisfy all (or at least most) customer expectations. Let’s see what aspects must be considered to achieve this.

    Secure authentication

    As soon as it refers to sensitive data, customers need a guarantee of supreme security level. For businesses, it’s vital to protect financial data, including transactions and card details. A banking application is expected to provide two-factor authentication via SMS or email codes, as well as the implementation of biometric, touch, or facial identification options for quick log-in.

    Neobank app by Surf

    KYC verification

    State regulators keep a tight eye on the fintech sector and the pressure increases as the amount of money processed by digital solutions grows. It is essential to comply with the local laws of the country and/or state it operates in. Among the most notable regulations in the US is Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance. It requires a bank to monitor and check ongoing transactions to ensure they aren’t involved in money laundering, and verify the origin of large sums that exceed certain thresholds. 

    3rd party integrations

    From geolocation that helps customers to find a nearby ATM to the ability to show transaction details on a smartwatch, such banking app functionality requires either costly development from scratch or third-party integrations. In most cases, the latter option turns out to be more efficient, secure, and cheaper, since these integrations are extensively tested and supported by leading brands. 

    Fast-changing requirements

    To remain competitive, banks must keep in sight emerging solutions and technologies. By embracing machine learning, cloudification, and blockchain, finance companies can reduce mobile banking app development cost and cut expenses on daily operations, risk management, and compliance. It is impossible not to emphasize the importance of the mobile-first approach, when customers can open a bank account remotely via their smartphone. Here, partnering with a company that has relevant expertise in fintech and banking mobile app development can ensure that the final result is not only a stable and fully functional application, but also a modern, secure and performant one.

    Leading digital finance players partner with Surf.
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    What steps to begin with to develop a mobile banking application 

    Let’s have a closer look at the essential steps of mobile banking app development. 

    Step 1: Pre-project research 

    As well as the development of any other software, the creation of a mobile application for finance operations starts from thorough market research. Business analysts, together with a project manager, choose a market niche and target audience, and learn about existing competitors, as well as their strengths & weaknesses. 

    Step 2: Mobile banking app concept 

    Based on the information gathered during the first step, the team conceptualizes the project, including usage scenarios, essential features, and so on. Choosing a tech stack that fits the bill and business requirements is also important at this stage. 

    Step 3: Mobile banking application MVP development 

    An MVP or minimum viable product is an application’s working version with only essential features that precede a full-scaled one. Developing such a prototype allows business to test various logic and gather customer feedback during the development, without spending the whole budget to discover that some aspects require reworking or are not needed at all. Also, MVP is useful to showcase the product to potential investors and gain their trust.

    Must-have features for your banking application

    Signing-Up / Signing-In. Since opening a bank account remotely has become a new norm, developing quick sign-up options via Gmail or Facebook is a good idea. Of course, any future sign-ons should be protected by a two-step verification or biometric identification via a fingerprint or facial recognition.

    Account management. Delivering personalized experience is hot these days and developers should make it possible for the software to adapt to customers’ preferences, providing shortcuts to frequently used operations and suggesting products that suit their budgeting and spending patterns.

    Payments & transactions. It should be simple for customers to send and receive funds and see incurring commissions and remaining balance before initiating a transaction.

    Bill payments. Since many payments occur regularly, it is significant to supply users with an option to schedule recurring operations and save time inputting the same details every month.

    Push notifications about transactions, special offers, and other account-related events should be customizable according to their importance.

    Customer support. Accessible support via a built-in live chat, messengers, and phone is an important feature that directly impacts customer satisfaction rate.

    Step 4: Testing 

    When developing a banking app, the testing process should be aimed at ensuring flawless user experience and at the security of every component of the application. A single fraud case can destroy a bank’s reputation. The tests in the process of mobile banking development should cover server-side security, used encryption solutions, and all operations available to users.

    Step 5: Adding integrations

    The release day doesn’t mean an entire halt in the work of mobile banking app developers. Regular updates ensure that users are kept engaged, and the app may evolve in line with trends and emerging solutions. To save money and time, most of the additional functionality can be implemented via ready-made secure integrations instead of being developed entirely from scratch. 

    Also, a company should never forget about post-release maintenance that includes bug fixing and adding support of new hardware and software. Here, a thoroughly documented application’s architecture and functionality help a lot if the project is transferred to an in-house team. Surf team strictly follows this rule, supplying every project with detailed documentation for a seamless transition at any stage of development.

    Mobile banking app development: bottom line

    Multiple aspects define how popular a bank’s mobile app will become among its customers. These include modern design, usability, available features, and security’s strength. A well-planned and executed development process takes into consideration all of these aspects, ensuring the product fits the current market and can adapt to new challenges.

    Surf has a proven track record of developing successful Android, iOS, and cross-platform applications in finance, banking, and other industries. Our cross-industrial expertise, highly skilled talent, and familiarity with the cutting-edge technologies make Surf one of the top mobile banking development services providers.