Finance Apps: Types, Features and Market Trends for 2021
These were the early 1980s that witnessed the start of experiments with home (or online) banking. Bank customers were offered the possibility to pay bills, check balances, and apply for a loan without going to the bank office. Since then, software that helps individuals and business owners automate financial management has made huge progress both in terms of functionality and market share. The finance apps can be locally installed or cloud-based. They are functionally different and numerous and growing more. Investors eagerly invest their money in fintech solutions.
According to CB Insights, the first quarter of 2021 was globally the largest quarter for financial technology funding with 57 mega-rounds (exceeding $100 million) and $22.8 billion raised by venture capital-backed fintech companies, where the average deal size increased from $19.3 million in Q4 of 2020 to $37 million in Q1 of 2021.
Based on ten years of experience in building apps for major brands, including solutions for the financial industry, we at Surf are sure that the first step on the way to creating a cutting-edge app is to stay well-informed about the market trends and competitors’ offers.
We have already told our readers how to develop a fintech app. And in this very article, we are going to give more details about financial software: what it is, what the main types are, and where lies the difference between out-of-the-box solutions and custom development.
Types of financial software
As it is clear from the term itself, this type of software is developed to address everyday finance-related challenges such as storage, analysis, management, and processing of financial information. The software can be designed to solve personal or corporate challenges while the main idea, among others, can be to improve customer service, increase the efficiency of operations, automate processes, ensure transparency, simplify decision-making, or provide better scalability.
There are several types of financial applications that can be distinguished based on their functionality.
Banking apps are designed to provide the user with fast and easy access to their bank account from their device to complete the transactions they need without visiting bank branches.
Global Market Insights reports that the global digital banking market size stood at $8 trillion in 2019 and is predicted to record 6% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) through 2026. The trend has been boosted by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the one hand, and by the habits of the Millenials (between 25 and 40 years old) and Generation Z (under 25 years old) who choose digital banking over physical banking, on the other hand.
Online banking apps offer various features such as:
- viewing balance and history
- making deposits
- paying bills
- initiating transfers to other bank accounts
- scheduling payments or
- locating ATMs
- cardless ATM withdrawal
- budgeting and tracking tools, etc.
According to the Forbes Advisor survey, the three most valuable banking app features for consumers are mobile check deposit (35% of respondents), viewing statement and accounts balancing (33%), and transferring funds between accounts (31%).
The range of services depends on the bank which can be either a traditional institution offering access to its services through the desktop or mobile apps (Bank of America, Barclays, Sberbank) or a digital-only bank (or neobank) with all services rendered online (Chime, Revolut, Monzo).
A good example is a new corporate banking app that Surf developed for Rosbank, a Russian universal bank that is part of the Société Générale international financial group. The concept is a smart bank as an all-in-one hub that helps corporate clients of any scale solve banking-related issues with a couple of taps.
Based on Surf’s experience we have prepared a detailed guide on the cost of developing a banking app in our blog and when you’re interested in developing a custom solution, we can provide a free estimate for your project.
Personal finance software is designed to help users improve their efficiency in money management and meet their financial needs and goals. The features offered may cover:
- tracking expenses
- tracking debts
- taxes, etc.
Within each category, there are smaller niches with personal needs that have to be met. For example, according to Forbes Advisor, the Honeydue app is featured as the best budgeting app for couples. The app is designed to help couples adjust communication and provide transparency in terms of budgeting. The app is a good example of technology adapting to users’ needs: partners can chat in the app about their budgetary issues, adjust automated bill reminders, choose whether one person will be responsible for bills or both in equal measures.
The numerous apps available in the global personal finance software market offer a great variety of functions (Quicken, YNAB, Mint) and according to NMSC, the market was valued at $0.94 billion in 2019 with the forecasted value of $1.69 billion by 2030.
You can check out our article about how to build a personal finance application, if you’re looking to build a product in this category.
Stock trading software is intended to help users facilitate their trading process and improve decision-making due to such features as:
- access to historical and real-time data
- fundamental and technical analyses
- global real-time news
- educational options, etc.
Along with the basic functionality, different stock trading platforms (Lightspeed Trading, Webull, Ameritrade) offer their users various options assisting them in making informed decisions and receiving more gains.
For example, Trade Ideas developed an AI System (Holly) to provide traders with efficient data-supported trading opportunities, and currently, AI demonstrates impressive performance that can be checked online.
Digital wallets are software-based finance accounts replacing the physical wallets that do not require a bank account. The digital wallets provide for the following features:
- secure storage of users’ payment information
- easy purchase using NFC (Near-Field Communications) technology
- acceptance of payments for services rendered
- receiving funds or remittances from friends and family
- storage of loyalty card information and digital coupons
- cryptocurrency transactions
- tracking payment history, etc.
The market offers many options from the top digital wallet companies such as Due, ApplePay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Venmo, AliPay, Walmart Pay, and they are in great demand as the value of transactions through digital wallets has been increasing from $756 billion in 2018 to $2 trillion in 2020, and forecasts provide for further growth.
Robo-advisors are digital platforms designed to automate financial advice services. This is
algorithm-based financial planning software that allows minimizing human supervision and making decisions data-driven without a personal touch.
Robo-advisors are capable of performing such tasks as:
- collecting investor information
- managing portfolio
- selecting investments
- tax-loss harvesting
- retirement planning
- answering investor’s queries, etc.
Since the first Robo-advisor was launched in 2008, the segment has grown to a less expensive and 24/7 accessible alternative to human advisors. It is expected to count 478,886.0K users by 2025, as reported by Statista.
Insurance software is intended to facilitate the daily activities of insurance carriers and agencies and help them improve efficiency and increase the accuracy of risk assessment, on the one hand, and to assist customers in performing the insurance-related operations, on the other hand.
Features for agencies:
- keeping track of policy and claims information
- managing internal teams
- housing information in an easily searchable database
- automating routine processes, such as billing or reporting
- encryption and user authentication
- automatic notification
- communication tracking, etc.
Features for customers:
- checking policy information
- logging in
- filling out forms
- making online payments
- self-service requests.
Insurtech (technology used in the insurance industry) is now on the rise. The investments in Insurtech companies are growing on a global scale. In 2019, the invested capital value was $14.3 billion and in 2020 it increased to $14.5 billion
The innovation companies have achieved prominent results. For example, Coalition (founded in 2017) specializes in managing and mitigating cyber risks and has more than 42,000 customers; property insurance company Hippo (founded in 2015) using AI and Big Data, has total written premiums grown more than 30% last year to more than $400 million.
Payment processing software refers to a solution that facilitates online payments for goods and services.
There are three key components required to process online payment:
- A merchant account is a bank account intended for enabling online payment processing for Internet businesses.
- A payment processor is a company or financial institution that is in charge of transactions between the customer bank and the merchant bank. The scope of the payment processor covers security, card validity, card limits, available funds, and any errors.
- A payment gateway is a consumer-facing interface designed to transfer customer information to the acquiring bank for further processing of the transaction.
Some payment processing software solutions offer all three components, while others have their merchant account and payment gateway integrated with a third-party payment processor. Thus, Stripe is a payment service provider, and this means payment processing starts as soon as you sign in. Authorize.Net offers a payment gateway but also an all-in-one plan that provides for connecting your payment gateway with a third-party merchant account and payment processor.
As in the case of the banking software described above, the popularity of payment service providers such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Stripe, etc, has been boosted recently under the pandemic impact and influence of two younger generations. Moreover, this type of software is in high demand in terms of providing access to financial services for the unbanked population (and this is about two billion people globally).
Peer-to-peer lending software is designed as a means to help borrowers (individuals or businesses) connect directly with lenders. Lenders, in this case, are individual or corporate investors as alternatives to banks or other conventional financial institutions.
By the end-user P2P loans can be divided into:
- personal loans
- business loans
- student loans
- home improvement loans
- auto loans
- medical loans.
P2P lending products differ from each other with application processes, time to funding, acceptable loan amounts, borrower qualifications. For example, Peerform offers the best rates, while Upstart qualifies borrowers with more factors than credit score and is a good fit in case of limited credit history.
Wealth management software is designed to grow, protect, and pass on the wealth of clients.
According to Insider, 77% of financial advisors from the US and Canada lost business because they lacked the tools to communicate with clients during the pandemic. Three-fourth of global wealth managers consider digital to be a priority.
Wealth management focuses on every aspect of the client financial management, including:
- general accounting assistance
- tax services
- retirement planning
- estate planning
- investment management.
For example, Personal Capital provides deep insights into the complete user financial picture as it allows viewing all accounts in one place; inStream simplifies planning processes for better wealth management.
Investment (or portfolio) management is tightly connected with the previous type but the software is not as all around as wealth management and intended to help investors facilitate portfolio management, improve decision making and risk management.
The software offers such features as:
- investment tracking
- portfolio performance
- data importing
- asset reporting
- financial risk management.
See our blog post “How to Build an Investing App” to learn more about this type of software.
Accounting software is designed for businesses to automate the accounting processes. The accounting systems can offer specialized functionality for businesses of different sizes: from self-employed to enterprises where they belong to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
The key features offered by this type of financial software are:
- keeping accounting records
- invoicing and billing
- generating reports
- financial planning
- assets amortization
- payroll accounting
- tax administration, etc.
Forbes offers some insights from the experienced entrepreneurs to help navigate through the numerous products available in the market.
Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights, Sage is an excellent bookkeeping software that can save you time and money. What I like most about this tool are the customization options. You can adjust everything to your liking without compromising the effectiveness of the software. I also like that it works with the cloud, which makes it easy for remote businesses to track their finances.”
Regulation and compliance
Regulation and compliance software belongs to the RegTech sector and is intended for managing regulatory processes within the financial industry.
Regulation and compliance software is responsive to legal and regulatory changes and its main characteristics are agility, speed, integration, and analytics.
The key RegTech segments are:
- compliance management
- regulatory reporting
- risk management
- identity management
- transaction monitoring.
Along with the upswing of digital transformation in the finance industry, the need for RegTech adoption is growing as regulators require from business more transparency and accountability.
Crowdfunding software allows users to raise funds from a wide audience for various purposes starting from business ideas to personal emergency needs.
The key features that are significant for a crowdfunding platform:
- dashboards for fundraisers and investors
- easy and fast application and sign up
- payment gateway with multi currency support
- progress meter for tracking campaign progress
- social network sharing.
According to Statista, the global crowdfunding market was valued at $13.9 billion in 2019 and was forecast to grow three times by 2026.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency
There has been much skepticism around blockchain, and more so, concerning the recent crush of cryptocurrency prices. But according to Gartner Hype Cycle for Blockchain, 2021 the technology is steadily evolving and its value and benefits should not be confused with the cryptocurrency prices. Though there are still challenges such as slow adoption and a lack of established standards and regulations for blockchain-based systems, Gartner predicts that by 2023, 35% of enterprise blockchain applications will integrate with decentralized applications and services. And this can be explained by increased attention to security and monitoring.
For the finance industry blockchain brings the following advantages:
- instant settlement of transactions
- smart contracts to improve contractual performance
- better transparency and security
- effective risk control
- better auditing
- reduced costs.
Surf experience in cryptocurrency trading proves that the crucial point in this segment is to make the software fast. We developed a cryptocurrency trading platform that is designed both for professional traders and enthusiasts. And one of the key challenges was to make it capable of maintaining fast data flow for instantaneous quote updates. The task was completed successfully.
5 must-have features of financial software systems
Irrespective of the type of financial software system, some features are not to be ignored if you are going to develop a financial application.
The app shall meet the requirements of all applicable financial and legal rules and regulations both at the global and local levels.
The security of your app shall be at the highest level to prevent any cybercrime or fraud. Starting from authorization and authentication processes to receiving prompt notifications and alerts, the user shall be confident that their money and data are safe.
Check out our blog post: Banking App Security Threats and How to Avoid Them
The finance-related products shall be simple as they are intended to facilitate and speed up routine processes. Therefore, any design solution shall be client-centered and take into account the proven practices.
Today, customers expect that an app will address their different needs, easy and fast. And these are APIs (Application Programming Interface) that allow developers to access and integrate the functionality of different applications and create a seamless omnichannel user experience. A good illustration can be popular WeChat or Alipay super apps that offer a wide range of services within a single unique app.
Along with best practices, cutting-edge technologies offer opportunities based on AI, blockchain, big data analytics, etc. They are vital both for meeting competition and winning your customers’ loyalty.
Custom vs out-of-the-box solution
Being aware of the market situation and competitors’ offers is a significant step towards the financial software you need. The next stage is to decide between a ready-to-use solution and the development of your finance product. As with any business-related decision, the choice shall be based upon the specific nature of your company’s processes, solutions, and environment.
Out-of-the-box solutions bear less risk and save much time and resources.
They are a good fit in cases, when:
- you are going to automate the standard financial processes and may choose one of the numerous products available in the market
- you need a solution that is ready to go quickly without much expertise required for installation and deployment
- you are looking for a budget-friendly initial price
- you do not have an in-house team for customization
- you are looking for good customer support
- you do not have time and resources for testing and adapting and prefer solutions that have been already operation-tested and optimized and proved their efficiency.
Custom development offers more flexibility and the possibility to outperform competitors and deliver higher value to your customers.
There are several cases when developing custom software does make sense:
- your processes and flow are complex and require an innovative solution that has no analogs with the proven performance
- your internal processes are evolving and flexible so that this would be a complicated task to adapt the ready-to-use software to every change
- you expect growth of users/customers and need good scalability which cannot be guaranteed with a third-party product
- you have a complex legacy system that will be hard to integrate with third-party products.
These are cases when custom financial software development is cost-effective in the long term despite the higher initial expenses.
Before you go, make sure you check out our blog post about trends that currently shape the fintech industry to get an idea about what the future of finance will look like.