Natalie Monko Lead Project Manager

    8 Fintech Startup Ideas to Consider in 2021

    Until recently, the sphere of finance has been among the slower ones to adopt innovations made possible by the digital revolution. But with the rising number of companies that use innovative business models and technology to provide, improve and revolutionize financial services, the FinTech industry became one of the hottest and largely invested in. 

    According to EY research, the adoption of fintech by consumers grew from 16% in 2015 to 64% in 2019. While cash and visits to banks fell out of favor during the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless solutions and services that let people pay and manage finances from their homes became only more popular. Mobile apps of banks, brokerage companies and other financial enterprises became the main tools for providing services and communicating with customers.

    The fintech industry is still young and there are plenty of ideas and concepts that only wait to be discovered, improved and brought to people. Over the last few years, Surf has developed several apps for banks and crypto exchange, and we closely follow the fintech industry for the latest technologies and trends. Let’s take a look together at the most innovative fintech startups and what features to consider when developing a fintech mobile app.

    Investing app

    More than half of Americans invest in stocks, while almost 15% own cryptocurrency. Such statistics clearly explain why investing apps are in demand — more and more people want to have an easy-to-use solution to buy and sell stocks, options and mutual funds, buy foreign currency and grow their passive income. One of the most noticeable trends of the investment apps is how they make trading accessible to everyone: the simplified interface of Robinhood, automatic investment of spare change in Acorns and guidance in Stash are features that make these apps so popular.

    Whether your investment app will be focused on long-term investment or frequent trading, it is important to design a user-friendly and responsive interface that allows users to see their portfolio performance and perform quick deals in a volatile market. Because users often trade in foreign markets, and casual investors have time to analyze their assets in the evening, don’t forget to implement a dark mode. When Surf developed an app for Twim crypto exchange, we designed a color scheme based on a dark gray background with bright orange and off-white fonts, which is less stressful on the eyes and does not prevent the secretion of the so-called ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin.

    Twim app

    To learn more about what to consider when developing an investment app, read our dedicated article. 

    Crowdfunding app

    Raising money to start a restaurant or create a clothing line from those who already want to become your customers is a great alternative to loans and large investors. Not only funders will help to collect the necessary sum,but they will also spread the word about the campaign to their friends and families.

    If you think about creating a fintech startup funding app, it is important to define what types of campaigns it will focus on. For example, Patreon is the first thing that comes to mind regarding the funding of creative talent, while GoFundMe is great for non-profit causes, and Kickstarter is one of the most popular platforms among individual entrepreneurs. While most of these services started as websites, the addition of a mobile app helped them to better connect creators and supporters with instant notifications on campaigns’ updates and integrations of Apple Pay and Google Pay.

    Kickstarter app

    P2P Payment App

    Peer-to-peer payments are a popular way to send and receive money instantly, securely and with low commissions. In addition to money transfers, P2P payment apps like Venmo and Cash App let people issue debit cards that allow them to make purchases in brick-and-mortar and internet stores using money directly from the service’s account.

    Cash App app

    Building a P2P payment app is a prospective idea for a fintech startup that has various monetization options, including transaction fees and partnerships with various businesses. The latest technologies, such as QR-code payments, NFC and biometric ID open new possibilities and use-cases for such apps.

    Lending App

    Also based on the peer-to-peer model, P2P lending apps connect individual lenders and borrowers, allowing the former to invest and get attractive returns and the latter to get an instant loan without a tedious application process. One of the most popular platforms, Peerform offers personal loans of up to $25,000, while its portfolio builder helps investors to adjust risk according to their needs. Another reputable service, Funding Circle is focused on loans of up to £500,000 for small businesses. 

    The growing popularity of Bitcoin is creating a potential new market for crypto lending apps, while AI algorithms and machine learning enhance the process of matching lenders and borrowers according to their rates and credit scores, at the same time offering strong fraud protection.

    Budget app

    Along with banking and payment services, fintech is actively changing the way people manage their finances. Mobile apps became the main tools in the hands of modern consumers to budget their money. Such apps track user’s incomes and expenses from all credit cards and payment services, analyze their spendings and suggest what categories to cut down and how to invest the saved amount. Such apps like Pocketguard and YNAB let users set money goals and track their progress, which helps to get out of a vicious debt circle and improves overall financial health.

    YNAB app

    When building a personal finance app in 2021, don’t forget to include a feature to scan receipts, so that a user can quickly add a cash purchase, and integrations with crypto wallets, since bitcoin and other altcoins are steadily gaining popularity as a common method of payment. For more insights, read our “How to build a budget app” article where we cover this type of apps in more detail.

    Insurtech app

    Another part of the fintech industry that deserves attention is digital solutions in insurance. The power of AI and big data lets fintech companies collect and process large sets of customers’ data providing valuable behavioral insights and better risk management. At the same time, mobile insurance apps are making it easier for customers to claim insurance and keep track of their expenses along with other unique benefits. For example, the car insurance Allstate app gives insight into how a user drives and rewards them for safe driving, while the home insurance Hippo app supports integration with smart home monitoring devices that help prevent water damage, fires and break-ins.

    Neobank app

    Neobank is a digital bank that operates exclusively online without bank branches. Customers of such banks receive common financial services such as money transfers, banking cards issuing, and investment options via a convenient mobile app. By eliminating expenses on numerous offices and extra staff, digital banking products come at lower fees compared to traditional banks.One of the prominent examples of innovative banking apps is Varo, which is the first US fully-licensed digital bank that lets customers receive their salary two days in advance, earn up to 3% interest rate on their deposit and get exclusive offers and cashback from partners. Another famous solution is a UK-based Revolut that positions itself as a financial super app, which offers everything, from loans and money transfers to multi-currency cards for travelers and access to cryptocurrency exchanges and stock trading.

    Nubank app

    Along with lower fees, the main reason why more and more customers choose neobanks is convenient apps with top-notch security. When Surf developed a corporate banking app for Rosbank (part of Société Générale group), we were the first in Russia to choose Flutter cross-platform technology for a banking app. This choice of technology not only allowed us to build apps for both Android and iOS from one set of code, saving a significant part of the client’s budget but also offer advanced security to its users: Flutter runs on Dart coding language that is compiled into native, non-human readable code, making it even more secure than native apps on Java or Kotlin. In 2021, the Rosbank app won Tagline Awards, the highest Russian award for interactive projects, in the Banking, Finance, and Insurance category.

    Rosbank app

    Regtech (regulatory technology)

    Another way to make it in the fintech industry is to create digital solutions to help companies with compliance, regulatory monitoring and enhance regulatory processes. There are several main areas of focus, each of them having popular solutions, which doesn’t mean there is no more room for improvement and innovation. 

    Risk Management: assessment of regulatory and compliance risks and their prevention (Ayasdi, Derivitec). 

    Regulatory Reporting: automated distribution of data and regulatory reporting with the help of cloud technologies and big data analysis (CaaS, Vital4). 

    Identity Management & Control: digital solutions that help companies with Know Your Customer (KYC) identification and detection of fraud and illegal practices (Giant Oak, SignDesk). 

    Transaction Monitoring: digital solutions that help with auditing and monitoring of transactions, including crypto (Forter, Chainalysis). 

    Compliance: real-time tracking of how a company complies with existing regulations and whether there are any upcoming changes to them (Relativity, Hummingbird).

    Fintech app features in 2021

    If you’re starting a fintech company, a well-built modern-looking app should be one of your primary goals. For general insights on how to pick the right technology, research the market and choose developers for your project, look no further than our article on how to build a fintech app. And here we’ll take a look at the most important and trending app features currently adopted by key players on the fintech market.

    Tough security

    Because fintech apps process a lot of sensitive data, bullet-proof security is paramount for any app in digital finance. Also, it is important to invest in testing every app feature and third-party integration.

    Here is what security measures to build in a fintech app:

    • Secure HTTPS and SSL protocols.
    • Two-factor authentication through SMS or e-mail codes.
    • Masking of money figures on the screen from onlookers.
    • A service to promptly wipe user data in case of a device being lost or stolen (implemented via a web portal, for example).

    When developing banking apps, we at Surf aim to test 100% of the app code. In one case, this was mainly achieved through autotests that made up about 65% of all testing and saved a considerable amount of money and time. For example, automation of 75% of sanity tests, which are done by testers rather than programmers, decreased the total amount of testing hours by more than a half.

    Custom notifications

    An instant notification about a stock price change or a reminder about bills due are essential features of finance apps. Think about every possible way customers will use your app and create highly customizable notifications settings so that everyone can set up and receive only necessary alerts. Annoying notifications are as bad as the lack of notifications about what is really important.


    To make people enjoy using a finance app, which is mostly about boring figures and percentages, it is important to create an easy-to-understand interface and incorporate beautiful graphs and animations that help see at a glance the returns of users’ investments, whom they sent money to and other information, depending on the exact type of app.
    The sphere of finance is also about the red tape: documents, bills and agreements, and in fintech apps they all turn from paper to a digital form. Think thoroughly about how to organize the document management in the app, so that a user won’t have trouble finding a required document quickly. In the app for Rosbank, Surf created a dedicated screen where users can see all documents and filter them by date, name, type, amount and other parameters. We also added a ‘repeat’ feature which creates new documents from existing templates in just three clicks.

    Quick scan

    The majority of fintech apps require users to connect their bank accounts to track and perform transactions. To help your customers, integrate a card scanner feature that instantly detects and inputs card details when a user holds it in front of a phone’s camera. Also, a personal finance or investing app will highly benefit from a built-in OCR (optical character recognition) system that recognizes bills and documents, so that users won’t have to input all the details manually.

    AI assistance

    Powered by AI and constantly learning on big data, chatbots can help users of your app in many ways: from answering common questions on how to use the app, to personalized investment recommendations and lessons in financial literacy. This will not only allow you to cut down costs on customer support, reserving human employees for more complicated matters and VIP-clients but also let a bigger part of the user base receive personalized attention and quick answers to questions.

    To sum things up

    Previously lagging behind other industries, fintech quickly gains pace, as we see more and more emerging companies that provide digital finance solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic gave another strong impulse to the shift from brick-and-mortar banks and cash to digital banks and contactless payments.

    As we reviewed eight promising fintech startup ideas, a common trait among almost all of them can’t go unnoticed — a mobile app is the main tool of interaction and communication between a company and its customers. Surf has been creating mobile apps for almost 10 years and, with apps for banks and crypto exchange in the portfolio, our team is quite familiar with fintech app development. If you would like to discuss the estimation and development of your app, fill in the short form, and we’ll contact you shortly.