Columnist

More FinTech apps and a need for financial education – bring on 2019

JESSICA RICHARDS: "Would you give your kids digital pocket money? It could be a way to get them used to the fluctuating value of currency"

Picking up from where I left off, I’m pleased to report that ostentatious presentation of my Revolut metal card finally paid off. On a festive break, the owner of a restaurant in Malaga praised the card’s weighty dimensions as I paid for paella. I guess that’s some return on my 12.99 per month investment!

Revolut serves as a trusty travel companion, giving the ability to top-up and exchange currency on the go. You can switch between digital wallets for your pounds, euros, dollars and crypto, avoiding exchange rate fees and hassle. Can they solve other travel pain points too? Airports provide so much opportunity for improvement these days!

Those of us who have been around long enough will recognise that the challenges of web design are also emerging for mobile apps. One to watch out for in fast-growing products is ‘feature creep’ or the tendency to keep adding features. The Revolut app has so many features that you may not notice them, unless you go hunting under the ‘More’ label. More is the catch-all content bucket, or last resort for users looking to find a feature. Reconsider the structure of information in your product before using More.

Apps over tradition

Starling Bank and Monzo are apparently the most popular British banks. They took first and second place in a poll of 24,000 consumers by Smart Money People in 2018. Fintech apps continue to surpass the traditional banks in customer ratings, as user behaviour shifts. Mobile notifications now tell us that our balance is running low or that we have money available to spend. The wording and style they use to do so could influence our behaviour. It’s an area where research and testing are essential. We also need to know how the apps use our financial data and keep it secure.

This becomes more even important as we move towards self-management of tasks that we used to leave to professionals. I was recently recommended Coconut, an app aimed at freelancers to help them manage their accounting and tax. ONS categorised 15% of the UK workforce as freelance in 2017, and the number of us working this way is growing all the time. Freelancers have to manage their own benefits and make provisions for pensions, holidays and sick pay. Pretty major stuff to contend with on top of your job. So Coconut could be one to watch.

New kid on the block

A new FinTech kid on the block, Viola Black, made headlines this month for its communication tone. ‘Move Over, Monzo’ it announced, in ads all over London. Fighting talk, but the product itself looks to be a prepaid card which isn’t offering anything unique. Tell your audience what problem you solve, not who you intend to usurp, is my advice.

Look out for more FinTech apps battling for dominance in 2019, which should bring job opportunities. Monzo announced they will create more than 300 jobs in Cardiff. In these Brexit-y times when political and economic confidence is low, this is good news. I expect to see more opportunities for design, UX, marketing, content and many other disciplines to make an impact in FinTech and blockchain.

Less good perhaps, is the news that average household debt in the UK is £15,400. Since most of us were never taught it at school, we need more help in understanding finance. The ability to take a loan has been quietly added to some of the apps I mention above. At the click of a button you can boost your bank account, but is that the best option? And how much will you be paying back?

Financial education

I hope we’ll see more companies working on the challenge of improving financial education this year. One way to approach this is to start early. Enter Pigzbe, a piggy bank wallet and educational app. Would you give your kids digital pocket money? It could be a way to get them used to the fluctuating value of currency, but won’t reduce the time they spend on their mobiles. They will simply now be managing their portfolios.

Another brand to watch is Finimize. Emails curated by its global community give you finance news in three minutes. I like the jargon busting approach. With headings such ‘What Does This Mean?’ and ‘Why Should I Care?’, it includes those with different levels of financial knowledge. And those who skim-read their emails.

Finimizer also run educational events and I made it to one aimed at getting women involved in investment. There was a panel of four women including a VC, money expert and start-up founder giving advice. It’s great to see more diversity in finance related events. They also had Prosecco and gin cocktails. More of this please. Roll on 2019!

 

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