From a buzzword to reality – open banking has come a long way. It’s now a default setting powering a wide range of products addressed to the retail consumer. Open banking apps have become interfaces for financial services, changing the banking experience.
Until recently, clients were encouraged to spend more than they earned, take out loans for the things they didn’t need and run up an overdraft on their credit cards. They were overcharged for foreign exchange transactions and they had their money frozen as a result of lengthy payment processes. For years, banks were increasing their wealth at the expense of their customers which resulted in disillusionment and the fundamental loss of trust. PSD2 legislation came about as an attempt to treat this uneconomical malaise. It enabled consumers to share their financial data with parties outside of their old banks, who were aware of the problem and have put in a lot of effort to address it.
Best open banking apps have been created out of talking to users and attuning to their real needs. They optimise the use of technology and not people any more, offering a wide choice of services ranging from instant payments, budgeting and investments to the proof of income and credit status verification. In this open banking apps review, we look at the most interesting products on the market and try to find out the secret to their success.
An app that makes sure you don’t overspend
An interface on top of traditional bank accounts
More than 4 million users consider Cleo the best open banking app, but it’s so much more than this! It started off as a script which Barnaby Hussey-Yeo wrote for himself to help him manage his finances better. He would be sent text messages letting him know when he was going to exceed his monthly budget. That’s one of the things Cleo does. She will make sure you don’t overspend. Cleo is a sophisticated AI-driven chatbot that you can talk and send messages to and she will respond. Such a solution creates a safe space to ask questions about your money and develop a more mature relationship with it.
Thanks to open banking technology, Cleo works on top of traditional bank accounts, acting as a trustworthy interface that will allow the user to manage their finances to the best of their potential. The features that Cleo offers are around budgeting, saving, borrowing and building credit. You can set up your monthly targets, your spendings are broken down into categories and there is a bill management functionality too. There is cashback on every buy and saving hacks that will help you develop healthy habits.
Cleo is built for millenials which is reflected in cool design epitomised by a pizza slice cursor. When it comes to the marketing language of the app, it takes no BS approach with such blog posts as “Black Friday is a scam” or “Toast your 2021 spending and move the f*ck on”. Such content resonates with users and helps to build confidence in the product.
Don’t worry! I’ll lydia you some money.
Multi-functional money management app
It’s hard to say if Lydia is Cleo’s best friend or foe. They have so much in common that it’s hard for them not to compete. Originally set up in France, Lydia is an open banking app created for the same target group and attracting approximately the same number of users as the UK-born Cleo. They are both subscription-based as are most other open banking applications.
This model ensures a steady flow of income which helps to maintain the quality of the product that can be improved on a regular basis. Also, such an arrangement helps to stay in touch with users and measure their level of satisfaction. Even the slightest drop in the conversion rate will be noticed and accounted for. There is space for communication and growth.
What helped Lydia take off at the beginning, was the person-to-person payment feature that was enthusiastically adopted by French students. With Lydia installed on your phone, you can make real-time transactions to all of your contacts. The feature has become so popular that it even entered the language with people saying “I’ll lydia you”.
Now, Lydia has grown into a money management app. It’s packed with all sorts of functionalities including shared accounts, donation to charities, money pocket and more.
Lydia is also an investment tool for a variety of assets including crypto and precious metals. Majority of these options wouldn’t have been possible without open banking.
A banking hub supporting the self-employed
An app inspired by the passion economy
An interesting example of an open banking application is Coconut which has recently undergone a change from a neobank to a banking hub, leaving more options to the consumer. It is a freelance accountancy companion in the form of an app which is created to support the self-employed community.
Being connected to their bank accounts, sole traders can track their income, claim expenses and work out how much tax they owe. Sounds simple, but it’s a significant weight lifted off their shoulders so that they can focus on their craft more, with accountancy processes sorted by Coconut. The thought behind this app was inspired by the passion economy, which is a new economic framework for individuals who value their professional independence and seek security in generating passive income.
First BNPL travel agency and a shopping app in one
Visible focus on responsible lending
The ambition to give more financial freedom to the consumer also drives Butter, which is an app that is marketed as the first BNPL travel agency. Butter combines “the buy now, pay later” shopping experience with the opportunity to book holidays via the Butter Holidays platform, also, in the BNPL mode. The incentive that binds the two services together are the rewards for shopping via the app that can be redeemed on the holiday packages.
Unlike most FinTech products, the design of the app is stripped down to the essentials with no blog or resource hub. The product is what it says it is: shopping and holiday on credit. There is a visible focus on transparency and responsible lending with attractive installment plans for big-ticket items, which require more budgeting.
With Butter and the rest of the open banking apps, it’s interesting to see that they focus on the same target group: millennials. Growing up in the technological boom but also familiar with the flaws of the legacy systems, they seem to be most likely to embrace the new product offering. Older groups are also slowly beginning to take interest in the apps but the adoption is less dynamic. There are, however, more and more attempts at creating open banking products for a younger audience.
Finny Kids App
Empowering kids to manage their money
Designed for children between 7 and 12
In this section, one of the market leaders is Swedish Fintune with its Finny Kids App. It’s designed for children between the ages 7 and 12. Like other apps, Finny is based on open banking integration which connects the children’s bank account with the interface of the app. As a user, a child is empowered to manage their money: both cash and digital. They have access to insights with all the inflows and are encouraged to save and allocate their money to specific goals. Their objectives can be shared with their family and friends who can also contribute through transfers from their own accounts.
Having analysed a range of different open banking applications, it’s encouraging to see how these new products allow one to create more personalised relationships with money adjusted to one’s specific needs. The access to money management is becoming more and more democratised and hence, there is less room for manipulative practices that affect customers’ financial wellbeing. This tendency is most likely to continue with more authentic offerings reaching the recipients of retail banking.