The role of mobile technology in improving financial health

An introduction to financial health and the opportunity for fintech entrepreneurs to make a difference

Managing finances can be very challenging. 57% of Americans are struggling to manage their day-to-day finances and/or prepare for financial shocks, which are critical elements to overall financial health. Looking closer at this, a staggering 75% of students face a variety of financial health challenges that affect their ability to succeed in their planning for education, life as a student, and post student life.

As part of #FinHealthMatters Day this year, Google Play has launched a collection of fintech apps called improve your financial health on the Google Play Store (available in the US). These fintech apps can help individuals who are struggling financially improve their financial health, including students — the focus of #FinHealthMatters Day in 2018.

So why does improving financial health matter? A high standard of financial health means that all people in a society regardless of income, race, gender, or location are able to participate in the financial system and do so in a way that improves their wellbeing. Findings suggest that a positive correlation exists between financial access and economic growth and employment. A market that offers varied and effective means for money and wealth management (including access to banking, credit, and financial tools) can lead to broader benefits for the full spectrum of society.

The role of mobile technology

Thanks to advances in the industry, mobile technology can help bridge the gap between people who are financially underserved and access to high quality financial solutions. According to a recent Nielsen survey, Android OS was the top operating system with 51% of U.S. Smartphones running on that system. As such, Android is in a good position to help bridge this gap and provide historically underserved populations with access to quality financial solutions.

The challenge of improving the financial health of the underserved has resonated with fintech entrepreneurs. Jimmy Chen, the founder and CEO of Propel, built Fresh EBT, a fintech mobile services app that aims to help the millions of food stamp recipients manage their benefits, save money, and find jobs, and commented:

“Android is used at every part of the socio-economic spectrum, making it the ideal platform to reach our target demographic, and Google Play tools have helped us optimize our message and craft a high quality experience for our users. Through Android and Play, we are able to reach and help the financially underserved community get back on their feet.”

As an entrepreneur, you have the power to not only create a successful business app, but also have a positive impact to the world you live in.

6 principles for developers interested in launching and growing a financial health app

On April 25th, #FinHealthMatters day, we wanted to raise awareness of Americans’ financial health by focusing on student financial health. Students are the future of our country, and according to a recent study by CFSI, 63% of community college students are living paycheck to paycheck, and 75% of students don’t even have $1000 saved for emergency funds. Early last year, we partnered with CFSI, the authority on consumer financial health and the founder of the Financial Solutions Lab, to develop 6 principles to help you build best in class financial solutions. If you are a developer or entrepreneur who is interested in tackling financial health, and would like to make a difference, check out the 6 principles below:

1) Understand Your audience

Understand who your audience is and what difference your product can make in their day-to-day life. What are their financial needs? How can your product improve their financial health? How does your product fit within the context of their financial lives? Start by reviewing the U.S. Financial Diaries and the Consumer Financial Health Study to get an idea of what these consumers are experiencing.

2) Focus on access

Remember that underserved consumers often work multiple jobs and may have little free time to manage day-to-day finances. Consider how the use of your product can fit seamlessly into their routine. Recognize that these consumers may disproportionately use lower-end phones, and as such, may face limited device capability and storage. They may also face limited data plans, so be mindful of overall data consumption. Finally, remember that many underserved may not be native speakers of English; as such, app and Play Store listing content should be translated for strategic secondary languages. Google Play has compiled extensive resources for Android developers to address these challenges as part of its “building for billions” initiative.

3) Establish and maintain trust

Trust is at a premium in the financial space. The more trust and community you build around your product/service and company, the faster it will grow. From a financial perspective, make sure you are developing mutually beneficial solutions that deliver clear and consistent value. Be transparent about how you make money, which partner organizations are involved, and where consumers can go with questions. From a technological perspective, ensure your app utilizes the safety innovations offered by the Android platform to help protect users’ financial information. Tools to consider include the Fingerprint API for biometric authentication, the SafetyNet API to check device integrity, and ID Tokens to check a user’s identity. If requesting sensitive permissions within your app, be sure to explain the need for those permissions and request them only when needed (see Android Permission Best Practices for full details). Maintaining user trust is just as important as establishing it. Know that many users look to the app stores as their forum for establishing and maintaining dialogue with developers, surfacing feedback and questions via ratings and reviews. Be sure to monitor user feedback and respond to reviews to sustain that dialogue and establish community with your users.

4) Test and iterate

Before releasing any product to the public, make sure it has been thoroughly tested. From a financial perspective, be sure to measure the actual impact of your product on users over time. From a technological perspective, be sure to leverage Google Play alpha and beta channels for distributing apps before their public release. These channels allow you to test with confidence and enable users to provide feedback without affecting your app’s public rating or reviews. The Google Play Developer Console also offers listing experiments to run variant tests on multiple components of your Play store listing to optimize install conversion once your app has been published. Both of these tools allow you to iterate quickly, ensuring optimized product performance and awareness.

​5) Drive positive user behavior

Drive positive consumer behavior through smart design and communication. Provide options for — and encourage — upward mobility. The Android platform offers many tools to steer users toward positive action. “Meaningful motion, ” one of the central principles of Android’s Material Design language, enables developers to focus user attention on the features and decisions you want them to act upon. Similarly, Android offers a rich variety of notifications that can be leveraged to encourage users to re-engage or take financial action at appropriate times.

6) Recognize the value of mutual success

Remember that the best business models are win-win: If your users’ financial health improves, this will benefit your company. On the financial front, CFSI’s research has surfaced eight potential indicators of financial health to help shift focus to improve consumers’ lives. On the technological front, Google developed Firebase Analytics, a free and unlimited app analytics solution, to help you clearly understand your app’s usage and user engagement.

What do you think?

These basic principles can help you improve the success of your fintech app business and engage consumers in using your app as a tool to improve their financial health. You can also view stories of fintech companies innovating for financial health and see what it’s like to be underserved by the financial system. If you are a developer of a fintech app, or interested in launching a title that can improve financial health we’d love to hear from you — register your interest.

If you have thoughts on fintech and/or financial health, let us know in the comments below or tweet using #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play. You can also join the #FinHealthMatters Day by sharing your financial health story, best practices, or solutions, find out more about how to get started.