The 2021 State of Finance study from App Annie reveals just how fast the world of personal finance is going digital.
Within this revolution, buy-now-pay-later and cryptocurrency services are growing fastest, while neobank apps are now beginning to rival those of traditional banks, even if business volumes are not yet at the same scale.
Fraud rising, compliance patchy
Worldwide, banking and financial app downloads grew three times faster than the app market as a whole in 2021.
Some markets experienced unheard-of growth, with financial apps downloaded more than a billion times in India last year, powered by the popularity of money transfer apps such as PhonePe and Paytm.
Among other growth markets, Brazil saw 600 million finance apps downloaded by its population of 210 million, while the US and China continue to lead the rest of the world.
While India’s PhonePe and Paytm are the world’s leading apps by usage, PayPal is consistently ranked third across all markets, with Russia’s Sberbank app in fourth position.
For the first time, crypto trading apps like Coinbase and Binance make an appearance in the top global finance apps in terms of monthly active users.
“For the first time, crypto trading apps like Coinbase and Binance make an appearance in the top global finance apps.”
Brazil: digital finance emerging fast
While Brazil, India and the US come top in terms of neobank app downloads over the last year, Brazilian consumers’ downloads of neobank apps outstripped traditional bank app downloads by three to one.
Neobanking apps were downloaded three times more in Brazil than in the US, and six times more than in India. Brazil’s Nubank alone has regularly been in the top five global downloaded apps of any category over the past year.
More finance functions go digital
Close inspection of the US financial app market shows what’s happening. A customer will have an account with a traditional bank (such as Capital One) and will then download a neobanking app such as Chime.
However, the same consumer might also use a money transfer app such as Venmo or PayPal, an investing app like Robinhood, Coinbase or Kraken for trading crypto, plus Afterpay or Klarna for their buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) needs.
“The fragmented use of digital finance apps may lead players to broaden offerings to capture as many needs as possible.”
This landscape shows how fragmented the world of digital finance still is, how much is up for grabs – and suggests major players are going to be interested in broadening their offering to capture as many of these different needs as possible.
What’s more, such fragmented usage implies revenue and profitability likely remain an issue for all but the biggest players, as usage remains limited outside the biggest names. Furthermore, the US market looks crowded – making it likely we’ll see industry consolidation is coming before too long.
GenZ: banking, YouTube and SnapChat
The under-25 market provides a view of the future. Almost a third of all neobank app downloads in the US were of banking brands targeted at teens and the early twenties, most of whom will have no loyalty to traditional banking brands.
App Annie’s analysis shows that a majority of those who download “teen” banking apps have also downloaded YouTube, Facebook Messenger, SnapChat, TikTok or Instagram.
Given the growing propensity for young people to use some of these platforms for payment, it’s possible that new forms of authentication could emerge, with transactions on instagram being confirmed via a request to pay sent to Venmo – for instance.
In classic business-school terms, the global financial app market is demonstrating all the signs of the second phase of development: rapid expansion and the proliferation of a wide range of options for consumers.
After this (the theory goes) we’ll see a period of consolidation in which major players sweep up market share by purchasing their rivals, or merging. Expect the current phase to be followed by much merger and acquisition activity.
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