The concept of multipurpose apps is making its way into financial services. Here we look at how superapps are growing, and some standout successes

Superapps are platforms for innovative products and services that offer an everyday financial solution for their users.

Mike Lazaridis, the creator of Blackberry, defined superapps more than ten years ago as “the kind of apps that people love and use every day because they offer such a seamless, integrated, contextualized and efficient experience.”

Today’s tech challenge in banking is to create an integrated financial ecosystem with all the functions necessary to offer a complete experience – as well as competing with the rest of the more than 20 applications that are located on users’ cell phones.

The key to developing an app that users organically return to again and again lies in its ability to satisfy all of a person’s financial needs. This is a competitive advantage that has catapulted the most complete apps in the market.

The advantage of a superapp is its variety of functionalities, offering such a range of operations that it becomes uniquely relevant compared to its competitors.

This trend started with WeChat in Asia, an ‘all-in-one’ application. Although it began as a messaging platform, is now an integral part of the digital life of China’s population. It is an ecosystem that includes food delivery, payments for transport, online shopping, bill payments, and more.

The reason for its prestige is that it offers companies and users true convenience by allowing them to do a series of daily tasks without needing to switch applications. It is a revolution not only in Asia, but also in Western continents, as it has popularized new payment trends.

Still, the goal of studying superapps isn’t necessarily to copy the trend, but rather to understand the opportunity they offer – and thereby improve financial products to make them more useful and intuitive.

What makes superapps so attractive?

One of the reasons successful superapps are so intriguing is their technological and disruptive ability to become part of a client’s daily mobile activities.

Some finance apps, for example, only offer payments and transfers, but don’t have in-built QR code functions. That proves an obstacle for such apps to grow in importance, by delivering great customer experience and fostering that relationship.

Platforms such as WeChat have introduced financial functions beyond payments, for instance adding savings or investment products, thereby opening new opportunities to their customers.

That shows how superapps are often not an end in themselves, but rather a means to offer other valuable commercial products, such as personalized loans. Adapting financial products is possible thanks to the vast amount of data that they manage.

Transaction histories represent a key database for superapps, allowing the platforms to fine tune their operational processes and better evaluate risks for users that apply for a loan. Clarifying the state of their clients’ financial health is another plus.

A further advantage of superapps is their ability to integrate with other developers’ projects. The ‘mini apps’ found inside WeChat, for example, haven’t been developed with the company’s budget. Rather, they stemmed from partnerships with other companies that wanted to make the most of WeChat’s substantial database to promote and scale their products. This collaborative approach has also driven a simpler onboarding process for new clients.

Superapps´ future in the financial industry

Just because a trend is growing does not mean you should necessarily jump on board. Still, we can read between the lines to understand the neglected needs highlighted by the rise of superapps.

The emergence of superapps shows the functionalities and use cases that can better attract clients, the continuous transaction tools. If clients turn to the superapp consistently, it is more likely that they will also use it to cover their financial needs.

There are still countries where no superapp leader has emerged, so the playing field is open and available for whoever takes the prospect seriously and gets to work.

A good way to start would be by establishing strategic alliances with leaders in payments and e-commerce as well as with tech providers that pay attention to dynamics in the financial ecosystem.

One of the recent moves that we have observed is the use of data and open banking, betting on the establishment of API markets, to try out the growing number of innovations of the market.

In other cases, the focus has been on looking for other industry participants and working cooperatively to develop a disruptive application.

A sector that is making the most use of APIs and data analysis to offer innovative, useful and personalized solutions are fintechs and neobanks. As an example, Revolut, a UK neobank, has grown quickly by adding more and more features and solutions to its platform, some of which were developed through collaborations with third parties.

In short, the superapp trend is increasingly progressing by offering usefulness and opportunity for all. New participants are quickly exploring the dynamic, which is why it is time for traditional stakeholders to be part of it too, using innovation and placing the client as a priority. New digital generations will appreciate it.

Andy Tran