News Article

What the rise of the super app means for fintechs and banks

Technological innovation moves fast, and our industry demands constant agility. The ability to pivot and change direction in-house – or be partnered with a processor who can – is more important than ever. 

We’ve had the neo banks, open banking, the rise of insurtech, embedded finance models - and the latest challenger in our industry - the super app. These are mobile or web applications that can provide multiple services, including payment and financial transaction processing; effectively becoming an all-encompassing, self-contained commerce and communication platform. 

So, what do fintechs need to know about super apps, and how could this new generation of apps become a major disruptor in our digital financial services ecosystem?  


Meet the super app 

Super apps are, perhaps, the inevitable next step for the mobile app industry.  The most established super apps are predominantly in the APAC region, and WeChat in China is widely credited with being the first super app. What started in 2011 as a simple chat app has continuously adapted, adding features and functionality. It currently has 1.24 billion users and is China’s leading social app. 

In Indonesia, Gojek has 170 million users. Although it started as a call centre for ride-hailing services, the Gojek super app now offers more than 20 services in transport and logistics, food and shopping, payments, daily needs, business and news and entertainment. 

Damien Gough, GPS’ Head of APAC, delivered his insights regarding super apps during an industry expert panel at the Payment Leaders’ Summit: 

“Super apps are not just social: you can use them to book a doctor's appointment, a taxi, movie tickets, a restaurant table. It's also a messaging app. It's literally your entire life. 

“I've worked with all the big super apps across Asia; including Alipay and WeChat. I think everyone probably knows how comprehensive the WeChat experience is. It's incredible. The banks in China replicate that experience, so you cannot tell it's a bank's app.” 

By bringing together a range of experiences, services and functions on a single platform that customers already feel confident using, super apps provide seamless experiences that keep users engaged. Furthermore, by offering loyalty rewards, users are encouraged to conduct more day-to-day activities on the super-app to maximise those benefits. 

GPS customer Revolut has been ahead of this trend, describing itself as ‘the financial super app for all things business’. In 2020 it unveiled its ‘financial super app’, aiming to reimagine and redefine its offering to customers. The design enables users to manage their finances all in one place, with two main sections labelled ‘Home’ and ‘Wealth’. From the Home tab, Revolut’s users can access their open banking-linked accounts as well as other budgeting and analytics tools, and through the Wealth tab users can trade stocks, cryptocurrencies and commodities. 

Similarly, Curve is on its way to achieving super app status, allowing consumers to combine all their cards in one virtual wallet and supporting card, on top of offering additional services such as cashback on purchases globally and lower travel costs compared to traditional cards. It also allows users to retrospectively switch payments between cards from different providers. The company’s plan is to become an “App Store for money” – a goal it sees as around three to four years away, and which will include the addition of crypto, insurance and other consumer finance products.  

Clearly there are benefits to be had for both consumers and businesses, and banks have started to recognise the advantages of the super app concept. The Starling Marketplace, by GPS customer Starling Bank for example, offers its end users in-app access to a selection of third-party financial services. From mortgage and insurance providers to smart pension tools, it has hand-picked a selection of third-party products that work with the Starling Bank app, so its customers can choose the ones that work for them. 


The ‘super challenger’ 

All this could give rise to a new ‘super’ category: the ‘super challenger’. A challenger bank like GPS customer Starling Bank is arguably more than just a neo bank. This fully-licensed and regulated bank offers personal, business, joint, teen, euro and dollar accounts alongside a child card and a range of lending products. It also provides B2B banking and payments services through its Banking-as-a-Service model based on the proprietary technology platform that it uses to power its own bank. Meanwhile the Starling Marketplace offers customers in-app access to a selection of third-party financial services. 

The super app concept is likely to impact fintech’s as they look to adapt and expand their offering to meet demand for a ‘one-stop shop’ service. This is where partnering with GPS can be greatly beneficial. We have the capabilities and track record of helping customers broaden their proposition and move towards super app and ‘super challenger’ status, quickly and easily with our expertise and innovative Apex platform. 


Super apps around the world 

The emergence of super apps is strongest in China, with other APAC countries not far behind. Korea’s Kakao, for example, has closely followed the WeChat model. With a hub based in Singapore, the GPS team is well-placed to support growth in this part of the world. In Australia however, super apps are being used in quite a specific way, as Damien has observed first hand: 

“In our Sydney office I did a bit of a poll recently. I said to the team ‘who's still using the bank they were given when they were a child?’. And actually, a lot of them are. All of them have the Revolut app too, but they use it for specific niche use cases. And it's not a wallet. It's not for depositing their salary into it. Users have linked their cards from their primary bank accounts, where they still have the data currently saved publicly. The cash account is actually where the money is sitting.” 

He also commented that the UK and Europe are not even close to where any APAC country is on the super app journey. Do they need to be? In short, yes. 

Using apps has become an established behaviour for many consumers who, especially in the wake of the pandemic, are comfortable doing more and more online and on their smart phones. A recent YouGov survey revealed two-thirds of consumers will now use digital service channels wherever possible, and that pre-Covid concerns about managing finances online have declined. The same survey revealed that in the US, 57% now think it’s safe to do so, while in the UK, which has a well-respected fintech scene, this rises to 74%.

These attitudes are paving the way for super-apps to consolidate a market that has arguably become too large and unwieldy for users to keep up with. There is huge opportunity for growth in this area, even if you’re not a super app. By adding more propositions to your offering, as Starling Bank has done, you can go further in meeting customer demand for a ‘one-stop shop’ service. 

But this will become an increasingly competitive field as players adapt to keep up with one another and the ever-changing environment. As a result, fintechs and financial service institutions must be more all-encompassing to make sure they don’t get left behind. This will pose a particular challenge for those who don’t have the knowledge in-house. 

What’s needed is a global view with regional knowledge, something GPS can offer that gives our customers a competitive advantage and helps them deliver a world-class service. 


The power of partnership 

Partnerships are critical to staying ahead in a crowded market: partnering with the best companies specialising in a niche area saves time and resources, improves product time to market, and helps to accelerate your business’ learning curve. 

GPS is on top of global trends thanks to hubs in regions around the world that give us insight and global expertise. It means we can draw these insights when helping customers keep pace with global trends. 

Ask yourself if, at the moment, you can deliver additional products quickly - within weeks? If not, it’s crucial to partner with someone who has regulatory knowledge, the ability to help expand through global knowledge and cutting-edge technology. Once you have our core offering, it’s straightforward to expand your proposition by utilising our innovative tech when you want to grow your business. Partner with us and you can also leverage our existing relationships and insight to help you innovate and pivot, moving and implementing new solutions quickly. You’ll be able to rapidly develop and deploy tailored products for your customer groups. 

Being at the heart of the payment ecosystem, GPS is best placed to serve brands and banks as the super app trend continues to grow. As a tried and trusted fintech enabler with proven experience supporting customers to bring new propositions to market, we’re confident in our ability to help your business thrive in this emerging super-landscape. Armed with the people, platform and the industry relationships to help fintech's and financial services’ global growth, a partnership with GPS will lead to a more seamless, frictionless payment process for your customers and your businesses.  

Whether you have super app aspirations or not, it’s vital to recognise the rising demand for bundling digital activities. In payments terms, this may mean expanding offerings to incorporate next-generation payments such as BNPL, cross-border, open banking and cryptocurrencies. Whatever route you want to explore it’s important to choose a partner with global expertise in the arena.  


Another dawn for payments 

The move towards more one-stop shop super apps seems inevitable. In the US, which has so far had a lack of super apps, consumers want to house their digital activities in one place, according to a study from PYMNTS. It found that 67% of respondents would like to see at least two of their activities integrated in one place, while around 11% would like one app for managing their entire digital lives. 

2022 could be the dawn of the multi-purpose ‘super-app’ model. Single platforms can improve the customer user experience in terms of speed and accessibility, and meet consumer demand for immediacy in all areas of their lives. 

Partnering, rather than relying on in-house knowledge makes sense because of the unrivalled access to global expertise, regulatory knowledge and cutting-edge technology you will benefit from. This ultimately means a better ROI and the ability to scale quickly in your chosen markets and geographies.   

In this industry, attracting and retaining customers means anticipating and meeting their needs. A partnership with GPS can help facilitate this and, in turn, future-proof your business.