How to fit agile methodologies into the constraints of fintech app development? — featuring N26

We talked to Dama Damjanović, Principal Engineer at N26 about how the regulations in finance and banking affect engineering teams behind fintech apps, how they can improve security, and what type of new technology will add the most value to the industry in the coming years.

N26 is a 100% digital, free bank account — approved by Mastercard. In 2021, N26 was voted #1 on Forbes' list of the world's best banks. They offer a convenient banking solution to customers in many European countries: they can open an online account in a couple of minutes and receive virtual and physical debit cards — with no annual fees or maintenance charges. As of today, over 7 million people manage their money on N26 from anywhere, at any time.

But building a fintech app comes with many challenges: from complying with the strict regulations of the industry, always providing the latest features and functionalities to customers with constantly changing expectations to keeping up with competitors popping up everywhere. Read our short interview to learn how the engineering team at N26 is making sure that they stay ahead of the market.

Bitrise: Which new or upcoming technology do you think will add the most value to mobile finance and banking and why?

Dama Damjanović: Biometric security. With the increase of fintech products and trust on the market, the amount of money and assets people hold in digital-first companies has increased, and with it, digital financial crime. It's a constant struggle between the criminals wanting to scam people and companies securing their products. More often than not, the increase in security comes at an expense of user experience and simplicity. I believe biometric technologies have the chance to bring the best of both worlds. 

Bitrise: How do you adapt agile methodologies in a way that they fit into the constraints and regulations of the finance and banking industry?

Dama Damjanović: There is a common misconception that regulations make development much slower and discourage innovation. Regulations in finance and banking are there to protect the users, and make sure the companies handling user's sensitive data and money are held to the highest of security standards. In a way, they are there to ensure companies are using the best of practices, in favour of the users. Agile methodologies do exactly the same: help bring practices that bring value to the users in the most efficient way possible. And in most cases, regulations go hand in hand with agile methodologies and good engineering practices. One of the most commonly known regulations is the four eyes principle. From a regulation standpoint, it's there to ensure no single bad actor can do damage. From the engineering standpoint, it's a way to share knowledge and increase quality of the code. Win - Win.

Bitrise: What processes have you implemented to ensure that you maintain a rapid release frequency? Do you think there is an optimal frequency?

Dama: We've made sure our main branch is always releasable using trunk based development, feature flags, and extensive automated testing. The pipelines we use to build, test and release the apps are all automated using Bitrise, and we run a full regression suite prior to each release. For frequency, I think 1 week is optimal, though it will depend on the scale of the company. In companies with a lot of engineers contributing, you want to release as often as possible to make the changes more incremental, give more opportunities to ship new features, and enable experimentation. 

On the other hand, each app update requires a new download — and we need to be mindful of the potential "limited data" scenarios in which the users are downloading our app. A one-week release frequency fits well in both aspects. We integrate DevSecOps processes and have a team of Security Engineers making sure our apps are always secure. 

Bitrise: What does the future of mobile finance and banking look like?

Dama: I think we're just getting started — the future is bright, with more financial products that are more secure than their offline counterparts, and more interconnected than ever.

If you'd like to learn more about building better mobile apps in the heavily regulated finance and banking space, download our latest report, Mobile product success in finance and banking, 2022 or sign up for our upcoming webinar How to win in mobile finance: A panel discussion.

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