Step-by-step guide for building an investment app

Igor Berezhnoy
Igor Berezhnoy Business Analyst
12 minutes to read

Micro-investing is at the height of its popularity, and stock markets are available even for teenagers.

Millennials benefit from the passive income, and seniors give Apple stocks to their grandchildren as a birthday gift.

And it is all thanks to investment applications like Betterment, Stash or Clink.

The recent stats demonstrate that online investing and trading services are among the most popular activities of adult Americans. They go right after online shopping and watching video content.

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It means that a stranger sitting next to you in the subway with a smartphone in his or her hands may be buying or selling Bitcoins.

There is a bunch of mobile applications with a focus on the stock-trading area which is an excellent niche for startups and mature companies.

If you’re going to join the squad of investment options providers, read our post on how to succeed in investment app development.

Why you should invest in the app like Acorns

The first argument in favour of the online investment business is its crazy popularity. More and more users try their hand in buying and selling stocks, managing portfolios, and planning savings.

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The next reason to support this idea is a wide array of niches you can occupy.

You may want to create an educational platform for beginners or build an option for those who want to open a retirement plan, or even sell gift certificates for buying cryptocurrency.

Another thing to consider is the price of non-professional investors who are willing to pay for a well-diversified portfolio.

Banks, mutual funds and investment trusts charge crazy fees for their job scaring off ordinary people.

Online investment providers do a similar job but at a nominal cost.

Greater opportunities like management of margin accounts, additional operating hours and reaching personal investment goals are available at a higher rate.

And just to convince you that online investing apps are a worthwhile undertaking, let us share some interesting facts with you:

  • Robinhood reports that 78% of investors use investment apps to establish relations with brands and companies they want to support;
  • 20% of Millennials’ retirement money is kept in the form of bonds, money market funds, cash or other investments;
  • In 2017, B2B companies collected $400M through ICO campaigns;
  • Generation Y owns about 48% of all the bitcoin volume;
  • Google requests for financial planning and management have grown up to 70% in recent years;

more than 12% of respondents aged 18-29 years have used an online investing/stock trading service this year.

The takeaway is that younger generations participate actively in mobile investment deals and build demand for new financial products and services. 

The most popular investment applications are Robinhood, ETrade, and Stockpile. Let’s take a closer look.


Robinhood is a free app for investing in stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency.

It’s a great solution for both newbies and expert investors seeking the ways to trade on margins.

In the future, the Robinhood development team is planning to launch its cash management feature.

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ETrade offers ready-made portfolios created for those who want to start their investing activity easy.

Users can choose a brokerage, retirement, small business or bank account according to the goal they pursue.

Investment opportunities include stocks, futures, options, bonds, and CDs.

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Stockpile deals with fractional shares to provide learning materials and offer gift cards.

With gamification is at its core, Stockpile is an ideal tool to manage family finance and entertainment.

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It’s a leader among investment apps for iPhone designed for investing spare change. With Acorns, you can start saving in no time – just sign up to the platform and deposit money to your diversified portfolio.

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Image credit: Acorns

The portfolio is a combo of different investment tools — stocks and bonds. To get a custom portfolio built just for your needs, tell Acorns advisers your financial goal and conditions.

If your goal is to save for retirement, try Acorns Later. All you need is an IRA account and $2/months to start saving.  


Just like other mobile investing apps for micro deals, Stash lets users join the game with only $5 in the pocket.

The service is aimed at educating the audience on how to build a portfolio of ETFs or bonds.

In addition, Stash provides users with an opportunity to buy fractional shares of expensive stocks like Apple, Amazon or Netflix.

The coolest thing about Stash is that it’s geared towards freshmen and teach them the basics of investments.  

A stepwise guide for building a mobile app for investors

Mobile solutions for investing and trading stand out among the rest of the apps. Apart from a superb user experience, they must provide a robust and secure way to manage funds.

A set of key features is what you should learn before you make your own investment app or start with investment website development.

So, what features do Acorn and the company have in common?

UI interface

A mobile application with an intuitive interface is understandable for each user.

Moreover, a well-designed interface is easy-to-use for almost anyone be it an experienced user or a complete novice.

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Stockpile – stock trading

There are a few tips you may need to build an intuitive user interface:

  • make sure that the interface solves pain points of your target audience and reflects their user flows and journeys;
  • focus on simplicity rather than creativity;
  • work on the design of an icon since it is a calling card of your investment app;
  • adjust the graphics to any screen size and resolution;
  • decide which of the design elements is tappable, non-tappable, actionable or indicative;
  • choose the best colour that will encourage users to take the desired action.

Personal accounts

Ability to open an investor’s or user’s account is an obvious must-have for any mobile investing platform.

It should be a feature-rich personal area where people can easily view what is happening with their earnings and monitor their performance. Today, the competition among existing applications is very high, so each of them offers new benefits for its users.

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The Betterment app, for example, allows clients to sync their profiles with third-party investment accounts and contact a personal support manager right through the app.

M1 Finance has a super-smart pie chart design providing insight into the investment picture of user activity.

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M1 Finance – pie charts

You may want to let people check market news via your app as Robinhood does or deposit and withdraw funds like in Ally Invest or have instant access to their wallet like in Coinbase.

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No matter what bells and whistles you decide upon, the functionality of your app should cater to user needs.

Automated counsellors

If you’re planning to develop an investment app, you need to think about integrating an automated financial advisor into your product.

Investment robo-advisors are a hot trend. They work perfectly for those who need professional assistance at a reasonable price and those who are eager to delegate fund management to the third-party.

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The top automated service providers are Betterment, Vanguard, and Wealthfront.

The first solution allows users to open accounts with zero minimum while the other two apps require $50,000 and $5,000 accordingly.

Betterment and Wealthfront are for opening overall and taxable accounts while Vanguard can be used for applying to a financial advisor or choosing a portfolio mix.

There are other apps with a set of unique features.

For instance, Ellevest is specially designed for women looking forward to achieving their financial goals.

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Blooom offers 401(k) plans management, and Personal Capital allows building custom investment portfolios.

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Data safeguard

Data security and personal info protection are compulsory when it comes to online transactions.

Frequent data breaches are a disturbing trend for investors who choose between hiring a human stockbroker or downloading an investment app. To enhance security systems and gain an advantage over the competition, investment app developers go an extra mile.

The majority of investment apps for Android and iOS utilise 256-bit (Acorns) or 2048-bit (M1 Finance) encryption standards to store and send financial records.

Others use two-factor authentication, encryption (Robinhood) or fingerprint and a PIN (Betterment) so that an account holder can securely login the app.

Some apps take serious measures to protect large accounts. For instance, M1 Finance employs the SIPC Protection method to safeguard huge sums of money.

To strengthen the security system and avoid legal disputes of your investment app, you can:

  • consider using biometric authentication;
  • integrate enhanced session management (automatic logouts and lockouts);
  • store sensitive data in the logging console;
  • employ the root detection methodology.

Real-time alerts

When you start building an investment application, don’t forget to implement push notifications, custom reminders, and real-time alerts.

They help to keep your clientele updated about their returns, inform them of unusual activity and give special offers and discounts. Allow users to customise their notification settings to avoid obtrusiveness.

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Give your customers the opportunity to choose a not only convenient time for receiving various reminders but also the type of notifications: text messages, contextual pop-up windows, standard notifications.

Ally Invest and Coinbase provide users with a real-time rate or customisable price alerts. TD Ameritrade Mobile sends mobile push notifications when investments rates achieve a certain price point. Vault asks investors for approval of moving a predefined percentage of funds to a personal IRA account.

Thanks to the customised approach, investors can stay up to date about their investment performance.

All-around-the-clock assistance

Qualified and fast support is the key to the success of your brand and high ratings.

Carefully plan the ways how users can get in touch with you.

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It may be a personal advisor available at the tap of a finger or a support team ready to help via email. Don’t forget you can answer to user comments and reviews.

For example, Acorns asks to get in touch with them in case of any inquiries, Robinhood has a very user-friendly help centre that provides answers to any question. Coinbase bets on a support bot helping people with anything from the signup to digital portfolio creation, while the Betterment team is accessible by phone and email.

One thing though: most of these communication channels are quite slow, and in this aspect, feedback is needed right here right now.

Consider implementing a live chat, a callback feature or have a personal support manager available 24/7.

Extra features to create an investment platform for mobiles:

  • free trial and trading simulator;
  • charitable giving option;
  • tax wrappers and monitoring;
  • multi-currency accounts;
  • cryptocurrency trading;
  • monthly progress tracker;
  • risk protection;
  • statistics and custom reports;
  • community;
  • help — wiki, video tutorials, webinars.

Investment app development in a nutshell

How to build a stock trading app? Either you opt for a white-label solution or find a professional development team.

In the first case, you get a turn-key product with standard user flows common to most of the financial apps.  It’s possible to change the look of your app by fine-tuning the front-end of the white-label app.

White-label apps are a good choice in terms of development costs and efforts, however, they come with a basic set of features and leave very little room for scaling up.  

Dedicated development teams are the alternative way to elevate a bespoke investment app.

If you decide to turn to professionals, you can rest assured that your product will have a pixel-perfect design, sophisticated architecture, robust functionality, and clean code.

The first thing you should before developing mobile applications is to do research.

Analyse potential competitors and substitute products to find out their strengths and weaknesses. Talk to ordinary users to understand their pain points and find the possible ways how you can solve them.

The research will help you find a free niche, develop a custom business strategy and formulate a unique selling proposition.

For instance, the Ellevest or Swell Investing apps are known for their unique selling points—they offer people to take part in social investing.

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Also, at this stage, you need to work out your business pattern: fees, plans, discounts, and special offers.

The task number two is to make a list of core features. When you know the desired result, you can easily understand how you can achieve it.

In the beginning, it is vital to figure out the key and extra features of your investment app.

You may want to offer your own special cards like Coinbase or integrate a Retirement Planner like Personal Capital or develop scheduled transfers like in the Motif app.

No matter what functions you’d like to have in your product, they should bring value to the customer.

You may start with building a limited version of an app—an MVP—and then expand the scope of your product.

Given our recommendations, you can proceed with creating a wireframe.

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Wireframing is an essential step that sometimes is mistakenly skipped due to its functional rather than aesthetic nature.

The best part with wireframes is that they help to understand the structure and order of an app interface elements in a very simple way. Start with the pen-and-paper method and then try one of the wireframing tools like Justinmind, or Mockplus to move your sketch to the digital realm.

Now you can move to design & development. There are two paths you can opt for: either you will design and build your investment app with the plug-and-play solution, or you will turn to professionals.

The former approach is ideal for a quick result demanding insufficient expenditures and short timeline; the latter is intended for sophisticated business ideas with a large scope and budget.

If you fancy the DIY idea, go for an app builder like Apply Pie, AppSheet or Swiftic.

There are lots of tutorials on how to create an app fast and for free.

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These tools demand no coding or design skills and offer plenty of customisation options.

However, most of the mobile stock trading platforms are complex. So, if you’re planning to turn upside down the investment market, you may need to hire a team of experienced FinTech developers.

You and your team should decide on UI/UX design, technology stack, app architecture, user flows, front-end and back-end functionality and many other things.

Test your app at the end of every development sprint. And by testing, we mean not only quality assurance but user testing too.

You can show the app to your team or close friends to gather early feedback and spot any inconsistency.

Or you can launch a beta version of your app and get the reaction from early adopters.

Now that the tests are left behind, everything is ready for the first release. Choose a platform and learn the standards and requirements for both Android and iOS apps and optimise your product to meet them.

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Once your solution is live, it’s high time to leverage all the marketing tools.

Your work doesn’t end there. From now on, you’ll have to commit to updating and improving your product.

How much does it cost to create a mobile app for an investment company

Everybody wants to know the price to build a mobile app for investors. As much as we’re eager to give you the exact numbers, they would be quite ungrounded.

Still, we can give you a ballpark estimate which of course may get bigger as well as smaller.

If you are looking for a turnkey solution that includes everything from gathering the requirements to launching your app in AppStore or Google Play, the price will start from £57,000.

In case you have the detailed requirements and design, we’ll only need to develop the solution, and the price will start from £45,000 in this case.

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Cost to build an investment app

What exactly do you pay for?

Business analysis: we start with defining your business need, understand the goals your company wants to achieve through an app, gather the requirements, and come up with a technical solution.

UX research and prototyping: we define the target audience, analyse the competitors, build wireframes and mockups according to the user and business needs.

Website design: we create the design for all pages of the site according to the wireframes.

Development: we implement the design and build the tech solution according to the requirements gathered during the business analysis stage. We use the Agile approach and deliver tangible results approximately every two weeks.

Final testing and launch: we ensure the technical solution has no bugs, reflects the required scope and functionality, and works well across multiple devices. We prepare for launch: populate content, integrate analytics, get the servers ready, deploy and test again in the live environment.

Post-launch support: we monitor your site performance, optimise speed if needed, fix any remaining bugs should they appear and suggest improvements.

The bottom line

Acorns, Robinhood, Stash, Betterment didn’t become rockstars in a moment; they were ideas in someone’s head. It’s persistence and effective performance of their creators which make these platforms super popular and widely used.

So, if you have a clear vision (and we’re sure you do) of what your product is going to be, you need a detailed guide on how to bring it to life.

And we hope that today’s post will be useful in your development journey towards the best version of your investment app.

Ready to create a mobile investment application? Drop us a line!
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