Customized Development vs. Out-of-the-box Software

Customized Development vs. Out-of-the-box Software

Today banks, credit unions, and financial institutions are in a constant battle to offer users the latest technology features. Features like cards on/off, mobile deposits, and card management seem to be among the standards users have grown to expect within the ever-growing fintech industry (common competitors in this space include PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App).

As a software developer focused on created financial applications, I’ve learned that these features do not come easily. Let’s discuss why.

Many financial institutions already use out-of-the-box, white label banking systems for their digital experience.

The majority of the small banks and credit unions’ core banking solutions are developed and maintained by only a handful of vendors. This results in banking products which are built on the same functionalities that, unfortunately, are not easily customizable during the development process.

Although an out-of-the-box solution may seem like an economical way to go, this introduces severe limitation in customization and competitiveness. White labeled banking systems provide a consistent build and user experience regardless of the financial institution. Adding new features that are unique, company-specific, and user-centric to a banking institution becomes a complex challenge.

Core banking systems often provide the necessary backend infrastructure. Banking applications rely heavily upon an infrastructure that includes a white-labeled user interface. Yes, this user interface can be customized to fit a financial institution’s branding (i.e. logo placement, terminology, and mainstream features).

So why choose an in-house solution instead of an out-of-the-box product from the system vendor? A custom solution helps financial institutions secure quite a few advantages.




Custom provides the tools users want:

Core systems provide very common modules and services readily used by financial institutions. However, such services fail to cut it in this competitive fintech environment. Innovation is key in engaging customers and an in-house solution provides the flexibility that gives users the latest features. In our recent deployment with Virginia Credit Union (VACU) we added a simple new feature to its banking platform: displaying account and routing numbers. Our custom solution was able to resolve many of the limitations presented by the white labeled vendor’s ERP.

Custom design for a thoughtful customer strategy:

Some vendors may provide a customizable interface (think drag and drop elements, color pickers, etc.) within their core system. These customizations cannot account for the unique needs of every financial institution. The core system used at VACU provided a tile layout with drag and drop elements. Based on their users’ feedback, VACU wanted to steer away from this layout, but the core system was not flexible enough to accommodate the desired usability strategy.

Custom solutions saves money:

A custom solution adds value to customer expectations because a thoughtful roadmap will be dependably better received than plugging in half-baked modules Always start by building on what your users expect from your business. Deploy a solution from the ground up that is thoughtful of the end-user rather than pushing in the core system’s ERP that can be a mismatch to the way the bank operates.

Core system ERP’s are designed to capture the needs of a general audience — they succeed with the broader picture but sometimes fall short when getting into the details of what makes one bank unique from another. Custom can provide an opportunity for banks to stand out, listen to their customers, and create an experience that is tailored to fit.

In the case of VACU, customers were looking for a way to access routing and account numbers, but the cost of producing this feature from the ERP system was prohibitive. The vendor’s resources would need to be allocated directly to the financial institution – which would have ended up costing the union both time and money. The credit union chose Shockoe to rebuild a customized accounts module so that the feature would be present.




When to consider custom:

VACU’s mobile roadmap stated that certain features were integral to driving repeat mobile traffic and engaging a growing contingency of young users that won’t step foot in a bank. Therefore, VACU paired up with Shockoe to steer away from some of the core system features that were currently dictating their mobile user experience (more on this in our complete case study here). They wanted to keep the necessary parts of the core, such as the backend infrastructure, but rebuild the UI from the ground up with new designs and added functionality.

How we approach custom:

To follow the agile approach we use here at Shockoe and to accommodate our client’s needs, the application architecture was split into different sprint-sized modules: View Accounts and a Transactions module. Each new module was developed based on VACU’s prioritization, and deployed by embedding it into their existing application without disrupting the existing UI and UX that would house it.

The idea has been to progressively rebuild their online banking platform modularly until the whole platform can be replaced with the custom solution.

Users deserve a digital experience flexible to their needs and expectations as they are constantly shifting. I’ve had the opportunity to work first-hand on an application that increased productivity and provided cutting-edge technologies to the highly loyal customers of VACU. As with most financial institutions, staying innovative and user-centric is the key to succeeding in both the digital and brick and mortar space.


Lucas Mezalira

Lucas Mezalira

Lucas is a full stack web developer who has experience working with different backend and frontend javascript frameworks. He has been writing code for over four years and is always curious to find out how things work under the hood. He started by creating simple digital circuits using VHDL and FPGAs, moved to low-level kernel programming in C and ended up in the web programming world.

The Fast-Changing world of Finance Tech

The Fast-Changing world of Finance Tech

On this episode, our host, Mason Brown, interviews financial industry influencers, Paul Nolde, NVR Director, Chris Mowry, Capital One, Director of UX Strategy & Engineering, and Jamie Young, Director of Experience Design. Together they investigate the many problems facing FinTech today, the most exciting trends on the horizon, and where tech can measurably improve the lives of finance consumers tomorrow.

What is Mobile By Design?

This show was started by Shockoe, a mobile app development shop based in Richmond, Virginia whose goal is helping companies create better tools to improve utility for their customers and employees. We’re a podcast about all things technology, business, and design.

How to listen:

Subscribe (it’s free!) in your favorite podcast app.

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Episode 2: The Fast-Changing world of Finance Tech

by Shockoe | Mobile by design

In this episode you will hear more on:

  • How is utility playing a role in the financial space? For consumers or for employees?
  • In a seemingly ever-expanding field of consumer finance apps – roboadvisors, neo-banks, savings enhancers, credit managers – how does a consumer (or an investor) decide which one(s) will win out?
  • What are the most important UX and UI considerations when designing for financial services customers? What are some of the tradeoffs between additional security and usability?
  • Regulations are a big part of any industry, but especially so within Financial Services. How do companies look at potential Mobile Solutions in such a heavily regulated industry?
  • When should financial institutions build their own digital solutions vs. leverage partners solutions or acquiring a startup tech?
  • What is the big disrupter in finance? What will be the thing to make the big shift in financial services?

Thank you for listening! This podcast is produced and directed by Olya Polishchuk. Our host is Mason Brown. Follow us on Twitter @shockoe and Instagram @shockoe_rva

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Adjustments to Your Bank’s UX Strategy

Adjustments to Your Bank’s UX Strategy

Among the sea of social media apps, news apps, and photo book-making apps I use – I have three kids! –  is my mobile banking app. I bank at a “traditional” or “retail” bank, meaning it has branches, versus an online-only bank. That being said, I never go to a branch. Anything I need to do I can do using my mobile banking app: check my transactions, transfer money between accounts, or deposit a check. Believe it or not, these things that users have come to expect out of their mobile banking experience, I have had to figure out rather the hard way with my current mobile banking app. The user experience of my bank’s app has never been truly intuitive, though it has gone through multiple iterations. Banking apps should not make it difficult for customers to complete basic tasks. By continuously putting user experience first and applying the following adjustments to your UX Strategy, your bank is guaranteed to drive revenue through customer loyalty. 


The first time I used Venmo, an app designed solely for people to be able to electronically send money, I immediately noticed the intuitiveness of the app. A few months after I started using Venmo, my bank came out with an identical feature. I could send money to friends or family no matter who they banked with. That’s as much as I know about it because the idea of using my bank’s clunky app for a task I found myself doing frequently seemed overwhelming, so I stuck with Venmo.


As more FinTech companies continue to disrupt, develop and innovate mobile banking applications, it will occur at the expense of lost market share for traditional banking institutions.The rising FinTech sector is making it easier making it easier for their customers to do more with their money.


At Shockoe we have advised our financial industry partners to consider two adjustments to their UX strategy as a result of this changing environment:


Implementing machine learning.


I, like many others, have predictable spending habits. I shop at the same places, I pay my mortgage, and I head to the grocery store at the same time. To keep an eye on my spending, I log into my banking app quite regularly.


The reason I point out these things is that this is all data that the banks can use to help make me a “stickier” client. I get random ads sometimes when I log into my account, but they don’t happen as I take an action, nor are they personalized to me.


Banks are leaving a great opportunity to interact with their customers on the table. They could ask questions about unusual spending to improve security and more importantly learn about shifting habits. e.g. “It looks like you made a purchase at Wegman’s last weekend, was that you?”, the app learns that this is now part of my purchase history and the algorithm changes. Similarly, new products could be touted as client data captures what looks like a night out: “Looks like you left the kids at home and recently went to the movies! Did you pay your babysitter with our easy system to send money electronically to people?”


There should always be a way to turn these kinds of alerts off, but banks know so much about their users, and using machine learning capabilities is one way they can use that data to try to engage more with their clients.


Making banking apps more social. 


A big part of Venmo’s popularity comes down to the fact that they’ve tapped into the special sauce of why social media is so popular/addictive. You can interact with people, keep up with their latest transactions and see why they’re sending or receiving money for. Obviously, security is n essential consideration in banking, but for people that are willing to share, this is another outlet for banks to engage their audience, encourage product use, and compete in an increasingly competitive FinTech industry.


Do people want to be able to brag about their savings account interest rate? What else are people comfortable with being able to show off in regards to their banking relationship? We work with our clients to run user group feedback sessions to find the answers to things like this. User feedback should be an essential consideration in designing an engaging user experience that extends beyond logging in and checking on account statements.


Banking apps should no longer think of themselves as a one dimension account statement viewing portal. FinTech will eventually edge them out of services such as peer to peer payments (venmo), machine learning (mint), and potentially edge them out of being a provider at all in lucrative services. I am a project manager at Shockoe and I’ve worked with two large banking clients as part of my tenure here, and these thoughts are coming from meetings with them and our approach helping them stay engaged with their user base and attract more users through their mobile app solutions. What’s cool is our clients know we work together to create mobile applications that people use, love, and remember, and that sometimes the problems are even solved by the project management team.