Yesterday, fintech start-ups Lydia has unveiled a brand new design for her awesome financial app. And it’s a savvy approach to mobile payments – not just a fresh coat of paint. I met with the founders of the company to discuss Lydia’s thinking and vision for the future.
In many ways, Lydia doesn’t stand still and keeps reinventing herself. Originally, the company was a peer-to-peer payment application for the French market. For the first time, people could send and receive money instantly from their smartphones.
The application has evolved considerably over the past few years. The company recently reached unicorn status and the team has been iterating with more services and features.
In particular, you can now use your Lydia account as an alternative to a traditional bank account. Users can order a debit card, send and receive money via a single IBAN. Users can also trade cryptocurrencies, stocks, precious metals, and ETFs.
With this new design, the company is streamlining its app with a clear separation between your activity, accounts, cards, and trading activity. More importantly, the company is positioning its mobile app as a social product, not a fintech product.
Building the foundations for the next 10 years
When I met Lydia co-founders Cyril Chiche and Antoine Porte, they had both read my recent article on Zenly, another popular social app designed in Paris. And they found similarities between the new Lydia and the new Zenly.
“We just sent out a newsletter to our user base that unveils a new chapter for Lydia, setting the plan for the next 10 years – just like Zenly,” co-founder and Chief Product Officer Antoine Porte told me. .
It works but it was never designed for humans Cyril Chiche
It’s not a random step. Lydia launched the first version of her app nine years ago. “If you count the gestation period, it’s been 10 years,” Porte said.
The company managed to attract 5.5 million users. And a fraction of them have now decided to use Lydia as their main account.
“The more we get into financial and banking services, the more we try to intellectualize why people don’t like their bank,” co-founder and CEO Cyril Chiche told me.
“As you dig deeper, you realize how much technology banks are using. They have built a beautiful system for interbank activities. You can move money across the globe. It works but it was never meant for humans,” he added.
That pretty much sums up Lydia’s design language. The team wants to create an app “designed for humans”. For example, someone who has never used a banking app before shouldn’t have to learn about SEPA transfers and IBANs before sending money to a family member.
When you open the updated version of Lydia, the main tab has been cleaned up considerably. This is now an activity feed with your latest transactions. There are two buttons at the top of the screen: receive and pay.
At the bottom of the screen, there’s a new tab bar with clearly labeled buttons. You no longer have to guess which button does what.
The second tab displays your accounts — your main Lydia account, sub-accounts, and bank accounts that you’ve aggregated in the app. Personal accounts and shared accounts are now separated into two sections.
The third tab lets you access your maps and control them from there. Trading now has its own tab, separate from the rest of the app. If you rarely open Lydia, it’s now much easier to understand where you need to tap to access what you want to access.
What is money?
French entrepreneurs who think a little too much about everything, the founders of Lydia constantly come back to the definition of the terms they use. “We forgot the very reason money exists because we think of money as an accounting tool,” Porte said.
“Money has meaning. It’s either a project or a memory,” Chiche added later in the conversation.
And yet, when people open their banking app, they feel like they’re opening an Excel spreadsheet. Worse, it often promotes a lot of negative thoughts.
“Your account was only credited once and everything else is negative transactions. When you look at your account statement, you feel like you screwed up,” Chiche said.
Money is what you make of it Anthony Porte
According to the founders, there is too much guilt in the bank. This is why you no longer see your account balance when you open Lydia. You have to tap on the second tab to see it. This is also why you don’t see the “€” sign next to each transaction. The company does not want to focus on the accounting aspect of your transactions.
“The worst part is neobanks showing you a graph of your balance over time,” Chiche said.
“We need a new definition of money. Money is no longer coins, bills or physical things. This could be an opportunity to get back to basics – money is what you make of it,” Porte said.
A fintech app or social app
Each transaction in Lydia could be considered an event. You can open the transaction card, change the name and add emojis to make it mean something to you. For example, you might want to put your baby’s name on the nursery bill.
Today, the company goes even further. Users can add a photo to each transaction. It seems a little strange at first, but Lydia truly believes she has a chance to create the best social journaling app.
You might think journaling is a thing of the past. But a generation of smartphone users keeps a diary every day without even realizing it.
The newspaper itself has evolved. Instead of buying a fancy notebook and spending 15 minutes a day writing about the current day, people are taking pictures with their phones. The camera roll has become a kind of ubiquitous and effortless diary.
Lydia is so simple and fast that it has always been considered a utility application. But it’s always been a social app Anthony Porte
Lydia plans to take advantage of this by increasing the filmstrip. First, your past financial transactions represent a structure. Second, adding a photo makes a transaction much more personal. “If you don’t know which photo you should use, it probably means it was an unnecessary expense,” Porte said.
Third, it turns every transaction into a potential social post. You can browse your transactions like you would browse photos in a photo album. If it’s a shared expense, other users will see the photo. It also creates a virality factor as people might start asking why you are taking a photo. You can imagine a feature that lets you share a transaction in other apps as well.
More importantly, it opens up a lot of possibilities. A card transaction also takes place at a specific place and at a specific time. Lydia could populate the transaction screen with more data about the place you visited. As soon as Foursquare invented checkins, people started talking about checkin fatigue. Perhaps the most powerful records are your card payments.
This brings us to the main question. Is Lydia a fintech app or a social app?
“Lydia is so simple and fast that it has always been considered a utility application. But it’s always been a social app,” Porte told me.
I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Some users will still use Lydia several times a month to send and receive money. But a very engaged small part of the user base could see Lydia’s social potential.
We don’t need to come up with a definitive answer just yet as the redesign is a definite improvement over the previous version of the app. “People tell us our competitors are Revolut, but they’re bankers,” Porte said.
“Rather, we want to create the WhatsApp of money,” he added.