Providing financial access to the underbanked through React Native

AND Global is a fintech company with the mission to provide inclusive financing for the underserved and the underbanked by utilizing fintech solutions. Through the use of a mobile app, machine learning and AI based credit scoring, we provide small loans fast and conveniently to those who may be unable to receive financial services from traditional entities.

We operate in several markets, including Mongolia, Philippines and South Korea, with localized financial services mobile apps. Our most popular app LendMN has disbursed 3.5 million micro-loans equaling USD 286 million in Mongolia since its inception in 2016. LendMN has no physical branch and disburses five thousand micro-loans per day on average and has over 100 thousand monthly active customers. The LendMN application is one of the highest downloaded applications locally with an average rating of 4.2 on the App Store and 4.4 on Play Store.

We believe that the utilization of disruptive technologies such as React Native provided us the opportunity to achieve these successes within a short period of time and a start-up budget.

Specifically, we have benefited the most by being able to utilize our web developers for app development and issuing fixes and updates on the fly.

Efficient manpower management
AND Global is founded by a team of Mongolian entrepreneurs with telecommunications and digital services backgrounds. Given the intimate knowledge of the local market as well as the contained market size, which was perfect for launching a pilot, our first fintech mobile app was launched in Mongolia.

With a low population density and many still living in the distant countryside there has been a significant need for Mongolians to maintain online bank accounts and strong telecommunications services. However, the lack of experienced human resources in the technology sector was a key barrier for any digital transformation efforts. There have been various initiatives to address the human resources gap, including training and education programs by the government. As a result, for the past 20 years developers have built a significant experience in web development. However, these skills did not fully provide the necessary specialties to bring disruptive technologies to the market on mobile platforms.

As we started, we needed a significant number of developers, especially people with app development experience, due to the complexities of a financial services application. However, there was a limited pool of local app development talent, and in addition, as a start-up company, we lacked the budget to hire a large workforce. Commensurating the lack of experienced human resources in mobile development, React Native gave us the opportunity to utilize our existing web developers in app development easily.

The React Native slogan of “Learn Once, Write Anywhere” explains perfectly the use case for a start-up in a developing country with a limited pool of skilled talent. At AND Global, we were able to successfully transition our web developers into app development because the same developers could write for the web as well as for two different mobile platforms using the same JavaScript syntax and libraries. This was especially useful since two thirds of our initial frontend development team consisted of people coming from web development and without any prior experience in mobile development. Additionally, the React Native community support was incredibly helpful to make an efficient and smooth transition.

Once we chose React Native to be our primary technology in Frontend, the web developers quickly learned the concepts and philosophy of it and started providing the MVPs that can be used for investment pitches. When you are a disruptive startup at your early stage of investment, quick release of MVP is crucial for survival and React Native was an instrumental tool to get our company off the ground quickly and secure further investments.

Constant agility through Over-the-air updates
Providing financial services through mobile application requires constant agility and continuous improvement. The regulatory changes and constant competitions require us to deliver fast and fix issues on the fly. Over-the-air update is one of the most attractive features of React Native that allows us to circumvent the hectic review process of the App Store and Play Store and update the bug fixes and performance enhancements without requiring us to compile the code.

Additionally, trust is an essential feature when providing financial services through a mobile application. Users won’t trust us when we ask them to update every time when there is a small bug fix. Especially if users are spending their cellular data in a developing country where mobile data is considerably more expensive than the developed world. For example, the average size of our OTA update package is 1–2 Mb whereas the full update package is ~65Mb. As of 2019, Mongolia stands on 103th to 118th places in various indicators of the mobile data prices when compared to its Gross National Income per capita¹. Therefore, a full package update would be a significant burden for the user in Mongolia and with the ability to do over-the-air updates, we were able to eliminate this hurdle for us and for the user.

On our fintech apps in Mongolia and Philippines, we deploy 4–5 push updates that contain essential bug fixes and enhancements on a weekly basis. Over-the-air updates using Microsoft’s App Center CodePush makes this process seamless to the user and effortless for the developers.

Conclusion
In order to leverage our development talent and budget wisely and to respond to market requirements, we chose Reach Native from the start, and we commend that React Native has been an essential and highly valued tool that became one of the key enablers of our achievements.

[1] International Telecommunication Union (ITU )ICT Price Trends 2019. https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/prices2019/ITU_ICTpriceTrends_2019.pdf

Offering accessible finance to millions of underbanked people around the world.