The cofounder of fintech unicorn Stripe has some harsh words for legacy mobile banking apps, and some suggestions to fix them.

Speaking on the eve of Salesforce's tech conference Dreamforce, John Collison, the millionaire who founded the payments infrastructure provider Stripe with his brother Patrick in 2011, said: "I feel like mobile banking apps are the standard go-to paradigm for bad app design."

John and Patrick Collison
John and Patrick Collison

Collison explained: "If you are a bank and you outsource the technology and don't take that seriously, then people try to build mission critical applications on it, that won't go well. From day one at Stripe we have been building this with high availability, reliability and security in mind."

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This is where Stripe comes in. By providing payments infrastructure to customers, especially those focused on enabling mobile payments, it allows them to get up and running faster.

Developers can implement the core Stripe API and customise their payments experience that way, or plug in a pre-built checkout with a couple of lines of code, instead of trying to build more and more on top of legacy systems.

Read next: Which is the right online payments solution for your startup? Stripe vs Braintree vs Worldpay vs Adyen

Head of business operations Claire Hughes Johnson said that she had a recent conversation with a C-suite executive who said: "I have a business problem. I have a division of my company trying to bring a mobile product to market and I can not satisfy them with my existing infrastructure, therefore Stripe."

Finally, chief business officer Billy Alvarado said: "I tend to spend a lot of time with participants in the financial industry. On our end we think the existing financial systems, the capabilities are immense. We just think there will be a lot of repurposing, discovery and enhancing happening over time but ultimately that's not for a single company to do."


Collison told a story about how he saw a talk from a CEO at one of the top four big banks in the USA where he said: "We're great, we have all these apps, we're winning at apps, we have 50,000 engineers".

The problem with this view in 2016? "He was still measuring the success of their software division in terms of headcount and how big that division was," Collison said. "Then you have Instagram, which is a massively successful platform which was made up of eight people."

The lesson? Recognising "the power of small software teams to effect big outcomes", Collison said.

Collison also advised any company against being too locally minded. He said: "When you move into the online world you don't get to choose that you are still in the regional division. It turned out that the winner of the US music streaming market was Spotify from Stockholm."

"So you can't say you are going to win in San Francisco or the United States in the software world because you don't get to make that decision anymore."