The state of Admin Panels in early-stage Fintech companies

We ran a survey across early-stage companies in the fintech industry to learn how they were approaching the construction of their admin panel* and for what purposes. *By admin panel, we refer to any internal tool you may use to administrate your customer-facing apps (also commonly called back office).

Here are the conclusions we were able to draw:

The admin panel is critical to your company's success

Answers to the question: How critical is the admin panel to your business?

Close to 80% of respondents said that the admin panel is critical to their company’s success and ~50% even consider they are “very critical”. Only one respondent replied that their Admin Panel is not critical at all.

Most fintech companies are equipped FROM DAY ONE

Answers to the question: Do you already have an admin panel in place?

Almost 80% already have an admin panel in place despite their relative early-stage. It's mainly explained by the fact that companies operating in the financial industry MUST conform to government regulations to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, as soon as they launch publicly. It can also be explained by the need for their ops teams to have control over their data without having to request help from their engineers.

Saying it's critical, and that it needs to be built from day one begs the question “but how long does it take to develop such a tool?” Well, a study showed that ~20% of the time spent by developers is dedicated to building their admin panel... it's A LOOOT of time !

But developers still hesitate between BUILDING and BUYING

Interestingly enough, there is still a 50/50 split in the build vs. buy match among early-stage Fintech companies.

Answers to the question: If you had the choice, would you BUILD or BUY your admin panel?

While half of the companies are already convinced of the benefits of relying on an off-the-shelf solution, the other half still believes that they're better off sticking with a solution that they can control from A to Z. We asked the projects about the reasons why they didn't choose an off-the-shelf solution and here's what they replied:

  • Data privacy - they were afraid that an off-the-shelf provider would have access to their data.
  • Buying Process Complexity - they were afraid that working with an external provider would bring complexity and delay to their company’s buying process.
  • Product Stickiness - they were afraid that an external platform might limit their ability to create and maintain the technological edge of their internal admin panel tools.
  • Lack of flexibility - their needs were too specific for a generic solution to handle their business use cases.
  • Reliability - as a core piece of their business, relying on a third-party provider represented a risk in case the platform experienced downtime.
  • Pricing - they were afraid it would be too expensive.

What's interesting to point out is where the financial industry is heading in terms of decentralized applications. Lately, Fintech companies greatly benefited from the opening of APIs around the banking infrastructure (with services like Plaid, Klarna, Quovo, etc.) and this is helping them truly focus on their core value proposition. Despite this trend and despite the new offerings in the Admin Panel API field, one takeaway of the study is that there is still a long way to go before convincing developers to rely on external providers to build their internal tools!

Regulatory requirements lead the show!

Answers to the question: For which use cases would you need it most?

Almost 70% of the interviewees use their admin panel for user onboarding purposes. This is a very common observation given the maturity of the companies we interviewed, which are early-stage for the most part.

Unsurprisingly, the KYC/KYB use case (i.e. Know Your Customer/Business) represents a big part of the reason why fintechs use their Admin Panel, as it's a regulatory requirement for all financial institutions to identify and verify the identity of clients opening an account. You can discover how Qonto is running its KYC process on Forest Admin in this post

Data Manipulation comes in second as the admin panel is usually implemented to have control over the data in the early days of a company’s life, with the need for basic CRUD features (Create, Read, Update and Delete) to get underway.

Last but not least, more than half of the respondents use their Admin Panels to monitor the performance indicators of their customers through Analytics. Keeping track of your users’ activity is a vital ritual in the early phases of a business and analytics can come in handy when you want to easily monitor the pulse of your business.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, it's no surprise that the Admin Panels plays a major role in a fintech's success. Both its core aspect in the daily management of a company's operations and the way they allow Fintech companies to meet their regulatory requirements are the core reasons why it is a no brainer to build one as early as possible.

However, the build vs buy match isn't over with some developers still preferring to develop their Admin Panel in-house and others who are more willing to leverage newer API based Admin Panel to accelerate their work.

We understand why teams traditionally assume they should build their Admin Panel internally but challenge them on that premise. If you are building an operationally intense company that requires an Admin Panel to power your operations, you should:

  • Consider looking into external providers - more info on this post
  • Make a correct assessment of the costs that come with it.

Developing an admin panel does not come free, nor does it come cheap. Building and maintaining them requires that you invest considerable amounts of resources that are not all easy to measure, quantify and assess.

With an off-the-shelf solution like Forest Admin, you stand to save time for your developers, improve the scalability from a feature standpoint of your Admin Panels, and generally have more flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of your Ops teams.

We conducted this interview with the help of 26 YCombinator FinTech companies, and the data shown above is directly representative of their responses.

Tancrede Le Merrer

Tancrede Le Merrer