How to Test Banking Applications
Have you visited a bank branch lately? Bet that you can hardly remember the last time you were there. The thing is that today the majority of banks offer their clients helpful web and mobile applications using which they can settle any issue in the blink of an eye 24/7 without a need to leave their homes. Very convenient, isn’t it? Still, behind these smart systems lie a lot of efforts made by a huge team of banking experts, business analysts, developers, and QA engineers. This article is dedicated to banking applications testing since quality assurance is of primary importance when it has to do with money.
Description and introduction to banking domain
The banking domain combines diverse banking institutions providing different financial services including investment services, overdraft facilities, account management, insurance facilities, credit facilities, deposit facilities, currency exchange, insurance facilities, etc.
With the rapid development of technologies, banks have got an excellent opportunity to transfer their activity and majority of services into the digital realm. As a result, online and mobile banking is gaining momentum day by day.
As banking is all about money, users have high requirements for banking solutions while state governments and global finance society also have set high standards for applications of this type in order to reassure their security, reliability. and stability.
Consequently, it is obvious that banking app testing services is a far cry from the testing applications of any other type. So let’s consider in detail what makes banking applications and their testing so special.
Definition and the key characteristics of a banking application
Banking applications are digital tools that significantly optimize the work of banking specialists and considerably simplify the lives of ordinary people. We have already got used to settling all our banking and finance-related issues using a corresponding application. With its help, we can check an account balance, pay bills, pay loan installments, transfer money, exchange currency, view an account statement, receive alerts or reminders. and many more. Applications of this kind have become indeed irreplaceable. Financial institutions, in turn, benefit from operating cost reduction, improved customer service, workflow optimization, and plenty of other lucrative opportunities. On the flip side, financial service providers can be exposed to numerous risks like data breaches, security flaws, faulty transactions, loss of funds, criminal prosecution, destroyed reputation, etc., if a banking application is not comprehensively tested. Still, banking app testing is not a piece of cake at all. The thing is that modern banking applications are of high complexity. Moreover, they are subject to strict security regulations. All in all, banking applications have the following characteristics:
Dealing with sensitive financial data;
Sessions with multiple concurrent users;
Integrations with numerous third-party applications and payment gateway systems;
Complicated business workflows;
Real-time data processing and display;
Precise tracking and reporting of day-to-day transactions;
Customer issue troubleshooting;
Massive data storage system;
QR payment support;
Strict adherence to state and federal regulations;
Keeping up-to-date with new technologies.
Importance of banking application testing
When it comes to money, everyone wants to be sure that it is safe. So, since banking applications handle financial issues and sensitive information, nothing can be left to chance. In these terms, testing is indeed a must. Banks just cannot afford to take the slightest risk, therefore, banking applications should be carefully checked inside out taking into account numerous factors and criteria. Consequently, it makes sense to consider testing at all levels by executing unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and user acceptance testing. To reach the desired quality level, it is essential not to miss out on any software testing type. Comprehensive and well-thought-out testing makes end-users happy and financial service providers profitable and successful. Here are just a few benefits of banking application testing:
Up and running application smoothly working across different devices, web browsers, operating systems, and networks;
Seamless work of the whole app functionality;
24/7 app availability and the ability to handle the highest loads during peak business hours without disruptions, crashes, and system downtime;
Compliance with the whole scope of state laws, regulations, and industry standards;
Detection and elimination of security flaws, secure data protection, and ability to withstand the most diverse cyberattacks;
Great user experience and high user satisfaction;
Solid payment integrations, and many more.
Stages of testing banking applications
As was mentioned, banking app testing is complicated and holistic. Therefore it is a good idea to have a roadmap to guide you to set goals. In essence, QA workflow can vary from project to project, but in general QA teams consider the following steps:
Requirement gathering and review
At this stage, a QA team gathers, studies, and reviews project requirements. The aim is to clearly understand the way each app function should work and detect possible errors that can relate to ambiguity, incompleteness, inconsistency, and unverifiability of the requirements. It is worth mentioning, that only QA specialists with in-depth domain knowledge can properly cope with this task and all succeeding ones when it comes to finance-related, banking projects. In case there is a certain gap in knowledge, it is advised to take help from a subject matter expert. Besides, if some requirements seem to be controversial or vague, it is better to discuss them with both business and technical stakeholders.
The planning stage is a common one. The QA team proceeds with a detailed QA process planning that covers such important aspects as the scope of testing, test deliverables, tech stack, test environment requirements, roles and responsibilities, scheduling, and many more.
Test case development and creation of automated test scripts
At this stage, QA specialists draw up detailed test cases. Here it is important to carefully cover all scenarios and take into account not only functional but also diverse non-functional characteristics of an application. Besides, to gain high test coverage, get accurate test results, and optimize the testing process, automation testing should be introduced as well and corresponding test scripts should be written. Test automation is a great option for test cases that are repeatedly executed, data-driven, time-incentive, and challenging to be performed manually. Still, manual testing is used to complement automated tests when it comes to carrying out usability tests, exploratory tests, ad-hoc tests, and tests that require particular human supervision.
This stage lies at the heart of the whole QA process. A banking application is checked against the previously prepared test cases and automated tests are run to check the app for different bugs and bottlenecks.
Here, we offer you to have a look at the types of software testing that are of primary importance in the context of banking app testing:
In the course of functional testing, it is checked whether all implemented app features work in accordance with the requirements. As long as modern banking apps provide a rich set of features, usually, there is a great number of functional tests covering the most diverse user flows with both positive and negative scenarios.
A database is a separate layer of a bank application that deserves testing with full attention. Specialists performing database testing should have profound knowledge and rich experience in it. This type of testing verifies data integrity, database structure, data types, data flow, data loading speed., etc. Moreover, database testing ensures:
- Data rollback in the case of failure; - Smooth application working while a database server is down; - Regular database backup; - A commitment of completed transactions and reversion of aborted transactions; - Database access by only authorized users, and many more.
It is obvious that an application that constantly lags and crashes will never win people’s hearts. Today’s users are very demanding and expect fast data display and transaction commitment. So it is of high importance to ensure smooth app work while it is used by a huge number of concurrent users and when plenty of synchronous transactions are processed. Here performance testing comes to the aid. The goal of performance testing is to check application behavior while it is subject to normal and severe loads. To detect and eliminate all possible performance-related risks different types of performance testing should be performed including load testing, volume testing, stress testing, spike testing, endurance testing, scalability testing, etc. When it comes to mobile apps, attention should be also paid to such performance metrics as battery usage, CPU usage, and memory usage. Besides, in this case, it is also important to verify app performance with different types of networks.
Any banking app handles extremely sensitive data, therefore they are often a core target for hackers. With this in mind as well as with the desire to make users confident in the app's reliability, comprehensive security testing is carried out. Its primary goal is to detect security flaws, ensure the app’s ability to withstand the most diverse hacker attacks, and check its compliance with standard security guidelines.
As you may guess, the security testing of banking applications is rather complex and multi-faceted. It covers such aspects as the strictness of password policy, proper authentification process, protocol security, data encryption, session timeout mechanisms, API security, etc. To guarantee high security the whole scope of security tests is conducted. Apart from security scanning and vulnerability scanning detecting threats and weak spots in an app and network, it makes sense to carry out penetration testing mimicking real hacker attacks, or even go further and turn to ethical hacking. While ethical testing is not conducted frequently, it still brings numerous benefits even while being executed from time to time. The thing is that ethical hackers have the same way of thinking as malicious hackers and utilize the same tricks to get access to sensitive data of an app. Still, they do not have an intention to do damage. On the contrary, their objective is to find out loopholes in the app, which malicious hackers could also use, and offer efficient remediation.
To succeed and be well-accepted by users, a banking application must not only have a rich set of features and be secure, stable, and reliable, it also should be easy to use. And usability testing is conducted to make sure that an app provides indeed great user experience. Why is it important? Any banking application has a wide spectrum of users among which there are tech-savvy and technology-challenged people. The purpose of usability testing is to evaluate the application from different perspectives and ensure its user-friendliness for all categories of users. So, usability specialists verify whether key user scenarios have clear and understandable steps and real users can easily perform tasks without bogging down at certain points. In essence, attention is paid to every detail such as easy navigation, proper color combination, proper text size, visibility of critical messages and buttons, clarity of error messages, presence of placeholders and tooltips, and many more.
As it was mentioned, banking apps target a wide audience including millions of people with some mental, physical, or sensory disabilities. Consequently, it is common practice for banks to implement unique accessibility features and provide app compatibility with inbuilt accessibility features of iOS and Android. So, these accessibility features should be validated with tests. Accessibility testing provides outstanding value by detecting issues that are considered to be a barrier for people with disabilities. All, in all, accessibility testing is important not only due to its contribution to user experience but also because, in many countries, adherence to particular accessibility guidelines is a legal requirement.
One of the main peculiarities of banking apps is that they should meet numerous guidelines, standards, laws, and regulations depending on a geographical location of a targeted market. Above we mentioned the necessity to follow some accessibility guidelines, but the pivotal role is assigned to compliance with security regulations and industry standards. The most common among them are OWASP, GDPR, BASEL IV, MiFID II, ISO 17799, COBIT, NIST, FISCAM, and others.
All in all, compliance testing is compulsory for banking apps, as the violence of state and federal laws and regulations can lead to enormous penalties and operation suspension.
In these terms, we would also like to pay particular attention to KYC or Know Your Customer which is used as a compulsory preventive measure against financial crimes and money laundering.
Put it simply, KYC is a process of identification and verification of a client’s identity on every attempt to log in to an account. In such a way, a bank can be sure that a client is indeed the person they claim to be. Access can be denied if a client fails to meet minimum KYC requirements.
As a rule, a KYC process suggests ID card verification, other documents verification, and biometric verification.
Banks must comply with the KYC and AML requirements. Heavy penalties are charged in case banks fail to comply.
So, KYC should be taken into account in the course of security testing, functional testing, and compliance testing.
Challenges in testing banking domain
Probably, you have already understood that banking app testing is associated with numerous nerve-wracking challenges caused by the complexity of such apps and numerous requirements for them. So, let’s see which difficulties you may face when it comes to banking app testing:
In-depth domain expertise is a must
Banking app testing can be entrusted only to specialists with considerable financial expertise and a great command of all required QA tools. Each of us uses a particular banking app but this experience is not enough to clearly understand the whole logic of such applications. Only having profound knowledge in banking and finances it is possible to appropriately execute testing of banking apps.
Complex security precautions
When a QA team works on testing a banking application, additional time and effort are needed to implement additional security measures and create a secure environment.
Comprehensive security testing
Security testing is always a great responsibility. Still, when it comes to banking apps there is no margin for an error. It is crucial to check an app inside out for all possible loopholes. One tiny oversight can cost a fortune.
A database is an important component or rather a layer of any banking app. The structure of such databases is rather complicated. So database testing is also associated with numerous difficulties and pitfalls and should be executed by specialists who are indeed good at it and know all the nuances.
Numerous third-party integrations
In an attempt to provide users with the whole scope of useful extra services, banking applications are usually integrated with multiple third-party systems. However, such integrations are always accompanied by plenty of bugs. QA engineers must be ready to deal with access problems and incompatibility of integration with a native UI of the application.
It is a real art to make sophisticated things simple. And it is even more challenging to please everyone. Still, a QA team should make sure that even the most tricky tasks can be easily completed by all users both tech-savvy and technology-challenged.
Compliance with multiple standards
Bank applications should strictly adhere to certain norms, standards, and regulations especially those related to personal information protection and security. Therefore, one of the tasks of a QA team is to make sure that all requirements are met which not only contributes to the app security but also lets financial service providers avoid heavy penalties.
Support of numerous devices, browsers, and operating systems
In view of the fact that banks’ audience is extremely variegated, app users use a great diversity of devices both high-end and low-end. Moreover, different browsers and platforms as well as their different versions should be also taken into account. Consequently, compatibility testing should cover all these issues to guarantee smooth app running regardless of the used device, OS, or browser.
Banking application testing is indeed specific and can be a real pain for an inexperienced QA team. The case is that banking applications are vulnerable and complex which sophisticates the testing process making it more multi-facet, thorough, time-consuming, and expensive. Numerous and strict requirements for such apps also mount challenges.
Still, testing is a must for banking apps as it helps to improve user experience, guarantee high security, avoid compliance issues and penalties, and facilitate future maintenance. Only a thoroughly tested banking app can get off the ground and become an efficient conversion boost.