Does finance really need design?

Finance had never been seen as design-focused until recently. A few years ago, there would have been no such thing as a Head of Design in companies like CitiBank, but all that had to change.

The finance industry – and fintech in particular – has incorporated design as a key factor within their strategy. But why, what does design have to offer the finance industry? We partook in the Design+ Finance webinar hosted by InVision to find out more.

The webinar, moderated by UX/Design Consultant, Adam Perlis, featured a panel of some of the industry’s best creative professionals, including Ryan Page, Head of Design in Card Partnerships at Capital One; Stephen Gates, Global Head of Design at Citi; Apeksha Garga, Director of User Experience Design for Wealthfront; and Ian Collins, Creative Director at Simple. Here are some of the most interesting things we heard.

Creatives and design have a significant impact on finance

Creatives now have significantly more influence in businesses, but this is a new phenomenon. Companies like Citi have been around for more than 200 years, but only in the last year or so have they introduced a design department.

This is because of the changing way in which we absorb information. Finance is an information-based product and, as such, needs information communicated efficiently and concisely. That’s where design comes in. As Apeksha Garga points out, “The financial industry was really a black box in the hands of experts. Then came the ability to open, fund, and trade accounts electronically. Technology enabled the consumerism of finance and when you enter into a consumer world, it’s essential to design a product that will easily blend into their everyday rhythm.”

User research is a huge part of the process in finance design

“Get out and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Stephen Gates said. “Design is subjective, so test it with consumers. Until it’s been tested, it’s subjective and debatable, but once it’s in front of consumers, it’s no longer debatable and there’s a reality to what we do.”

Ian Collins believes that you also need to understand how your customers talk about their finances. “What is the language being used by customers? For instance, in some focus tests, attendees claimed they didn’t have any savings, but they did have what they referred to as ‘rainy day funds’, which are essentially the same thing. This means the language and attitudes around finances [are] changing, and products and design need to acknowledge that and target it.”

Essentially, decisions should be made for the benefit of the customers and, in order to benefit customers, the design team must fall back on its most reliable method of discovery: user research.

Trust is an essential and challenging factor in finance

Ryan Page works with Capital One, and large financial institutes like his often face consumer scepticism. Or, as he put it, “It’s interesting because big banks are fairly reviled. One of the things that makes me proud to work at Capital One is that we believe our products and services should be something that we feel really good about recommending to our family and friends. If we see a practice that is ultimately going to be negative for customers, we’re expected to raise that flag. Ultimately, trust is something a business  has to earn every day, whether they’re big or small.”

It’s not going to be easy for consumers to trust their bank, but the best thing you can do is show them that what you’re offering is designed specifically for them. If you can demonstrate to your customers and clients that you’re listening to them and that you’re addressing their pain points, they will feel like they’re being listened to and appreciated, which in turn, will develop into trust.

User experience (UX) is more important than ever

As Matt so eloquently put in our blog about UX vs Branding, UX can easily be considered an integral part of the brand, and a total brand experience should encompass all elements of UX design along with more classical elements of brand design. When it comes to finance, UX means delivering as much of the necessary information as possible to one place, in an easily digestible manner. This is all the more important when working on mobile sites and apps, where switching between apps and tabs can be troublesome.

Apeksha believes mobile apps are the future of financial decisions: “More and more people are making financial decisions via their mobile device. Mobile will probably become THE interface for our entire financial life. Many people think of making online financial decisions as sitting at a computer with several tabs open because the information they need is scattered. However, that mindset is changing now that people can have all the information they need in one place – their mobile device.” UX design in mobile finance shouldn’t just consider interface and usability, but also how they will deliver information. An app offering a great user experience would consolidate large amounts of data and filter it down to just what is pertinent to the user. “[Supplying relevant information] means, A) you’ll end up making a much better decision, faster, and B) you’ll find it more convenient. More and more decisions are going to be made on our mobile devices that otherwise seem very complex.”

No one knows the future, but it shouldn’t stop you preparing for it

“We have to accept the fact that we won’t find something innovative by knowing where we’re going when we start, and that makes people scared as hell”, Stephen tells the audience, likening his preferred methodology to jumping off a cliff and ‘hoping you don’t Wile E Coyote it when you hit the ground’. Instead, you need to learn to build your wings on the way down. Not a lot of organisations are used to that level of improvisation, and it can take some convincing to show how meticulous planning for an uncertain future is a fallacy (imagine if finance firms had started investing heavily in support for Google Glass). But this uncertainty is OK because it’s just part of the process. As Stephen says, “It doesn’t mean we don’t know what we’re doing.”

One thing the panel agreed on was the evolving importance of the Internet of Things. For Stephen, it’s not about chasing what’s coming next. “For me, it’s more about putting your team and organisation in a position so that it’s agile enough to react. I think there’s something about agile – not as a methodology but as a thinking – that is more where we need to be.”

The logic here is that things are moving so fast, that even something as potentially ubiquitous as the Internet of Things is subject to change. There are businesses, such as Google and Facebook, that have the potential to change how users interact with technology – even to flip the user experience on its head entirely – and being prepared for change is more valuable than being prepared for a specific development.

Regular engagement isn’t necessarily the goal in finance

For most apps, a sign of success is the level of engagement and how often they’re used, but fintech is different. Apeksha pointed out, “There is this expectation from technology companies that what you’re optimising is engagement, but when it comes to personal finance that’s absolutely not true. In fact, the goal is not to get your clients to engage with you every day. The more peace of mind you have, the less likely you are to engage with your money, so our goal is really to engage our clients only in moments when we think we have some value to deliver and they should pay attention.”

 

There’s plenty more to learn from the webinar, so we recommend that you check out the full video just below. Technology has changed the way the financial industry engages with its customers and clients, and with design having a huge influence over technology, it’s become an essential part of the sector.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help your business, feel free to get in touch from our contact page. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!