Post written by Chris Brooker
We recently ran the Service Design for Innovative Banking workshop at the World Usability Day conference in Silesia, Poland.
Service Design for Innovative Banking explored how service design techniques can produce unique service ideas for the rapidly evolving banking sector. We were lucky to have some fantastic attendees from various European banks and hearing their thoughts on design in their industry was really interesting. I have summarized the content of our workshop and some innovative new financial services in this post.
Banking services and your bank play a role in most of the important life events: first job, going to university, starting a career, saving, buying a house, getting married, having children, investing, starting a business, retiring and writing a will. There are banks, like Lloyds in the UK, that want their customers to know they are with them ‘for the journey’ through life.
When it comes to choosing a bank, most people are loyal and not always likely to shop around, but as good online services are becoming the most important thing to customers, banks of all sizes have the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition with unique and convenient online and mobile services.
Your bank is one of the few services you use every day. This means your bank knows a lot about you, like Google and Supermarket loyalty card schemes do. How far should banks go in providing more useful and personalised services that support your hobbies, interests, working life and daily activities? I mean personalised services that go further than just letting you have any photo you like printed on your debit card.
What are established banks doing to show they are friendly, personal and customer-centred? There are some very innovative new ways of banking and creative new services popping up around the world that look very carefully at what people want and need from their bank. There are also big brands that have moved or are moving into banking like Tesco, Virgin and IKEA. Do we trust them more or less than the current mainstream banks? IKEA’s values are there for all to see on their website: togetherness, cost-consciousness, respect, simplicity. I would like to see these values and Ikea’s design ethos in a bank but whether or not these companies radically change what your bank does for you and the services they offer is yet to be seen.
One innovative example of a ‘banking’ service is the peer-to-peer lending website, Zopa, where you are the ‘bank’. You lend the money, set the interest rates and, as there are no huge over-heads, borrowers get low-cost loans. You can find out about the person you are lending to and what they are using the money for, which makes the whole experience more personal and human. Another innovative new financial service is Lucky Ant, which helps local businesses get funds to grow by turning to their customers for funding. In a similar way to Kickstarter you could give $50 to your favourite local cafe in return for free products or services from that business.
There are an increasing number of new apps and online software tools that aim to help you manage your finances better – personal financial management (PFM). Simple wants to replace your bank and really help you understand your finances. An account with simple includes features like “What can I spend now” instead of the traditional “Current balance”. You can take a photograph of a cheque on your camera phone and ‘see it reflected in your account’. Simple is also collaborating with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the US and with their ‘Goals’ feature aims to help people address their volatile spending habits. Simple uses the right data to help their customers budget by setting aside money in spoken-for chunks, or save for larger purchases. Simple is also founded on a philosophy of good UX design and they are “focused exclusively on the user experience of banking.” This translates into beautiful interfaces and a clarity and usefulness in the way you manage and spend your money.
By conducting primary research, writing personas, storyboarding and using service blueprints you can start to think about banking services in people’s wider context. If Mike (depicted above) is adventurous and likes to travel, when he is visiting a country for the first time, one thing you know he will take is his bank card (and account). There is a variety of ways his bank could support his journey before, during and after his trip. Advice about exchange rates and the most convenient and cheapest way to access his money should be the bare minimum. An example of a more personalised service might be something like a ‘Traveller +’ account that partners with Lonely Planet and anticipates that Mike will frequently be going abroad. It could recommend places to stay; places to eat based on Mike’s tastes and automatically take care of travel insurance…
The problem is that when banks ask their customers whether or not they want these kinds of personalised services the customers apparently say no – they believe they are too intrusive. However, most people are happy to let Google or their supermarket use their data in this way. So this might be a case of people saying one thing and being happy to do another (e.g. if banks offered these services their customers would actually begin to use them), or it’s that people just don’t trust that their current banks have their best interests at heart at the moment.