What Big Financial Institutions Can Learn From Fintech

Fintech is on the rise, expected to reach $700 billion in market size by 2030. Customers increasingly want to do things digitally, and they expect increasingly sophisticated tools to support them. The pandemic era catalyzed this shift, incentivizing more of the population to try things online that they might have done in person. The result is a customer base rapidly gaining comfort and savvy in managing their wealth digitally. 

But while fresh-on-the-market fintech start-ups may be able to keep pace with these fast-growing customer demands, it’s more challenging (and more expensive) for large financial institutions with decades of infrastructure to react similarly. This has led to a steep decline in customer satisfaction across most digital banking services, particularly in the area of mobile apps.

Large financial institutions can’t (and shouldn’t) look exactly like fintech. They’re different organizations with different goals, and it’s important to note that the very longevity that makes it harder to be agile is also a bank’s greatest asset: it represents an invaluable, decades-long track record of responsibility with people’s financial futures. That said, there are some lessons established orgs can carry over from fintech as they work to upgrade their customer experience. Read on for Grand Studio’s take on four trends worth considering at your organization.

Trend 1: Biometric Authentication

Money is emotional, and banks have long since understood the need to give clients a sense of safety and security with their assets. But what people view as “secure” in the digital world can vary widely from person to person. Furthermore, there’s a spectrum of what people are willing to exchange for that security — is it worth this extra step? Is it worth fishing out an account number I may not have memorized? In our fast-paced world, time delays can be a huge hindrance. 

Something with the potential to hit the marks on both security and convenience is biometric authentication. People are gaining more comfort using their faces and fingerprints to log in, and body parts aren’t typically something you accidentally leave in a file cabinet. If research shows that your customer base is ready to accept biometric authentication on its own or as part of 2FA, it’s worth looking into as a way to get high ratings on trust and security without compromising ease. 

That said, it’s important to think through exactly how additional security layers should work for different customers because everyone has a different definition of what convenience means in the context of security. Some customers may feel most comfortable with one-time passcodes, while others may feel best with text verification or even a phone call. Designing and building out these various pathways can add up, so it’s helpful to get a handle on what it will involve up-front.

Trend 2: API Integration With Other FinTech Products

More and more, people expect their mobile banking apps to integrate with other products and services they use — including other banks. Some believe that designing these connection points may lose them business by making it too easy to use other fintech tools or transfer money out of their accounts. Accordingly, they may deprioritize API integration features and even build elements that contain people within their ecosystem of services. But increasingly, this turns clients off. If your suite of features don’t reflect your customer’s lifestyle, they may search for another bank whose app does.

Isolated banking services are simply not the reality for today’s clients. People often have their money in several different places, and use several different tools for budgeting, investing, and more. An app that’s vacuum-sealed at the edges will frustrate customers by not meeting them where they are. On the other hand, designing smooth ways for people to bank in ways that reflect the interconnectedness of their lives can build a more positive relationship, creating a sense that you understand how their lives work and want to support them. The freedom you offer them can help you retain them better than digital blockades.

Trend 3: AI Nudges For Better Financial Decision-Making

The percentage of people in the US who consider themselves financially healthy is dropping. People want and need support to make better decisions that maximize what they have, and set them up for a more secure future. Leveraging AI within a mobile banking app can allow you to provide smart notifications and personalized offers to your customers, helping them make good financial choices at the right time in a way that meets their goals. These nudges and coaching features can not only improve their satisfaction and goodwill towards the bank, it can also generate revenue by selling them on products and services that are a good fit for their needs. 

Of course, not all AI is created equal. To benefit customers, AI features must truly support their needs, and come across as helpful and intelligent — not intrusive, annoying, or creepy. To use AI to the best of its ability, start by deeply understanding what your customers want and need to improve their financial lives. Then, use the tech power in service of those aims. 

Trend 4: Interfaceless Experiences

With the proliferation of smart speakers and chatbots, people are getting more comfortable with “interfaceless” UIs that rely less on visuals and buttons and more on digitized conversation. Many fintech companies have discovered that, for certain mobile banking tasks, a quick digital chat is the smoothest and most efficient customer experience. This solution is usually a better fit for fairly straightforward, everyday transactions. A chat-based option for a simple task is more often seen as a perk, while a chat-based option for a complex task is at risk of being seen as a subpar customer experience. 

It’s also wise to consider where your chatbot would pick up the baton in a customer’s journey and where it would hand it off to other services, like a human expert. This helps customers feel that their issues are being properly handled by those with the best skills for the job and imbues the bot with a sense of purpose and value. As always, it’s important to research your customer base to understand where these experiences may add meaningful support versus leaving a sour taste. 

While valuable in the right use cases, interfaceless UIs may not fit every institution. For banks with a client base who is just beginning their journey into mobile banking, it may feel like too big of a leap. Once again, researching your client base will help you understand if this would add meaningful value and is the right investment for your organization at this point in time.

The Bottom Line

Financial service providers have a big mandate ahead of them to level up their digital experience amid rapidly rising customer expectations. There’s a lot to learn from fintech’s focused digital experiences that can be translated more widely across the industry. However, every organization’s path to improvement is going to be unique. Each institution comes with its own infrastructure, its own vision, its own compliance needs, and, importantly, its own unique client base. This means there’s no one-size-fits-all template for improvement, and a new feature or slate of high-impact ideas at one organization could flop at another. The best way to start is by gaining a deep and holistic picture of your organization and customers to identify the biggest leverage points for positive change. That way, you don’t risk investing time and money into tools that will only gather digital dust.

At Grand Studio, we’ve had the privilege of working with many financial institutions on the path to achieving their north-star visions. While we have developed many repeatable approaches and can recognize a variety of similar scenarios across these institutions, we also know the value of tailoring our approach to fit our client’s specific needs. We specialize in discovering what is unique about each organization and its customer base. We then assist our clients in prioritizing the best way forward with high-impact change while honoring and maintaining what they do best.

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How to Score a Rewarding Digital Experience for Sports Fans

Which group of users can provide us with more excitement, passion, and raw emotion other than the wide world of sports? Very few areas of leisure and entertainment feature people pacing around in their living rooms, yelling at a television. Sports fans are simply a different breed altogether. They are deeply connected to the game, the athletes, and the storylines.

Therefore, designing a great digital experience that puts your product (or service) above the competition takes real care for your fans and their unique needs.

Start with “why”

Sports fans have tons of outlets already, digital and otherwise, to follow their favorite sports. You may be part of an organization looking to disrupt the competition for select offerings or a company looking to maintain your lead in the market. Getting the digital project off and running is the first step, and it begins with constructing an argument for what success looks like from a business standpoint. Is it to generate more revenue opportunities? Reach a new fan base? Encourage deeper engagement from fans with your product? Likely there are a few goals in mind. What is important is to stay true to why this project deserves the investment from stakeholders around you. Be sure to provide critical success factors and look to measure them throughout your process to know you’re on track towards real business value.

Embody the audience

The sports field presents a relatively easy, low-cost way of learning about these users — go be a sports fan! Discuss with folks in your company about which audiences make up your intended user base and go research them. Visit sports bars or arenas and talk to fans, invite them to participate in surveys, use friends and family, or experience being a fan yourself through the course of the season. When learning the finer details of a new sport, my favorite method is to turn to video games: there is a rhyme and reason for how the creators have constructed gameplay, the stats that show up, the game-break content, and of course, learning the rules of the game. If broadcast television is available (or we are in season), that is another perfect reference for good ideas. Finally, consider a longer study with sports fans — what does an average week of following sports look like vs. the during-game experience? Where are there moments of real excitement? Or pain? How are fans experiencing that with digital products? You will likely come up with various fan types you could be designing for, and the next step is to prioritize them accordingly.

Narrow the focus

Too many teams get caught up in wanting to “design for everybody”…or designing for the “ultimate fan” at the expense of ignoring the rest of the field. In the design process, this leads to endless meetings asking “what-if” questions. If your team has done its homework on fans, and understands what excites them and what challenges them — there are usually a few representative types to choose from for your product/service. They can be based on various dimensions, be it fan avidity, geography, or tech savviness to name a few. We typically create personas for our clients to base our decisions on, but whether these user types are defined by an in-house team or a specialized team, the point here is to select a few user types that become your target fans. How do you select? Go back to starting with why: which ones will best help your team accomplish its goals for the business? Do you need to design for all these users in the first version? Probably not. Pick the ones that have the greatest potential to accomplish your team’s goals and when you head to the concept phase, be sure to design from their inspiration.

Choose key scenarios

After selecting your target users, ensure you’ve placed them in the right scenarios. Your fans’ specific journeys with your product are vital in moving quickly through the design process. Again, the point isn’t to design for everybody…in every situation, the goal is to design the very best experience for the fans that will drive business value. These are strategic choices which means they should not be obvious yet be intentional. Every fan is going to want an “intuitive” experience. Perhaps only the handful of target fans will want an experience that selects and notifies them of close games across the league to pull them into the drama.

And, of course, fans could use various products in combination over the course of following a season or even a single game, so where is the right place for yours to come in? Choose those fan journeys that lead back to your goals. Are you designing for the fan that is following one favorite team? Multiple teams? Is your fan sitting in the airport killing time by opening your app? Are they watching the game with family at home? Are they in a sports bar? When will they use your product? How will they use it? In sports, fans experience a roller coaster of emotions leading up to a game, during a game, and immediately after. Break down those moments for prime design exploration.

Generate concepts

Having set your target fans and journeys, it’s time to start concepting new ideas. Invite other teammates to sketch with you! But be sure you are prompting those sketches with the appropriate target fans and their journeys. At this point, some design teams forget all you’ve done to get to this point. You know the fans you want to reach. You know their challenges to solve. Design artifacts like personas don’t have much value unless you use them to generate concepts. We like to print out big posters of our target fans to put around the room, complete with their goals, journeys, and pain points. You want the team to concentrate on how the product or service solves the needs of these target fans in those key moments. Use those fans as a lens by which you prioritize the concepts you want to develop further. This helps to avoid designing for everybody — this keeps the conversation squarely focused on user-centered design: your target fans.

The best part about concepting for sports fans is that ideas do not necessarily have to solve moments of pain and frustration. While you will undoubtedly run into solutions that do indeed solve pain and create more convenience, this is a chance to look for areas of delight and build excitement to increase better engagement.

Borrow from the best

No doubt that digital sports products and services can be a crowded space, from dedicated apps and sites to third parties that are providing access to games (like Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon). Everyone has their spin on a great user experience. Understand what others are doing so that your product has a chance to get noticed. I also believe in borrowing patterns from competitors that encourage good behavior. The classic YouTube app behavior allows users to watch a video (now a live game) and browse for other content simultaneously. This is a great example of handling multitasking if that is one of your goals for target fans. In addition, there are plenty of digital products outside of the sports industry that are solving very similar challenges. Take a look to see what else is out there, and don’t be afraid of creating new patterns yourself.

Create a regular cycle of testing

Make it a habit of testing new ideas with target fans, even in sketching form — sports fans will definitely tell you how they feel and what they need. It’s up to you to interpret that into actionable next steps in your design process. As you develop these concepts into higher fidelity, whether they be wireframes, visual design mockups, or even prototypes — keep testing them with target fans. It costs much less to do a quick test than to release a product that falls short of expectations. In addition, you will have more fuel for proving your product goals along the way.

With other industries and professions, often the toughest challenge is gaining access to truly understand the needs of users and embody them through our design process. But in sports, understanding the fan experience for digital products and services could not be easier. The key is to wrap those learnings around a process proving tangible value over time. The opportunities to design more rewarding experiences for fans continue to grow as technology improves. It’s up to us as designers to blend these technological advances with real user delight to push the organization to new heights.

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