Finance, Startup Opinion

Design done right: The digital banking revolution is only just beginning

Lucas Coelho /

digital banking revolution

Roam group head of design Lucas Coelho. Photographer: Samantha Haehae.

Over the past decade, the banking sector has evolved drastically. With the rise in digital-first neobanks and new ways of transferring funds, such as peer-to-peer payments, the traditional banking sector has faced immense pressure to ramp up efforts in innovation and place customers at the forefront of everything they do. 

Customers have more choice and, in turn, banks must do more to stand out. But this isn’t just about bells and whistles to grab attention. In a study conducted by the Design Management Institute, design-driven companies consistently outperformed the S&P Index by 219% over a period of a decade. In the midst of all this change, design has won a seat at the decision-making table, as banks look to bring the elusive customer voice to the heart of strategic discussions.  

During my time as a designer, I’ve been proud to be a part of the growing customer-centric approach to banking and have witnessed digital products start to become the new norm. The role of user experience, technology and design isn’t immediately obvious, but unpacking how and why it translates into tangible business results is worth taking the time.

Digitalisation means access for all 

The screen has become the most important place in the world and this has democratised banking services. Where once opening a bank account meant heading into a physical branch, armed with personal documents, now consumers can swiftly open an account online, having answered a few quick questions and snapped a selfie. 

In a recent survey regarding client onboarding in banks, 40% of consumers admitted to abandoning bank applications and 39% of those abandonments were due to the lengthy processes. The same research also found that more than half of those surveyed declared they would be more likely to apply for a financial product if the process was digitised. Such results prove just how drastically the sector has evolved.

Banks are now going one step further.

Initiatives such as Westpac’s beContento app (which helps users manage their belongings through a digital inventory) are proof it’s now not just about offering a top-notch customer experience — that should be a given — but the bar is much higher than that. It’s about making life that little bit easier for all customers everywhere and tuning in to their needs.

Transparency and social responsibility  

Transparency for customers has never been so important.

The rise in data breaches, fake news and misinformation have created a level of mistrust among consumers. With initiatives such as open banking now in play in Australia, transparency has become top of mind in the mainstream media and with customers alike.

In fact, research last year found that nine out of 10 consumers will stop purchasing from brands that lack transparency, reflecting the clear tie between business success and openness with customers. The research also found that consumer expectations of transparency actually grows on a daily basis, with nine out of 10 believing that transparency from a business is more important than ever before. 

As part of this drive to increase transparency and social responsibility, more organisations have begun investing heavily into human-centric design over the past few years.

In 2017, ANZ appointed its first chief design officer with the aim of building human-centred design capability within the business. This shift towards a more design-led business approach is something that is being heavily adopted within banks and financial institutions. As part of this, banks are also investing heavily in their tone of voice and all marketing communications to ensure they remain transparent for consumers. 

Design done right 

Excellent customer experience requires a deep level of customer understanding, which is an essential component of design. Putting empathy at the forefront of all design and product decisions is crucial in creating digital experiences that customers truly value.

As part of this new investment into design done right, roles focused on user experience (UX) have become a hot commodity, but most would be mistaken if they thought this involved just design and architecture. It is instead much more about taking a compassionate role when it comes to the user and the user’s needs.

Now, roles focused on UX have become the integral link between business and end-user. Doing user research and testing early prototypes and concepts with customers enables organisations to get under the skin of their customers, giving them insight into how consumers perform tasks and achieve goals that are important to them. Such insight, which focuses on understanding user expectations, behaviours and needs, can make or break a product and ultimately helps companies create more human, ethical and empowering digital experiences. 

We’re only just at the beginning of the digital revolution for banking. The prospect of open banking is on the horizon and, with it, comes a call for banks to differentiate themselves and solidify strong relationships with customers by offering the best experience.

These days, the best experiences start with solving real-life problems to enhance real lives in a seamless way.

No one is going to put up with less.  

NOW READ: Is 2019 still the year of the neobank?

NOW READ: After (finally) securing its full banking licence, neobank Xinja opens for business

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Lucas Coelho

Lucas is group head of design at Roam and a TEDx speaker living in Auckland, New Zealand.

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