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The new face of financial services

The new face of financial services

By James Mitchell

Topping Forbes’s Top 30 Innovations Of The Last 30 Years, the internet has changed billions of lives.

It has disrupted industries, created new ones and empowered the human race with information - freely available any time and any place. Information has not only become more available, people have started to share more, leading not only to self-indulgent sharing (i.e. social media), but also more altruistic sharing, with sites such as Glassdoor capacitating the employee with data on how their pay matches similar jobs, whilst allowing contributors to stay anonymous.

The uptake of internet powered services was not all positive however. Banks started to close branches and reduce face-to-face meetings with their customers, transitioning to more online offerings to embrace technology and seem more progressive - without regard to the segregation caused; reducing customers to just numbers rather than faces. This created stand-offish relationships that broke down trust between the two parties. However, this disunion has started to be yet again challenged by the internet and new startups. Disruptors within the financial sector are promising more open and friendly services that pledge more than their traditional counterparts whilst keeping the user at the centre of the experience and, in turn, building trust and empowering the user. Will the adoption of great user experience be the saviour of the reputation of the Financial Services Sector?


Trust and transparency

According to a 2016 Ernst and Young study, a lack of transparency is often a key reason for lack of trust in the workplace, leading to unhappy, unproductive teams with poor retention. A veil of secrecy keeps employee segregation high, leading to teams that are not up to date with information and that do not work together cohesively. This relationship can be easily mapped to customers of a service. A Edelman study in 2015 showed only a 51% trust in financial services. Products in financial services are more akin to “partnerships” with the customer due to their high monetary and mental commitment level. By empowering that customer with information about what is going on in a company, it ultimately leads to greater trust levels and a higher likelihood of use of that service (or further investment into the service); reducing the segregation between the user and the provider. 


New challengers in these sectors have aimed to change this, not only with being more open with their information but also how they communicate with customers. The simple yet friendly language does not seek to hide information behind asterisks, rather it tells the user what is happening and why, whilst offering customer service at any point before and after signing up. Their friendliness eases the partnership between the user and the service and makes the virtual ‘hill’ the user perceived they would have to climb more of a guided walk.


Modern banking

Compared to a traditional bank, Monzo allows users to sign up for an account entirely on their phone. Monzo’s short form and verification takes around 10-20 minutes, allowing the opening of an account that same day. The language throughout the process is designed to avoid confusion, and only asks for the exact information require, and Monzo comes across as friendly and open by using animations and easy to follow user journeys. These small yet powerful inclusions, along with easy to understand interfaces, handy tools like bill splitting and guidance on spending, have gained Monzo its ‘cult-like’ following; empowering the user with easy to digest information has led to its massive and unprecedented growth.

Its app ‘just works’ in the way that its user base expects it to. By being mobile first, this allows them to put the user at the centre of the service. Features that take advantage of this include the freezing of lost cards instantly without contacting anyone, a live feed of not just money in the account but its status (e.g. whether the card has been locked due to too many incorrect PIN attempts), a chat-like money request and send interface that aims to reduce the stigma of talking about money, and services like a 24/7 live chat that traditionally would have only been available on premium accounts. This design allows for quick iteration, keeping the user experience as the key selling point of the service and encouraging users to not just sign up for an account but remain a loyal and active customer.


Keeping users informed

Monzo’s commitment to transparency also acts as a key selling point. Its transparency dashboard is industry leading, showing those who are interested where Monzo’s investment comes from, and where their future plans lead. Although most of their users will never visit this webpage, their commitment to it provides all users with confidence in the service they are entrusting with their money, forcing the company to keep their standards high as users will know if they have not met their promises or goals.

Extra products are clearly shown in their interface. Overdrafts are as easy to edit as a slider, and fees are clearly set out to the user. In the short term, this could negatively impact Monzo’s earnings as users are more aware of where charges come from and how to avoid them. However, it builds on the relationship between the customer and the user to create lasting partnerships that are based on trust from both sides.

Their use of a blog with small feature articles, updates on the Monzo community and ‘How Money Works’ posts (including answering questions about finance and explaining their offering in more detail) helps to make the company more human and approachable. This is not something employed by any ‘traditional’ bank, and serves to keep users informed of how Monzo is doing and the latest features. This differentiates them from the usual promotional email style utilised by traditional banks, offering information in a more informal and less ‘sell-y’ way, making users feel like part of a community and solidifying their partnership with the company. Its commitment to creating a brand that distinguishes itself from traditional banks, being friendly, approachable and stylish has a direct correlation to its current success.


Seamless conversions

Lemonade, an insurance provider in the US and parts of the EU, has a mobile app that utilises a chat interface to allow users to apply, giving users almost-instant results through AI, and showing how the price changes as users add items and change amounts. If users need to claim, the AI seamlessly handles the process, asking users to complete all forms on their device and show a video of the incident. This very clear, simple and instant process puts the user in complete control, whilst guiding them through the journey.

With their sign-up, the process is so easy and simple that conversion is seamless, with a payment that the user just ‘does’ rather than the traditional ‘inspire, explain, sell’ process. This reduces the anxiety of applying for insurance, with a recognisable and intuitive interface that guides the user at every step. Lemonade is another example of a company that is very transparent in the way it runs its business, touting it as a benefit and showing the user that overpayment does not go to the company, rather the user can choose which charity or foundation it will benefit, something that will appeal to its millennial user base.

This chat interface has also been adopted in other areas of fintech, with startups using Facebook Messenger to offer services to users such as automatic savings (Plum) and budget and money management (Cleo). Their use of the messaging platform means that users do not need to download an app (leading to more users and less ‘abandoned’ apps) and means that the service integrates into their daily routine, whilst remaining intuitive to the 1.3B monthly users of Facebook Messenger. This friendly approach means that users are more likely to interact and stay up to date, whilst allowing anyone that uses one of the services to instantly know how to interact with it.


Final word

The key feature that these services play on is they connect with the user, triggering an emotional response. As discussed, when interacting with friendly language using a chat-like interface whilst displaying large and nicely designed graphs and clearly showing the total cost of a service without hiding any fees, users feel positively about the system and therefore place less emphasis on decisions. This will ultimately increase the likelihood of conversion. Those interfaces that are clear about the service allow their users to feel like they are making better decisions. This trend reduces the stigma of money and the segregation of user and financial services. We can expect the future of financial services to be more open and personable, all done through good user experience design that build on good relationships; harking back to traditional bank manager rapport.



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The Author

James Mitchell

James Mitchell

UX Architect

James is part of the Experience Design team here at twentysix. Utilising his BSc in Interactive Media, James’s work involves ensuring that customers are taken care of through the whole process of discovery, inspiration and selling of your product, through a multitude of processes including discovery workshops, path analysis, information architecture critique and moderated user testing in our in-house biometric lab.