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Daan
Weijers

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A more intelligent alternative for personal banking

Consulting Industry Project for Banca Mediolanum  —  2016

In short

The situation

The EU’s new PSD2—law opens up personal banking information to third parties at the user’s request. Banca Mediolanum wondered what service a bank can provide to new and existing customers, that is built around this new law?

The outcome

Currently, the options for making automated transactions are very limited with most banks. We proposed to draw information from multiple data sources & other banking accounts in order to make personal banking more secure, transparent and versatile.

My role

This was an industry project at CIID where as part of a two-person team, I was heavily involved in all parts of the project; from performing research with our target audience to developing and presenting the final concept.

Research

To be able to deliver a product that satisfied both the needs and wishes of Banca Mediolanum’s clients, as well as the bank’s own goals, we talked to a few of the bank’s employees, a few of their clients, and lastly people that were clients with other banks.

Strategy & History

Banca Mediolanum was Italy’s first internet-only bank. While discussing possible directions for the project, the bank’s employees expressed the wish to remain at the forefront of technology in the products they offer to their clients.

We were told that their envisioned solution would be able to serve as an aggregator for new data and other information that could help them improve their services to their customers.

Interviews

We interviewed people, both from Italy and other countries. We were particularly interested in why they chose their current banks and if/how they used digital technology currently provided by their banks.

Our interviewees mentioned the fact that financial services becoming increasingly digital, control over people’s spending felt diminished. They mentioned this is reflected in how spending money has become easier over the past years, for example through introduction of mobile paying methods and contactless tap to pay payments.

I can have 100 euros in cash. When I spend 10 at the supermarket and 10 at a restaurant I see I have 80 left. With a card I don’t see it that directly and spend more

Insights

Combining the knowledge we gained in our interviews, as well as our talks with the Banca Mediolanum team, we formed research insights:

Transparency & control

Digital transactions don’t always provide people with the same transparency (and therefore control) as cash money does.

Current apps/services often provide insight in past spending, rather than take preventative measures.

Money is highly contextual

20 euros spent on candy has different implications than spending the same amount on necessary groceries, although both transactions are done at the same supermarket.

Among others, location & time of a transaction, the person you’re with or your current balance influence the way you spend money.

Frictionless ≠ harmless

In some cases, removing friction can do more harm than good. Spending more money than necessary can have negative effects.

Current apps/services are often designed with efficiency in mind, while this is not necessarily the best choice.

Money is personal

For a lot of people, money is a very personal matter. This means discussing these matters may feel impersonal when (customer) services provided are increasingly digital.

Money is interpersonal

At the same time, for example within a family, money can be an interpersonal concept as well, and financial details are shared for various reasons.

Design challenges

From these insights, as well as our conversations with the stakeholders, we landed on three design challenges to explore during the following phase of the project.

  1. How might we create a sense of personality in a purely online banking experience?
  2. How might we explore the line between frictionless design and the feeling of safety when designing for financial systems?
  3. How might we design a way to give people more control over their financial life based on actual events & data?

The results of an idea generation after defining our design challenges

How might we create a sense of personality in a purely online banking experience?

Our interviewees cared deeply about a personal experience with their bank, because they felt money was a very personal matter. This challenge was particularly interesting because of Banca Mediolanum’s history, being the first internet-only bank in Italy, they had no face-to-face conversations with their customers. We felt, however, that this challenge did not fit the scope of the project, and therefore decided not to pursue it.

How might we explore the line between frictionless design and the feeling of safety when designing for financial systems?

Through our interviews, we discovered that there was a direct relation between the feeling of control over money and the amount of digitalisation in financial things. This sparked the idea of increasing friction, to promote safety, rather than reducing it for the sake of efficiency.

We quickly ideated and prototyped a few ideas, for example increasing the amount of time between certain actions to give a sense of security like ATM’s often do, or manually selecting the amount of money you want to transfer with a dial while simultaneously showing what it does to your final balance.

We felt the need to dig deeper, to give people more control. Also, discussions with the bank proved that this wasn’t exactly what they were looking for.

A prototyped interface-exploration of a dial to increase friction while transfering money

How might we design a way to give people more control over their financial life based on actual events & data?

The phrasing of this design challenge quickly made us look in other places where services provide some form of control in people’s lives.

A perfect example of this — we thought — was If This Then That; a service that gives people control over their connected digital products & services.

a screengrab of a prototype we made of the conditional interface

We quickly set up a few prototypes/prompts, with which we first checked if the idea itself resonated with our respondents, using some basic parameters. Then, we used it as a prompt to get their imagination going on what was possible. The extensive list of things that they came up with, gave us the confidence to persue this idea further.

Final Concept

With IF (Intelligent Finance), people can tie their bank accounts to other bank accounts, or third party data sources in the spirit of PSD2 legislation. They can use the information from these sources as input for simple programming rules in their online financial environment, to automate transactions.

Through a limited interface, users of IF can decide on simple If X, then Y rules for their bank account. These ‘programs’ are free for people to choose from and employ, and are pre-made by the bank or other, more technically proficient users.

We envisioned what could be possible when coupling third party data sources to bank accounts, or even tie bank accounts together.

Some possible scenarios

Vision sketch

As part of the concept presentation, we were asked to compress our concept in a single vision, built around the sentence "it’s totally normal to...". Our concept allows Banca Mediolanum customers to program their bank.

How does this benefit Banca Mediolanum?

Banca Mediolanum could launch this product to their own clients, with which they prove to be at the forefront of technology and create a competitive edge to convince prospective clients.

More interesting, however, would be if the service was launched non-exclusively. In that case, the service (and therefore the bank) could become a hub for automated transactions in businesses, families and personal finances, locking in existing and prospective clients. It would also serve as an aggregator for data throughout financial traffic in Italy. Lastly, popular user-generated programs could serve as an important indicator of where to focus their service and/or marketing efforts.

Quick wireframe

At the end of this two-week project, we had some time to spare, and in order to provide some insight in the envisioned workflow, we quickly made a low-fi wireframe to show a possible interaction.