Simplification as the future of online banking
By Tim Wouters, senior UX Researcher at Internet Architects
Traditional banks are not known for their natural ability to connect with their customers on a personal level. In a heavily regulated market burdened by declining interest rates, they try to stay relevant and profitable by pulling the card of “digital transformation”. But how do you keep customers loyal to your brand if the bulk of all interactions go through the anonimity of computing devices?
Especially with children en adolescents — the first generation of true “digital natives” but also the spenders of tomorrow — financial temples could not be farther from the reality they live in. Kids know Pokémon Go. And Clash of Clans. But also SnapChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage. They know how to do in-app purchases, unlock achievements or save coins for a level-up. They know how to use messaging to meet up and organise around common goals. Yet when turning to a bank in order to open a current or savings account, they are faced with overly complex solutions wrought with administration, financial jargon and exotic products (insurance, what?) for which they see no need.
K’Ching, a new app from Belgian bank KBC tailored especially to 12–25 year olds, tries to overcome these barriers by radically pulling the card of simplification. And it tries to do so in 3 major ways.
1. Making abstraction of bank products
The app does away with the concept of having multiple bank accounts. Instead, it offers 2 generic money buckets: a “cash bucket” for your daily money exchanges, and a “savings bucket” where you put aside some dough for the bigger dreams in life.
Existing clients with multiple current or savings accounts are even forced to choose a “default” account for each bucket and can only ever visualise one at a time in the app. While this level of abstraction might seem like a feature regression from a power user’s perspective (“How on earth do I manage my business account and my personal account this way?”), it adheres much more closely to the way childs and adolescents look at “money”.
2. Conversational UI
The app reduces the traditionally complex, multi-screen initial enrolment flow to a single dialog screen where a chatbot guides the user through the process step-by-step. Not only does this allow for a new, more direct and empathic tone of voice, it also provides the foundation for a true conversational UI that acts as an accelerator compared to a traditional, form-based UI.
This guidance is offered in the form of K’Ching, a personal buddy with an attitude of his own. K’Ching’s mission is a delicate one: gain the user’s — and his/her parents’ — trust by being helpful and respectful, by communicating on the level of peers and avoiding a pedantic or commercial tone. Needless to say that this is entirely new territory for a vested financial institution.
3. Finance = conversation
Instead of a long list of boring transactions, K’Ching users see a more compact messaging-style list of “latest contacts” with only the most recent money exchange per contact. The full history for that contact is willfully buried one level deeper; again, much like your chat history on most messaging apps.
This approach is a first step towards the fundamental notion that “finance is conversation”: money always changes hands between 2 (or more) involved parties, who often negotiate about the exact terms of the transaction. A decent and modern financial app needs to cater to a mobile world where social networking and messaging accounts for over 60% of smartphone usage.
A strong foundation for the future
We are extremely pleased with the opportunity to partner with a major bank to bring “responsible finance” into the daily lives of our young offspring. From the initial design sprint 8 months ago, to the version 1.0 that just went live on the app stores, we can be proud of the open-minded collaboration and what has been achieved so far. But we’re especially excited with the intrinsic potential and the groundwork that has been done to bring K’Ching even closer to what drives and excites KBC’s youngest customers.
More to come over the next months, and beyond.
For K’Ching, Internet Architects first collaborated with KBC in a design sprint - pioneered by Google Ventures to rapidly prototype a product idea and test it with potential users - in the fall of 2015, in order to create a new smartphone app that would be tailored to the needs, lifestyle and culture of 12–25 year olds.
From there, the initial prototype immediately went into an agile development funnel, where we worked closely with developers and business stakeholders to refine the default visual theme and the user experience. Regular feedback loops with KBC’s youngster community also helped us to make sure the purpose of the app remained crystal clear for the target group.
On September 27th 2016, K’Ching went live on the iOS and Google Play app stores, after what turned out to be a record 8 month lead time from start to finish. In the mean time, Internet Architects also assists KBC in defining an appropriate voice and tone for K’Ching, and in shaping future improvements to the app.