Fintech Design: Simplifying Money
Similarly to most industries, financial services have become more accessible through technology. Products like Wealthfront and Betterment have made investment advice available through using ‘robo advisory’ whilst new international banks like Revolut have simplified foreign exchange with easy to use applications and efficient systems.
These two characteristics, accessibility and simplification, are a common thread across successful fintech companies. Having worked at a bank and a fintech startup, it’s been great to witness the ways in which technology enables access to financial services. I do, however, think that it’s more than technology that allows people to use their money in new and better ways. Without design, most great technology is either pointless or too complicated for the average person to engage with. With that in mind, here are a few ways that good product design allows for easy money experiences (with lovely illustrations by Andrea De Santis).
Any great product solves on main problem. Facebook makes it easy to connect with people globally, Google Docs makes collaboration possible and Trello helps you manage project tasks across a team. Before you build a product, you should always know what problem you are solving. Understanding the complexities of that problem, then means that you can simplify it in a solution.
A good example of this is TransferWise. Their tagline is: “Send Money with the real exchange rate” and that’s exactly what their product does. With that clarity guiding their product strategy, every decision can be made by asking, “Will this help people send money at the real exchange rate?” Everything flows from a high level goal.
This became quite clear to me when working on a trade finance project. We interviewed big and small businesses ranging from machinery importers to fruit exporters. They had all sorts of complex problems with cash flow, currency risk, stock management and logistics. Once we understood all of the nuances that existed around running a cross border business, we realised that these people just wanted to get their products to their customers quickly and with a profit. The solution was efficient payments, easy currency exchange and credit, but all of those features contributed to one simple purpose.
Without a dashboard and steering wheel, driving a car would be pretty difficult. In the same way, technology products need great interfaces to be useful. Whether somebody is trying to pay their child’s international university fees, get the funds to build a house or choose a share to invest in, these processes need to be streamlined and easy to complete if they are going to keep a user happy.
Users aren’t only going to compare your interface to others in your category, they will compare them to products from world-leading businesses like Google, Amazon and Uber.Those expectations and standards are bound to become the norm across all aspects of life eventually (if they aren’t already). An example of a simple interface is the way that Luno, a cryptocurrency wallet and exchange, makes it easy for users to buy Ethereum and Bitcoin from their wallet. It uses clear options and a process that constantly gives the user enough information to make a decision without overwhelming them with complex trading statistics. This interface is also largely based on Google’s Material Design system, which makes it familiar and intuitive to users.
Anybody can spend time on Investopedia and pick up a few complex words that make them sound like a financial guru. Making these complex concepts simple is a real challenge. I often have to kick myself for using acronyms and technical terms because finding more simple words is harder.
For example, SnapScan doesn’t use the words ‘QR code’ anywhere, but that is the underlying mechanism that enables all of the product’s functionality. Instead you see words like ‘Bills’ and ‘Parking’ that are familiar and guide the user in how to make a quick payment.
Admittedly some financial concepts are quite difficult to understand and require some extra effort to fully grasp. This is when there is a case for learning material. Trust is critical when you’re dealing with people’s money. That’s why it’s important to ensure that customers are aware of what they’re doing when they use your product. Sometimes using technology to open up a service is not enough. Providing people with easy to understand learning material can be the tipping point for them to try a new service. Social trading platform eToro has a ‘Trading Academy’ dedicated to teaching basic concepts.
Not Exactly Rocket Science
Build something people want and make it easy to use: this isn’t exactly revolutionary advice! I think that’s why design is both an art and a science. There are logical steps to follow in product creation, but there’s also a level of skill and creativity required to make a great product. Well, either that’s true or I shouldn’t have a job…