Facilitation of a FinTech acceleration program for a real estate service

To stay relevant in their market, big organizations need to find way to explore innovation opportunities and new venture internally, in parallalel with their business as usual. ING is a digital bank that activated a network of physical work spaces where collaboration settings and expert facilitators help teams to launch new digital products.

We worked in-house on a new B2B2C financial tool at the ING Pace accelerator in Frankfurt. In a four months sprint with a team of ING’s financial experts, our project aimed to explore and startup a service to support real estate property trading for the ING’s existing mortgage customers as well the general customer base.

Mapping Work Model

Adopting ING’s five stages methodology, a mix of agile and design thinking, we conducted three rounds of research interventions to map the complex actor-network and the interactions involved in buying and selling a house,

21 sellers interviewed said that they expect agents to be socially connected to help considering ‘‘prospect buyers that fit financially and socially in the community”.

406 sellers and buyers questionnaires uncovered that both buyers and sellers only feel safe if an intermediary support the “life-changing effort” of trading a property and that the first listing of a property is “off-market” via word of mouth.

4 real estate agencies visited, confirmed that both buyers and sellers expect agents to provide a “human touch” to propriety transaction. They also told us that the majority of their time is spent to find new clients instead of focusing on property transactions.

In the current German metropolitan markets, demand is higher than offer. We observed pains in both sellers and buyers experience due to four main factors:

  • The selling process has high time costs
  • The role of agents and related fee for different services can be unclear
  • Valuation and price definition of the property is hard
  • Assessing the prospect buyer fit is uncomfortable

Temporary Work Environment

To overcome these pains, while still valuing and leveraging the social role and expertise of local agents, we designed a disintermediation platform that unbundles selling operations.

As a result of the customer journey mapping and value proposition design we defined to build a minimum viable service defined as:

A platform to efficiently connect sellers with qualified regional agents

Our hypothesis to test was that a platform aggregating financial and logistic tools would be both valuable for sellers to access selected degrees of support from assessed local agents, and for the agents to optimize and improve their time intensive customer acquisition.

To test the service we went through two main stages:

“Tasting the water”
We launched a fake and unbranded landing page of a service supporting real estate trading, to test the messaging and visual that would better clarify the process to users. We ran A / B testing with real user recruited and Google / Fb Ads Testing on them.

We also tried through non digital channels like posting printed ads in local shops and on the newspaper to see if someone would inquire and at what stage of their trading process.

Concierge Experiment
Based on the results of the landing page test, and bad results of offline channels, we structured the interactions with users only digitally through the ING’s website.
We setup a concierge experiment, offering the service to real customers by “manually” guiding them step by step through the research of the right agent and the trading process.
To keep the test very agile we only designed one touch point: a digital form based on the key information necessary learnt during research, and created a very simple onboarding process by feeding the form to the mortgage call center that asked mortgage seeker if they wanted to opt in to receive the support of trusted agents. The customer that wanted to use the service were then transferred to us to follow up phone calls or emails.
The results of the month-long experiment were 12 leads generated and one property sold.

Scale

The service, which effectively was already delivered a number of times during the concierge experiment, already offered a business case that directly impacted our internal sponsor to fund the pilot of the service.

We also decided to also expanded the offer for agents to cooperation by championing our platform with their new clients. Most agents accepted to cooperate with us as they found value in the quality leads we could offer, supported in their decision on evidences provided from the Landing Page data analysis and the Concierge Experiemnt.

The service is now fully integrated into the bank’s website (Link to the service, in German).

Reflections

  • Facilitation in space: the physical proximity with the team allowed to notice body language and reactions to project content, offering the opportunity to offer a form of ‘facilitation on call’. These interactions to interpret research and prototypes were crucial to channel design stewardship and are more important than the collaborative and creative aesthetic of innovation spaces.
  • Designer in incubation environments: As designers in an innovation spaces, we play an important link between project teams and program leadership to connect product development with the strategic directions of the organization and transferring knowledge from the processes to the wider organization.

Work Design Portfolio

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Work Design Portfolio

This is Studio Wé’s archive on Work Design, curated to showcase projects, methos and critical reflections to design new ways of working and happy work environments.

Antonio Cesare Iadarola

Written by

Co-design consultant | Design PhD | Narrative Environments. Notes on coworking, service design, facilitation, design education | Studio-we.com

Work Design Portfolio

This is Studio Wé’s archive on Work Design, curated to showcase projects, methos and critical reflections to design new ways of working and happy work environments.