Introduction to FinTech
Generally speaking, the FinTech (finance and technology) world aims to modernize how we move, work with and handle our money. The level of innovation in this space varies wildly, from a bank who aims to improve its digital offering (a focus on streamlining existing processes), to the startup making an entirely new crypto currency (looking to disrupt how money works). FinTech companies work in the space between the past and the future of money as we currently know it.
FinTech companies address a wide range of needs in the financial space from banking, making payments, accessing lending products (from consumer lending to mortgages and business loans), to currency (bitcoin), insurance products, FinTech AI, investing, portfolio management, financial projections and budgeting apps (to name a few).
What is FinTech User Experience (UX)?
FinTech UX refers to the user experience in the context of banking, financial services and financial products overall. User experience aims to create intuitive, ‘user friendly’ experiences for consumers as well as those users working on enterprise software within financial organizations. Intuitive designs are created through a series of iterations based on user testing and other user research techniques.
See What is UX Anyways? for more info
Designing for Fintech
We do FinTech UX design for many companies, and as we design these products (making them predominantly digital experiences) we see user experience challenges which arise time and time again. These UX design considerations are dealt with differently for every product, but for any designer, product person, founder or developer working on a FinTech product it’s key to deeply understand these core user experience challenges (explained below). Creating solutions for these UX issues can improve the experience for end users and ultimately create better outcomes for people and their money.
Instilling trust in a digital finance experience
Trust in the FinTech world is perhaps the fundamental building block that we have to work with.
At the macro level, collective trust in markets enable value to remain stable and allow a positive flow of investment so that companies can grow and the economy works. Perception of the trustworthiness of institutions, the government and the law also act as an important background to all of the products and services we develop.
On the micro level, when individuals are doing financial dealings online, instilling trust is something that happens continuously throughout their experience and can be manifested through a multitude of signals. Trust can be enhanced or detracted based on visual look and feel, the copy describing each page, the interactions and product behaviour.
Communicating financial concepts & products
‘People don’t read’ – a favourite catch phrase that we like to throw around in the digital world. When you conduct user tests it’s obvious that there’s a balance between brief and verbose interfaces (interfaces that are too minimal spark suspicion, while interfaces that are too verbose create a sense of overwhelm). There are few people who can contend with a wall of text – especially when it comes to technical content. Much like IRL communications, it comes down to how information is delivered and at what times it is delivered.
Tips for improving ux by explaining financial concepts:
- Disclosing detailed information at the right time (allowing users to dig in more)
- Allowing cause and effect to be demonstrated in the interface when possible (ex. through tools vs an explanation of a calculation)
- Showing real examples to demonstrate what you’re trying to communicate
- Defining the terms and acronyms you use
- Visually explaining things when possible, especially things like: timelines, processes, requirements, etc.
Communicating in financial concepts properly
This is often a really tricky part of supporting an interface or product because it’s impossible to divorce the role of teacher from an interface in most FinTech products. There’s not a lot of financial education that you can expect the population to have overall. This is exacerbated by two things:
- Spammy content in the information ‘marketplace’ – reliable financial information is much harder to access then one would think. On top of that, the search experience for people looking up financial information can be unpleasant (for Canadians, we find resources that apply to American financial system for example), with financial topics being very crowded.
- Agreed upon definitions of specific products aren’t a thing (we’ve looked a lot especially looking in the regulator’s direction and finding little). There’s no central repository for agreed upon definitions of financial products (that a consumer can easily understand) that is widely used and accepted. That means we’re speaking different languages across FinTech.
This means it is our job as fintech makers explain financial concepts in a clear and unbiased way – that task in and of itself is quite difficult. It’s also difficult because of the inherent bias most of us have in the context of running a business.
Explaining the terms of financial products
Some financial products are simple to understand, so explaining them is doable. Complex products however, often have conditions/stipulations which are not exposed to the customer at all, or explained so poorly (ex. legalese) that customers have ‘gotcha’ moments which ultimately cause them to be worse off. When users have been burned before, these experiences can color the user’s perception of your brand or product – so you may be working against an outright negative predisposition to your product.
Often when users drill into the details of a product, they are faced with inaccessible language that looks similar to a legalese-riddled document meant to ‘cover’ the company but not to help the user make a good choice. (see this article in HBR pleading for plain language contracts – the same concept applies here)
Tips for improving ux by explaining the complexities of financial products:
- Clearly showing the benefits and drawbacks of a product
- Explain risks and how likely those risks are
- Re-architect overly complex products to allow them to be explained (a fundamental product change)
Making a good experience which follows the rules
Whether it is contractual rules with partners or federal law, creating a user experience that is truly excellent can be disrupted by the way that regulatory requirements work.
KYC (Know Your Customer) laws are a great example of creating a good experience for users which is difficult. There’s good reason that these laws exist, to control fraud and money laundering by criminal organizations – however, it also creates two bad user experience situations:
- The user has to fill in so much information – this is a lot of work
- The user can feel suspicious or that this is invasive to their privacy
Tips for improving ux that is influenced by regulation and compliance:
- Explain why you need the information you are asking for
- Get the minimum amount information you can initially
- Communicate how you store information and security measures you take
Mitigating the fraught nature of money
Think about it – money issues represent some of the most high stakes aspects of our lives. This high stakes dynamic is also paired with math, a combination which can be very fraught (for those of us who are averse to one or both of these things).
As people in the financial world, it can be easy to forget that finances bring up a lot of feelings for people because we’re immersed in that context every day. Feeling comfortable and in control of one’s financial future is not a common feeling for everyone. This means that potential ‘pain points’ for users in the context of finances is amplified quite a bit, compared to other digital products where the stakes aren’t as high.
When we add in urgency, that can amplify the situation by another factor.
So when we have time-sensitive user experiences regarding money, it’s time for us to step up to the plate and make the optimal experience for people by:
Tips to improve UX for people (in the context of their emotional relationship with money):
- Anticipating worries or questions that people might have and answering them upfront
- Repeating ourselves on key points:
- ex. Re-iterating the impact of a soft credit score (on every page you mention that phrase)
- Ex. communicating next steps and what actions the person needs to take (in the interface, email, in the home page/dashboard etc)
- Ex. Making amounts of money ever present when sending money to someone
- Reassuring people when they are done their part and what to expect next and when to expect it.
- Reassuring people of the next time you’ll contact them (esp important for longer timelines)
In the FinTech world, we’ve got our UX challenges regarding trust, communication and navigating feelings, but we’ve also got huge potential for impact in people’s lives. Major players like Wealth Simple are bringing a new and fresh dynamic to how we see our financial system as users and create the mood that we need to push our industry forward. Whether you work in payments, lending, investing, insurance, personal finance, debt, credit or bitcoin, there is huge potential to improve the user experience from the fundamentals of how the companies operate, all the way to the whole user journey. It’s an exciting moment that we live in, because we can create a bright future in our industry by putting the user at the centre of what we do, and not on the periphery.