Banking Through Rose-Colored Glasses

by Alex Kreger, UX Design Agency CEO/Founder

Banking Through Rose-Colored Glasses

We are constantly telling the banks that financial design should be clear, simple and helpful in solving user issues. All of them agree, but they wonder why we have to constantly repeat what appears to be so obvious. Actually, this reaction puzzles me, because, in reality, I rarely see a user-centered design in modern banking services.

I recently got a good example of why this understanding is not enough. And this is one of the key reasons why we create practical case studies of banking interfaces that illustrate our approach to financial UX design.

I am referring to a popular bank whose services I enjoy and use. This bank has billions in assets and eight-digit profits. Their online banking solution is actively used by approximately one million customers.

In my opinion, they have the most extensive and advanced customer service solutions with very professional staff. Moreover, the bank always declares its customer-centered position.

So, our bank officially announced and released an update to its online solution. The prior update was made in the previous decade. Imagine how surprised I was to see only minor visual redesign buttons and UI style. Of course, new icons and a flat design modernized the look, but the online service remained the same as it was 10 years ago.

There is no enjoyment in using such outdated online services. Interviews with friends and acquaintances confirmed our suspicions — that all UX service problems were not fixed. A lot of people didn’t even notice any changes.

Unfortunately, there have been no fundamental improvements in the user experience. Navigation is still difficult to understand and consists of 90 sections, so why doesn’t the bank take this opportunity to radically improve its user experience?Even the most superficial analysis of popular solutions and advanced capabilities in the financial industry should show the bank’s management what needs to be done. The architecture and functionality of this decision no longer meets the technical and resource level of large, innovative and customer-centered banks.

Sure, we can justify this by bank management’s conscious reluctance to take risks and invest in a radical architecture update. And there is also a fear that their customers will not accept the interface changes.

Another explanation is that the internal team can’t think outside of the box. They are not ready to take responsibility for required innovative solutions. Or even worse, they underestimate the importance of online channels in the digital era.Indeed, I don’t believe that bank management is not able to adequately assess how such a formal approach will affect the performance of the bank, particularly considering the number of tech-savvy customers and their growing demand for online and mobile banking.

I am sure they are well aware of the possible dire consequences: market share loss in the near future; reduction in the bank’s long-term benefits to competitors and FinTech companies; customers’ dissatisfaction with the service and decrease in loyalty; and, finally, resulting loss of profits.

However, we see a formal approach that doesn’t improve the service usability for millions of users. And it seems there is no rational explanation for this. Apparently the bank’s management is sure that everything is done 100% correctly.

This means that the worst happens — a business engaged in self-deception. They have lost connection with their customers, and do not hear them. Roughly speaking, bankers don rose-colored glasses and convince themselves that everything is fine.

The problem is that this case is not the only one. We see numerous banks trying to maintain their standing in the market and move into the digital world using formal declarations and minor redesigns, ones that don’t change the fundamentals of the service and don’t improve the user experience.

It is important to understand how to help those financial institutions remove the rose-colored glasses and stop ignoring the need for a user-centered approach.

Perhaps the reason for self-deception is a strong market position and inert in-house bureaucracy. Such conditions do not allow them to see the difference between the traditional banking approach and user-centered design that drastically improves the user experience.

For example, FinTech companies not burdened with such “comfort” provide fantastic services and became an example to follow for the entire banking industry.

This story raises two very difficult issues: Do traditional financial institutions fully realize the gap between their usual approach and user-centered FinTech services? And, most importantly, will banks be able to overcome it?

I really hope that we will not witness this self-deception turning into a catastrophic fall — a fall similar to that of Nokia, whose CEO said, with tears in his eyes, “we didn’t do anything wrong, but, somehow, we lost.”

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Alex Kreger

Founder of UX Design Agency
UX Architect & Strategist

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Alberts Pumpurs
Account Director & UX Architect

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