How financial advisors can reinvent themselves with UX design / by Gavin Lau

The future of financial services is in creating simple, intelligent and customized user experience and at the heart of this digital revolution is the user. With robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront and other automated savings apps like Digit and Acorns proving the need for human centered app experiences, it is critical for financial institutions to join these technological disrupters and shift the focus from products to users.

The need for simplifying the user experience does not mean financial dashboards must be stripped down to its bare bones and not have the features that help users access all the information they need to plan their finances better, it is merely understanding user needs and providing contextual information based on the user’s needs and actions without overwhelming them with a lot of features that might distract the user and dilute the need to use the application.

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.
— Steve Jobs

It is our responsibility, as designers, to help transform what has long been a traumatic and onerous financial experience into a simplified and contextual user experience. Below are a few suggested layouts, micro-interactions and areas of improvement that wealth management services can adopt to improve their user experience.

1. Understand what users need

The financial needs of a millennial trying to pay off a college loan is very different from a person in her 40’s with a traditional job, saving up for retirement. Though the data(account details, portfolio performance and savings information) that has to be presented are similar for both use-cases, the experiences are starkly different.

Today, most wealth management tools, do not demarcate these user requirements and paint financial data with a broad brush in their tools. Talking to users and understanding their specific goals and paths will help advisors provide targeted financial advice that will benefit the user and make advisors more trustworthy. It is important to understand the different user goals and paths and tailor experiences to their specific needs.

An effective way to identify goals, action points and prioritize the information gathered in the user research stage is by creating personas. Personas help with focusing on user goals, current behavior and pain points, as they are based on real people and tell a story that is relatable and provides the basis for good user stories. Personas minimize assumptions and reflect patterns identified in research, thereby improving user experiences and strengthening the quality of data presented to users. Especially in wealth management, where there is a lot of information and diverse requirements, personas can help in creating unified experiences by prioritizing what users want to see and when.

 Create a Persona, UserForge

Create a Persona, UserForge

UserForge is a free and easy way to start creating personas and collaborate with decision makers and stakeholders in the organization. Ronan Rooney has also identified a few broad personas for FinTech that could act as a starting point for first time user researchers.

2. Invest in on-boarding

User attrition in the age of robo-advisors is a huge concern for most advisors and one efficient way to connect with users and improve their experience is onboarding. As stated in Guide to Multichannel Onboarding in Banking by Digital Banking Report, “Onboarding requires a strategy that shows the customer you know them; that you will look out for their individual needs and you will ultimately reward them.”

Having a seamless, enjoyable onboarding and account management process improves account security and sets high standards for compliance, risk and internal controls. Moving away from the onerous task of making clients fill out forms to transfer and setup accounts, try a storytelling approach that is tailored to the user and reassure clients to create a strong first impression.

 New User Experience, Dropbox Paper

New User Experience, Dropbox Paper

Popular services like Dropbox and Mailchimp do an excellent job in onboarding new users and extending it past the account setup stage with tutorials and tips. UX archive and Pttrns have documented the signup/ onboarding process for many popular applications to get inspired and identify best practices.

3. Use data visualization & infographics

Data visualization can really help in delivering large/ insightful messages in an easily digestible format. Visualization tools like infographics help tell the user the story of their finances by visually representing boring, tabular data in an interactive, attention-grabbing visual. Here’s an example of how Acorns displays the growth in investment and the user’s net worth in a simple visual.

 Net Worth, Acorns

Net Worth, Acorns

Tools like Chartio, Data Hero and Plotly can help your team quickly ingest data and provide useful visual representations. For an advanced integration that includes visual analytics and behavioural visualizations, you could also try Tableau.

4. Know What Works

Designing is a virtuous cycle and it is imperative that financial advisors understand how users interact with the service and identify patterns in UX flows that could use some improvement. Wealth management firms often have people with strong design opinions and the only way to prove what works will be using design metrics. Define strong design metrics that will help identify the success of the design, these metrics should also answer questions on user engagement and user behaviour in relation to product goals. The easiest way to achieve this is by including a testing and validation cycle to your design process.

 Audience Explorer from Optimizely

Audience Explorer from Optimizely

Tools like Google Analytics & Mixpanel provide some basic user engagement data, but there are multiple apps and services, in addition to these, that can help in tracking and analysing design metrics. Optimizely helps you set up different web and mobile experiences to A/B test and provide detailed analytics on their performances, to help you make informed decisions on the user experience. FullStory is another great tool, that gives action based feedback while creating a narrative for every user that uses your service.

In Summary

Users will always use intuitive experiences that they can easily interact with and as designers, it is our responsibility to make this transition into a user-centric wealth management world easy for both, financial advisors and users alike.