International investment bank
Financial services
9 months
What we did
Digital service design
User experience design
Interface design
Digital transformation
Product innovation
Katie and client stand in front of a huge sketched out service system

The financial crash of 2008 has quite rightly had lasting implications. The financial regulators are clamping down on banks to manage their risk exposure in order to stabilise the financial system.

Like other investment banks, our client manages and procures an extensive network of relationships with 3rd party banks. As part of this process they need to be able to understand and integrate their network and then report on their level of risk to satisfy the industry regulators. At the moment this is achieved through a set of fragmented and manual processes and there is a massive opportunity to create an intelligence platform to not only help satisfy the regulators but to help them as a business make informed decisions.

The initial challenge was to help them articulate the vision for a platform and a roadmap for how to deliver this, which would far exceed our timelines. Following on from this, we moved into a 6-month sprint phase where we helped them design and deliver a number of the foundational components.

The Results

Creating an interim vision

Delivered a mid-term vision through this project that supported the future-vision proposed in the kickstarter. Achievable and realistic to plug the gap.

Fast track phase one of the roadmap

And released that to the business, the foundations have been built and is showing need and demand for the next steps in the vision.

Built to scale and last

Scalable systems that had the flexibility and system-thinking built in to change with time

The Full Story

How do you know how much to learn about a complex subject?

In short, you’re never going to become an investment banker, so don’t try. One of the problems you immediately encounter when trying to design a platform such as this is the proliferation of acronyms and jargon that creates a fog between you and the design challenge. Many of the users and stakeholders involved will have worked in the industry for years to acquire the domain knowledge needed to use these tools effectively.

There are a number of things you can do to help design successful business tools, one of the best ways to approach this challenge is working in a collaborative manner with the subject matter experts. We work alongside the bank’s product owners and business analysts on a daily basis in order to ensure we had the context we needed to make the right decisions.

As part of this process we developed a concept map to articulate their functions and how each of the terms related to one and another. This helped to visualise the challenge and was particularly useful when onboarding new designers to the team.

As a designer, it’s important to appreciate that you don’t need to understand everything, you just need to understand enough to ensure that the solution you’re proposing is optimal for the task in hand.

Post its and workshopping with the bank's team

How do you leverage your stakeholder being your user?

You’ll often find that behind every business platform is an army of some of the most passionate users you’ll ever come across. Opinionated, thoughtful and highly invested in the service’s improvement, they can be the most inspiring users to design alongside. Put simply, people rely on these tools to complete their jobs.

We worked in sprints throughout and each sprint started with an in-depth workshop, but one of the best things about a tool of this nature was that our users were also on our daily stand-up and project catch-ups. This means that you can’t be anything other than user-led as your stakeholders are your users.

sketches of the investment bank's users

How do you build in scalability?

The platform itself had massive potential and the long-term vision was miles away from short-term need. We, therefore, needed to ensure we could deliver this short term need, whilst ensuring the platform was designed in a scalable manner. At first we found it beneficial to think broad, mapping out the core service components and understanding how they relate to one another. This enabled us to define the roadmap and create a phased plan for delivery.

We then started on creating the first foundational layer; which was essential a filterable and searchable database. This would become the single point of truth for all banking relationships and the component on the system which everything else is mapped to. From there, we designed a series of other layers of the system.

How do you tell a story of complex global workflows?

A key area we needed to understand was the nature of their internal workflows. Dual approval is common in financial systems, this requires two separate people to authorise a transaction. This in turn, created dependencies in the system that the design needed to account for this. We also had to be aware that these underlying workflows were likely to adapt as the regulators requirements shift so we need to design the experience in a way to let it adapt to accommodate these changes.

In order to prototype these complicated workflow we created a linear prototype (with a Next, Back button) which told a story through the core user journeys. This also enabled us to tell the story thought the different user groups. In addition, it allowed the prototype to be followed by stakeholders remotely, which was critical as many stakeholders were on different time zones.

investment bank design on screen

We then used these core user journeys to sit down with the Business Analyst and write the user stories ready for development. In an organisation of this nature, there is sometimes the temptation for the business requirements to come before the design phase. However, we all agreed that this rapid design process enabled the team to shape the requirements as we go and enabled the final set of stories to be really thought through.

Building on their toolkit

Throughout the engagement, we applied and also pushed their relatively new toolkit. This involved having regular catch-ups with their internal design team to review how we were using their components and to identify where there was value in designing additional components. These additional components will then be bought back into their toolkit for reuse on other platforms. Making it a scalable platform for the future.

More work