Branch Transformation

Digital service bar at a bank branch.
  • Client: Fortune 100 financial institution
  • Duration: 2013-2015
  • Role: product strategy, business alignment, narrative design and communications, design leadership, UX research, experience design, interaction design, visual design, motion design
  • Goal: Envision a new kind of experience for bank customers and associates across multiple channels and touch points.
  • Outcome: A modern omni-channel strategy for engaging with the customers in physical locations and beyond, an award-winning ecosystem of products and services, and a huge increase in branch sales and brand recognition.

During this project I was a lead designer on a design team focused on servicing 900+ of bank branches, spread out across half the country. It became a $4M+ project (first among major banks) to introduce Apple iPads in hundreds of those bank retail locations. I led the team to design and implement a robust ecosystem of iPad apps—both consumer-facing and associate-only—to create a seamless service and sales experience for branch customers throughout the entire customer journey.

We’ve learned that at this scale every design is service design—we had to think about digital and physical experiences at the same time, we needed to include both customers and associates into the equation. We’ve learned how to think and design for ecosystems, rather than isolated products or services.

Understanding the everyday life of bank associates is every bit as important as customer research. So we made research into a reality show: we’ve organized a mobile product development office in the middle of one of our branches! We’ve worked side by side with our colleagues, we’ve learned a ton—and, most importantly, we’ve earned their trust in our design decisions by sharing our process, teaching them what we’re doing and why, and what can we achieve together.

I was lucky to learn about systems thinking since I was a kid—both of my parents are architects. They taught me that architecture is not just about bricks, it includes complex integrated systems—structure, water, gas, power and many more. They also taught me some principles of designing for public physical spaces—which came in very handy when we started thinking about the architecture of our branches, the lines of sight, and most common footpaths.

And because architecture takes so much time I’ve learned to model things like architects do, and show people something in the lowest fidelity possible—we’ve created a LEGO prototype for our branches, we made real-size foam-core ATMs, and we sketched everything like crazy.

Through all this work in physical spaces we were able to come up with a brand-new vision for branch experiences—side by side conversations instead of the classic “across the desk”. Just by giving bankers the iPad we’ve validated the side-by-side model of conversations in the branch, and we began to figure out the future ecosystem, together with bankers. And knowing that this effort will take a long time, I’ve focused my efforts on shaping a sustainable strategic narrative to communicate our vision across the entire company.

We started designing the ecosystem of iPad apps with consumer-facing apps—essentially, digital sales tools. We learned the principle of progressive disclosure—how to give people just enough information at the right time in their conversation with bankers. We learned that content is inseparable from design intent: we had to forget lorem ipsums and design with real content and data.

We partnered with content strategists to make sure our apps have natural, context-specific language instead of corporate bank-speak. We even made the legal disclaimers more accessible for people by breaking it down into digestible and understandable chunks of text.

As we continued iterating on our iPad products and gained more trust of our partners and stakeholders, we started getting into other touch points on our service design blueprint. We’ve designed and developed associate-facing apps, such as the lobby management system—and completed the ecosystem across lobby check-in kiosks, interactive touch panels, banker iPads and iWatches, and customer own phones.

When designing at large scale, inclusion is good business. Even the minority demographic segments translate into billions of dollars of potential revenue. We made sure our apps have accessibility options and voice-over controls for disabled customers. We translated our content into multiple languages and gave people an option to choose a banker who speaks their preferred language.

It was a huge collaborative effort that took a few years in making and a village of great people to complete. Our branch iPads even got featured in Apple’s business success stories, you can check out the video on the website.

This work became a foundation of the company’s bold vision for the future of banking, and is continued to this day.