Top 5 Design Trends in Banking

Wolfgang  Strack

July 13, 2018

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At Extractable, we partner with financial services companies who are seeking a digital transformation and improvements to their customer experience. To stay at the top of our game, we closely monitor trends in the financial service industry and champion best practices in digital experience design. This week, we’re sharing what we see as the Top 5 Design Trends in Banking across user experience, visual design, and content strategy.

 

1. Competition is driving digital features.

Lately, we’ve been seeing more and more financial institutions piggybacking on the innovation of FinTechs and tech companies overall. Following Venmo’s success with its Peer-to-Peer solution, banks are catching up by partnering with Zelle or Popmoney to offer direct payments within their OLB app. Similarly, chatbot technology is now picked up by the likes of BofA (Erica) and Capital One (Eno) with varying degree of success. The trend seems to be in letting the fintechs innovate and do the heavy lifting. Then, the bigger banks will eventually replicate (or acquire) the features. This “me too” approach by some banks can be challenging, when the new features are not part of a longer-term, strategic road map that’s tailored to their brand and business goals. Roadmaps help to define the role smart devices and apps play in the CX journey.

The next "big thing" we already see looming? Voice skills for banking tasks on Alexa or Google Home. Stay tuned.

 

2. Content hubs are here and happening.

Leading companies across industries have started reimagining their blog efforts into more diverse collections of content. These modern, intuitively-designed, one-stop content hubs are a great way to provide a variety of different content types and establish thought leadership, while increasing SEO scores and traffic. In financial services, we’re seeing banks use content hubs to emphasize financial education and wellbeing, topics that credit unions have been championing for some time. It’s an effective way for big banks to improve their brand image. Santander’s "Prosper and Thrive" portal and Amex’s small business hub "Open Forum" are great examples of this. We believe the key to a successful, dynamic content hub is hosting the content on your own platform, rather than using third party vendors, as some CUs are doing.

Considering the huge success of portals like Pennyhoarder.com or Nerdwallet.com, we believe the demand for reliable, financial wisdom will remain steady.

 

3. Simple, "start-up" design is on the rise with new FIs.

We are seeing emerging FI’s follow a design approach that is more in line with start-ups than with banks. This isn’t so surprising for FinTechs, who tend to distinguish themselves as innovative tech companies. But we’re also seeing the trend with new digital only banks like Simple, Chime or N26, as well as community banks like Umpqua Bank. This approach positions these banks as smart thought leaders while simplifying their experiences for customers.

Some of the visual design elements that define this simple brand model are a clean, almost basic logo, geometric sans serif typeface (think Google font), color gradients, customized iconography and/or illustration style. Perhaps most noteworthy, these companies are following a mobile first approach. The layout tends to be larger, with less dense content, and significant white space. Color palettes are pushed towards a very light to white tonality and are guiding users with very bright accent colors. This allows for a highly “scannable” and “scrollable” experience. Micro interactions help to promote and explain specific features and functionalities.

Our latest prototype for SouthShore Bank is a good example how any bank can undergo this digital transformation.

 

4. FI’s are finally embracing Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is a phased design process created at Stanford’s d.school, and consists of a collection of methods and tools — interviews, storyboards, prototypes, iteration. Design Thinking can not only help to generate new features and products, but also workshops, which are a great way to coach internal staff to embrace innovation and collaboration across silos. This allows design thinking to have an impact on the culture of an organization:

As part of this digital transformation, banks are increasing their in-house design teams and innovation labs. New disciplines and specialists — UX Designers, Visual Designers, Digital Strategists —are joining FI teams, which leads sometimes to the clash of two different mind-sets: the risk-averse accountability of financial managers with the iterative, sometimes messy, “fail fast” approach of agile development. This is where a common knowledge and experience of Design Thinking can help bridge gaps and make the transition a success.

Design Thinking is a radical user centered approach and in this way, is similar to Service Design and CX journeys, which traditionally play a big role for retail experiences.

 

5. Digital native FinTechs are influencing real world innovation, too.

According to Don Norman, the term User Experience was always meant to encompass all touch points of the users interactions. This definition is way broader that what we often see today in the digital practice. So while some traditional FIs think FinTechs don’t always understand offline banking experiences, it’s refreshing to see services like Acorns and Venmo show that they “get it.” Both companies are issuing new debit cards, and have changed the orientation of the card from horizontal to vertical, a future-forward approach that aligns with how we use today’s chip-enabled cards.

To learn more about the state of digital in the financial industry check out our latest report: Best Digital Experiences in Banking 2018