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Should your bank acquire a UX design firm?

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15 October 2014
Jacob Jegher
I was very intrigued and excited when I heard about Capital One's acquisition of Adaptive Path. When was the last time you heard of a bank acquiring a design firm? This fresh thinking is exactly what is needed in the banking space. I'd also like to see some of the major software vendors acquire firms like this (cc:@dmgerbino). I think it's a great idea for several reasons:
  • Design and user experience (UX) are critical to digital AND brick and mortar banking. From a cultural perspective, it makes a huge difference to have designers and UX specialists "on the team" as opposed to engaging external contractors. UX becomes embedded in projects and in thinking.
  • Design / UX should be a horizontal function at financial institutions. Creating a horizontal function can be beneficial to all parts of the bank. There are parts of the bank that require even more help than retail banking (corporate digital banking is a great example) . It can really help to be able to tap into an internal department and have this approach permeate through various parts of the enterprise.
  • Labs and UX go hand in hand. If your bank has a lab or is thinking about a lab, you are likely going to have a bunch of new projects. Development and design belong together.
  • It makes for an awesome PR buzz : )
Banking UX isn't just about the business case, it's about an approach. This is the quote I gave to American Banker:
"When the paint starts to peel on the walls of the branch and the carpet starts to fray and the glass is scratched, what happens? It gets renovated," said Jacob Jegher, a research director at Celent. "Same can be said for digital banking."
Or so I would like to think... like it or not, banking projects have to be justified, compete for scarce IT dollars, and can be very hard to pull off if they don't have a direct link to revenue. Banks often come to us for advice on how to tweak their business case to show increasing revenues, # of customers, etc. if they move forward with a new UX and design. Many banks resort to creative accounting in order to get their business cases approved. We often point them in the direction of customer retention metrics since it's about delighting your customer. Happy customers are loyal customers. I'm looking forward to the day when UX becomes part of banking culture and isn't just another metric in a business case. Sounds like Capital One is on the right track.

Comments

  • Jacob, in my Tweet from 10/14/2014 I said "Most banks don't need one. The technology vendors they use need one. Only the small number of large banks and CUs need one"

    As of early 2014, the US had approx 6,700 banks and a similar number of Credit Unions. The business of banking for these 13,400 companies does not include the finances nor capabilities to acquire UX design firm. The fact is it is totally unnecessary. The technology firms that support these firms, however, should strongly consider buying and integrating a UX design firm, building a dedicated internal UX capability or bringing in UX consultants. The improvements to the systems, products and services they sell to banks and credit unions would benefit both the bank employees using them and the customers who consume them. Capital One is attempting to raise the bar. The rest of the industry will need to follow. I expect the small percentage of banks and credit unions that are large enough to make significant investments to remain competitive with Capitol One if they have not previously done so.

    That was two cents from @dmgerbino

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