Fintech: service design for humans

28 May, 2020Ouida Taaffe
fingers on a computer keyboard

Fintech services are now everywhere, but that does not mean they always meet client needs. In this interview, Chief Design Officer of Lloyds Banking Group, Dan Makoski talks about designing digital banking services that cater for all customers.

“How can computers learn the language of people, rather than people learning the language of computers?”

That is the design problem that banks need to crack to provide good fintech services, says Dan Makoski, Chief Design Officer at Lloyds Banking Group. Interfaces need to be “intuitive, simple and human,” he says.

One of the challenges, of course, is that designers’ own knowledge – and the assumptions they make about how things will be understood – can get in the way.

Makoski cites a problem that Microsoft encountered two decades ago. He formerly worked there. Microsoft found that it was getting lots of calls from people who wanted to know where to find the ’any‘ key. They were asking because they had been prompted to “press any key to continue”.

Digital banking

As that suggests, a major problem for banks is that their online accounts have to be both simple for everyone to navigate as well as secure.

“That is much easier on a smartphone” says Makoski. “Because the app is embedded in a secure environment. For example, the phone can only be opened with biometrics.”

That means, as secure customer authentication comes in, logging into a bank account could be more difficult for those not using a smartphone. Does that mean there will be a drop-off in use?

“It depends,” says Makoski. “We’ve done a significant amount of A/B testing on the solutions to get it right.”

But how can banks know what to test before a solution goes live?

Makoski says Lloyds draws on call-centre data alongside online behaviour. Its aim is to give its online banking customers “a better number than just a balance”.


Makoski has many years of experience in website design projects, among them the redesign of

“A business left to its own devices… if you don’t take editorial design control will end up with something very cluttered,” he says.

“The thing we start with is customer need and the more we do that the better it is for the business.”

Lloyds personalises what customers see online. The experience of new parents, for example, is different to that of retirees. Do any aspects of the app fade if customers don’t use them?

“That is the holy grail of adaptive design,” says Makoski. “In the future, we want to have interactive personalisation. For example, gmail surfaces frequent contacts. We do have that vision but, as a bank, we are thoughtful about how to do that… And adaptations have to happen in a way that feels helpful,” says Makoski. “It’s really hard to get right.”

Measuring the data

What data does Lloyds use to analyse what might be helpful to its customers? Does it use metrics like dwell time? Or the products examined?

“The baseline in consumer service is how often you log in,” says Makoski.

“We also look across channels – internet, mobile, branch, telephony. Then we get insight from face--to-face design sessions in the lab. The question we’re trying to ask ourselves is ‘why’ and not just ‘what’.”

The design team at Lloyds has members from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, behavioural science, psychology and design itself to try to address ‘why?’.

For example, there’s a difference in use between touch screens and screens navigated with a mouse.

“Touch is really intuitive because it is direct manipulation,” says Makoski. “Sometimes people used to a mouse can have problems initially with touch. Kids, though, find touch more intuitive.”

He adds that the ‘windows, icons, menus, pointer’ (WIMP) setup does give users a “state of where you’re at” and a “hover state”.

“With touch you don’t have that, you have to be more courageous and just explore.”

Accessibility and inclusive design

Pointer-based systems can also be difficult for some people to use.

Makoski says that making the Lloyds website accessible to all is “really important” but they want to go beyond that to “inclusive design”.

The example he gives is ensuring that the site supports those with mental health challenges such as gambling.

“We have internal conversations around how to design for all of society. We think about areas of potential financial detriment.”

Some online firms – such as new credit scoring companies – have made a business out of collecting data that allows them to build a psychological profile of users. Payday lender Wonga reportedly used the way people interacted with the slider on its site to help decide whether they were likely to be responsible borrowers.

Keeping customers safe

“Transparency is important,” says Makoski. “We don’t do stuff like that. But we do look at additional web data to keep customers safe.”

For example, if they see someone copying and pasting information like first name and last name – or tabbing between an application form and other windows – that raises a red flag. After all, most people know their own name.

Lloyds also does some ‘nudging’.

“We have a couple of behavioural scientists on the team,” says Makoski. “It is one of the most exciting future areas…it promises powerful ways to build the right financial habits.”

Lloyds has already explored using nudging to create greater financial resilience and he sees personalisation as part of nudging.

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