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For fintech services to succeed, these three design values will be essential

Simple design is a key to user experience and contributes to financial inclusion

For fintech services to succeed, these three design values will be essential
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Over the past decade, businesses have realized the value of design and put it at the forefront of their process. 

Delving into the intricacies of the design-thinking process and global design trends across diverse sectors, fintech emerges as a prominent industry where design excels, as technology is hyper-optimized to adapt to engage you even more. 

This sector is witnessing significant growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, fueled by the surge in innovative solutions, from cashless payments to AI-powered wealth management.

So, what does it mean to be user-friendly? Do we need a new way to discuss design and what comes next?

This rise of fintech isn’t just about convenience but inclusion. By offering alternative financial products and services, fintech is reaching the underserved, improving financial literacy, empowering entrepreneurs, and driving regional economic growth.

Design plays a key role in improving the user experience. Today’s successful fintech players understand that design is an invisible conductor, orchestrating an intuitive, frictionless journey for users. A carefully crafted user experience attracts and retains customers, ultimately driving growth and sustainability.

EMPLOYING DESIGN

Design is central to product development, says Yasser Ghazi, VP of Product at MoneyFellows. “Our mobile app is the main point of user interaction. It encompasses everything visible and interactive, from copywriting to UI components and overall user experience.”

Knowing your user’s needs is imperative, and companies must put great effort into understanding their consumer base. “Through research, we delve into the problem’s root cause, its significance to users, and its scope. We conduct research via user interviews, inviting users to our offices; we also use our analytical tools to understand problem areas in our funnel. We utilize frameworks design thinking to pinpoint user needs and develop solutions.”

Gathering insights and learning is essential to refining products and services. “Going live with a product marks not the end but the beginning of our design journey. It signifies the commencement of gathering insights and learnings from real-world usage, which we use to continuously refine and improve our products,” says Job Mashapa, Senior Vice President – Product at Bayzat.

“Our approach goes beyond visual aesthetics, integrating design into every aspect of our product and service development processes. Ultimately, we aim to create innovative, user-centered solutions that drive business growth and set us apart in the marketplace,” he adds.

Employing design consists of four fronts for his organization: a user-centric approach, cross-functional collaboration, an iterative design process, and brand consistency.

“Adopting a user-centric approach, we prioritize the needs and preferences of our customers. We conduct focus groups, which allow us to address existing issues in our current products, provide updates, and gather insights and feedback on areas for improvement,” says Paymob’s VP of Product Delivery, Mahmoud Emad.

“Our brand’s consistency is paramount, with design playing a crucial role in shaping our brand identity. Therefore, we strive to maintain consistency across all visual elements, including colors, typography, and more, across various channels,” he adds.

USER-EXPERIENCE DESIGN

The significance of user experience (UX) in design cannot be overstated. Beyond aesthetics, UX design enhances the usability and accessibility of products and services, ensuring a seamless and intuitive interaction for users. 

The key elements to deliver a positive user experience include comprehending user needs, creating an intuitive interface, minimizing friction in the experience, enhancing conversion rates, and establishing trust and credibility.

“We aim to provide an intuitive interface that requires no explanation for users to navigate our platforms and services,” says Emad.

“The most vital aspect for any financial services organization is building trust and credibility,” adds Emad. “Managing financial transactions demands a high level of trust, especially in the digital realm where money exists virtually and transactions occur online. Visual cues and design are crucial in reassuring users that their transactions are secure.”

Mashapa highlights that design extends beyond a product’s functional aspects, prioritizing the emotional connection between users and the designed experience. “Experience design helps to build a positive brand identity, fostering trust and loyalty. We have also noted increased product adoption and engagement.”

Organizations can foster user trust by incorporating user interface elements that are familiar and recognizable. “Minimizing cognitive load through clear and organized information presentation enhances comprehension and trust in the company’s ability to deliver accessible content,” says Mashapa.  

When users are empowered to be in control and allowed to customize their applications, trust further strengthens, showing that their needs and choices are valued.

Mashapa says that while simplification is crucial, oversimplification can result in misleading or incomplete information. It is crucial to simplify complex concepts without compromising their core meaning or distorting the message. The simplified version must remain accurate and meaningful. “Visualizing abstract concepts through relatable visuals bridges the gap between complexity and understanding, promoting complex concepts to be more accessible and trustworthy.”

FINANCIAL INCLUSION

Beyond mere accessibility, fintech solutions empower users, promoting financial inclusion and literacy. Fintech is breaking down traditional barriers to financial services, particularly for underserved communities and individuals.

Many users find the conventional banking process daunting due to its extensive requirements, paperwork, and bureaucratic hurdles. 

“A visit to a bank branch isn’t just a simple errand—it typically means taking time off work, dealing with the hassles of transportation, navigating through traffic, or struggling to find parking, and, finally, enduring long queues,” says Ghazi.

He explains that clear and transparent communication is at the core of design strategy. “Customers must comprehend the specifics of transactions: when payments are due, when they receive funds, the amounts payable, and detailed breakdowns of transactions. Such clarity is vital in building trust with underbanked users, who might be hesitant about financial engagement due to perceived complexities.”

An essential part is to “demystify financial terminology” by making banking concepts more approachable using simpler, more relatable terms. “For example, a current design trend is to reframe the traditional concepts such as a ‘savings account’ as ‘spaces’ or ‘pots’, signaling to users that these are merely places to store value,” says Ghazi. 

“Though these are essentially the same as conventional bank accounts, this rebranding helps simplify the concept for those new to banking or from emerging markets.”

Ensuring user empowerment involves streamlining the onboarding process, providing financial education and literacy, adapting products to local contexts, and fostering partnerships and collaborations.

It’s imperative to provide financial education to customers, guiding them to effectively utilize products to meet their needs. “To achieve this, we ensure that tutorials are readily accessible within our products, ensuring ongoing education,” says Emad. “Additionally, localizing our services and products is crucial to aligning them with users’ cultural and background preferences. This approach aids underbanked users in utilizing our products more effectively.”

FUTURE TRENDS

When discussing emerging trends in design, Ghazi says AI will impact the user interface, whether voice-activated or text-based, enabling users to express specific financial aspirations, such as planning for an Umrah, Hajj, or holiday. 

In this scenario, AI would engage in a detailed dialogue, asking about various parameters like the intended travel timeline and budget requirements. It would then assess the user’s financial situation by inquiring about monthly income, expenses, and potential savings. 

Based on this information, the AI could propose a personalized savings plan or ‘circle’ tailored to the user’s objectives. With the user’s consent, it could even enroll them into a savings circle.

“This level of interaction not only democratizes access to personalized financial advice but also exemplifies the potential of AI and LLMs to transform user experiences in fintech. We’re not just talking about incremental improvements but a paradigm shift in how financial services are conceived, delivered, and experienced,” adds Ghazi.

The UX of tomorrow will be highly personalized and optimized through intelligent and responsive design.

Mashapa mentions a few more emerging trends and tech to look out for, from embedded finance, decentralized finance (DeFi), and regulatory technology (RegTech) to the influence of generative artificial intelligence (AI). And collectively, these trends will transform financial services, providing individuals and businesses with convenience, transparency, and enhanced decision-making capabilities. A future where finance is seamlessly integrated, easily accessible, secure, and customized to meet individual needs.

Delve deeper into the design-thinking process and global design trends, encompassing urban planning, biophilic design, immersive technologies, and more at the Innovation By Design Summit in Doha on April 24. Attendance at the Innovation by Design Summit is by invitation only. Delegates can register here to receive their exclusive invite.

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