Two weeks ago, I had the chance to be part of a talk series where one of the speakers was Nicole Hamilton, the founder of Tactile Finance which is a start up offering a visualization / planning system for mortgage. In their own words: "When it comes to financial decisions, we know that clients want: clarity, context and connection"
What was really interesting was the story behind it: Nicole Hamilton explained how in 2008, she had bought a house and got in a very difficult financial situation due to the mortgage crisis. She started looking at options for refinancing and she felt loss and powerless. Yet, as she said, she was not completely remote from that field. She was at the time the managing director of a mobile application and data analysis company serving the government and engineering sectors. She was responsible for corporate strategy, operations, and product development. Her feeling of loss turned into anger as she thought there was no reason why it had to be so complicated and if she did not understand while she had some background knowledge, what was it for people who had less expertise. Out of anger and desperation, Nicole decided to develop a solution and started Tactile Finance to propose better ways to navigate financial products. She spent a lot of time understanding the field and got a great UX designer on her team. They worked on developing a tool out of multiple personas.
Another thing she mentioned that is also important to keep in mind is that as she went presenting her product to bankers and real estate agents, she encountered a lot of resistance. This points to some political and economical underlying reasons that suggest that - as Nicole argues and Jes too in her post - while financial information does not have to be that complicated, it is in the interest of some to keep it as such.
Inspirations for us:
Anger or frustration - or at least awareness and critical thinking - might be the starting point for change. Why should that be so complex? Why can't I understand and feel in control?
The importance of design and user-friendly interface: "good" design can support education and decision, and empower users.
The interface matters but financial empowerment is not only about the end-users of the financial services but it is part of a bigger socio-economical and political system. We need to be aware of the different actors at stake as we start designing.