How might we add personal finance opportunities to a banking system?
As a company that cares for the financial health of their customers, more efforts to provide meaningful activities related to personal finance could be made. Upon initially browsing Citi's mobile app, I saw there were little to no features allowing people to set up a budget for themselves, make investments, or become more educated about how to manage their money.
With more commonalities found in traditional banking systems, the standard "spend-and-pay" model leaves something left to be desired, especially among newer generations. Many millennials find themselves turning away from standard banking and opt to use outside tools and mobile apps to keep track of everything.
With that being said, here are some of the challenges and solutions I gathered for updating Citi's mobile app:
A quick look through Citi's mobile app led me to see some key opportunities for change. Personal finance features could greatly benefit their customer base, especially for young people. Developing challenges and solutions for this project helped me later form my goals for research.
Digging deeper into the minds of bank users and their involvement with personal finance.
To give myself a background on personal finance and how it currently relates to banking, I did some secondary research online.
Personal finance can encompass several activities, including general saving, budgeting, investing, and more. There are plenty of ways to learn more about personal finance online, through tools and blogs like Investopedia and Quicken.
Follow a budget
Set a savings goal
Create an emergency fund
The average American household is $137,879 in debt¹, often having to pay back credit lenders for much longer than intended. Along with rising housing, medical, and other costs, it's clear that people should take better care of their finances.
Financial literacy is also lower than expected, with 66% of U.S. participants being unable to answer more than 3 questions from a literacy quiz². According to more data from FINRA, many people found the topic of their finances closely related to feelings of stress and anxiety. Increasing their knowledge of the subject can be beneficial for minimizing these reactions and improve care for their financial health.
From my secondary research, I began to find potential competitors for Citi. I focused on budgeting and investment apps instead of other banking institutions, as they didn't provide much in terms of personal finance options. I started to see some of the essential features to add to Citi's app.
I spoke to 5 participants ages 25-32 about their experience with managing finances. In targeting a younger demographic, I was able to find some unique perspectives about the banking system. Most participants used finance management apps in addition to their primary bank, including Acorns, Betterment, Robinhood, Mint, Ally, and YNAB. All participants accessed their accounts online, and some preferred to mainly use a mobile app.
Almost all participants believed finances were important to them, but only 40% felt they were properly informed about it. They associated personal finance with freedom, power, a marathon (something that requires patience), and stress. All participants expressed some concern over the language surrounding finance, saying there are unfamiliar terms, the information is too broad, and that it can be confusing, intimidating, and overwhelming.
A quick look into the background of personal finance and competitors gave me enough context to help shape my interview questions. Upon speaking to people from my target demographic, I was able to view common problems with traditional banking and different solutions for managing finances. All of this helped provide answers to my initial research goals and gave me plenty of ideas to work with for further defining the problem space.
Based on my research, I was able to develop a user persona, work on the app's information architecture, and map out some user flows.
When mapping out the structure of the app, I was able to easily find a space for personal finance within "Services." This part of the navigation was directly related to features that Citi could provide its customers.
After finding a clear space for personal finance within Citi's app, I decided to pinpoint a user's actions when creating a budget. Based on the user needs I found from my interviews, I also included a task flow for adding a budget category.
Creating a persona allowed me to further empathize with users and provide personal finance solutions that could be useful to them. When looking at the app's information architecture, I was able to fill a space for these solutions and then form potential flows from page to page.
For the design, I produced low-fi wireframes before moving on to the final UI.
Drawing inspiration from my user & task flows, I began sketching low-fidelity wireframes to see my ideas come to life. This also allowed me to focus more of my energy on matching the UI to the current design later on.
After recreating some key screens from the app, I had a good idea of what I could achieve for my new content. I followed the same model as the current design and was able to use many elements that already existed within the app.
Shaping the design gave the challenge of implementing a new concept with previously existing styles. I was able to learn how to use other elements of the app as a base for my creations.
After completing a design iteration, I went on to test my user & task flows using Marvel.
I conducted a usability test on a fully designed app with 5 participants, giving them two tasks to complete. All participants were able to complete both tasks with ease. There were still plenty of insights discovered for improvements to the app, including additional features for creating a budget and suggestions for renaming some titles/links.
You are a current Citi customer wishing to start managing your personal finances. How would you go about creating a new budget to save money for yourself?
Now that you’ve created a new budget, you’d like to add your own category for monthly spending. How would you add a custom category to your current budget?
Taking user feedback into consideration, I went back to my original design ideas to make some adjustments.
I updated the plan names to decrease confusion about their meaning. The "Set your own timeline" link became more noticeable with red text.
Here, you'll see an added overview of what the user is viewing on the screen for more context. There are also options to rename the budget, add a description, and set a future effective date.
Usability testing allowed me to practice observing user behavior and their interactions with the app. I discovered some similar reactions between each participant and organized an affinity map. I was then able to put their thoughts into action for my second design iteration. Overall, I've learned how to test a product, receive important feedback, and apply it to the design.
I made the final prototype with Marvel, shown on an iPhone 11.
Working with the Citi app gave me insight into the tools that provide value to their customers. If I could speak with the client directly, I would urge them to help with personal finance to keep improving lives and give customers the confidence to reach their goals.
If I had more time, I would look into the educational aspect of personal finance. Many people don't feel informed enough about it, and I believe a relatable guide or tutorial could help.
I learned a lot about personal finance, and how important it is to teach young people how to manage their money. Being a millennial myself, I know I can relate to many of the people wishing for easy paths toward financial freedom. Citi has the power to make a difference and further empower their customers' lives.