Building a Leading Consumer Digital Bank

Valley Bank online account opening experience had a 85 percent drop off following the first page. We formed a cross-functional team to optimize the onboarding experience. My role was Design Director. Deliverables included all design artifacts, content strategy and UX Research.

Service
UI/UX
Business
SaaS
Expertise
Website development
Deliverables
UI/UX Design, Research Insights, Vision Prototype

Challenge

With a robust asset base of approximately $42 billion, Valley Bank, a regional entity, operates over 230 branches catering to both personal and commercial customers. However, the commercial customer base is the primary revenue generator. 

As the bank experienced continuous growth, attracting an increasing number of customers daily, the leadership team recognized the necessity to prioritize customers with the highest lifetime value. To address this, the role of design became paramount, providing innovative solutions to effectively manage this expanding customer base and optimize business operations. Design’s strategic contribution would be instrumental in navigating the complexities of growth and ensuring the bank’s sustained success.

Valley Bank online account opening experience had a 85 percent drop off following the first page. We formed a cross-functional team to optimize the onboarding experience. My role was Design Director. Deliverables included all design artifacts, content strategy and UX Research.

Solution

The Valley Bank online account opening experience.

In six months, the team re-platformed and redesigned the account opening experience using operational and behavioral metrics to guide optimizations. The team also introduced new technologies that increased straight through processing of applications, decreasing costs and increasing conversions.

After the first six months of the relaunched experience, success metrics were:

- Reduced annual customer care costs by $88,200.

- Reduced the number of manually-processed online banking applications by 50%.

- Increased account opening conversions by 10x.

- Reduced the length of time required to open an account online from 20 to 5 minutes.

We created an experience that was simple, reducing the number of steps and simplifying the overall experience. It feels and looks visually lighter.

We created an experience that was guided, with the use of input field hints, progressive labelling and tool tips to help the customers complete tasks.

We created an experience that was friendly, using natural language to ensure the customers feel at ease and validations and expectations are met - at a human level.

The as is account opening experience: 

The starting point or the online account opening before this project began.

The out of the box solution the CPO proposed: 

The out of the box solution we were initially told would be implemented.

Reflection

Show, Don't Tell: We were hugely successful in convincing the CPO we needed to customize the frontend of the third party account opening solution by conducting A/B testing of the out of the box solution and a vision prototype then presenting evidence to the CPO.

Reflection

Some Signal is Enough Sometimes: We had a hypothesis that Plaid was unfamiliar to most people that would be opening an account and people may not trust it. This held true once we went live. The team worked to provide alternate funding options as a fast follow.

Reflection

Mobile First: We didn’t spend enough time testing mobile and ended up with usability issues at launch and the team had to balance feature development with usability improvements.

Approach

As the Head of Design and UX Research, my role was pivotal in streamlining the retail account opening process, which was identified by the leadership team as a time-consuming task. The design team took the initiative to pinpoint the friction points in the user experience across both digital and physical channels. Collaborating closely with the development team, we redesigned the experience to enhance conversions.

Our efforts were driven by the knowledge that the conversion rate for online checking and savings account opening was less than five percent. The design team, under my leadership, had a significant impact on improving this rate supported by strong product leadership focused on user-centered design. Together, we enhanced the customer experience, ultimately contributing to the bank’s efficiency and growth.

Our user-centered design challenge:

How might we create a frictionless multi-channel, multi-product onboarding experience?


A cross-functional team was spun up with leadership from product, engineering and user experience driving ways of working and culture development. 

The team was lean to support fast, iterative cycles for the minimum lovable product. We launched in less than six months including all procurement, discovery, design and testing cycles. 

Product Management: A team of three product managers focused on UX, technology and value proposition. Business analysts helped drive execution. 

Product Design: One lead designer developed the design language, updated the entire application flow and worked with a content strategist to create a friendly, conversational voice. 

UX Research: Two researchers led foundational and evaluative research. Methods included unmoderated and moderated interviews, provocations, surveys and prototype testing.

What We Knew

Eighty-five percent of customers abandoned on the registration page, the first page of the application. Less than five percent completed an online account application 

How might we make obtaining an account frictionless and attractive?

The application was twelve pages.

How might we reduce the effort to sign up for a digital account?

Back office associates touched 94.5 percent of customer applications for online banking.

How might we make online banking access a seamless part of an account application process?

Research Activities

Define target audience behaviors, needs and attitudes. 

Identify usability issues. Continuous test, learn, iterate cycles.

Define value proposition and key moments that lead to account opening. 


Product Design Activities

Develop a design system. 

Remove unnecessary steps and other friction along each micro journey.

Determine most user-friendly technology solutions to remove manual processes. 

Team

Caroline Phillips, Product Designer

Brandon Mosley, Product Designer*

Michelle Ammiratt, UX Researcher

Joel Rosado, UX Researcher

Laura Cochran, Design Director

* Please visit Brandon Mosley's portfolio to see the latest product design work.



Case Studies

Learn More About My Work

A curated collection of diverse projects to illustrate the depth of my experience and impact of my work.

A Holistic Vision for Planning
Northwestern Mutual wanted to increase client engagement between advisor check-ins and better communicate its protect and prosper value prop. My role was Design Director. Deliverables included a vision prototype for the mobile app and six features to increase engagement.
Furnishing WeWork
The development team at WeWork created a proprietary design application called Furnish. My role was Sr. UX Researcher. Deliverables included a Service Blueprint, generative UX Research insights and low-fidelity concepts.
Building a Leading Consumer Digital Bank
Valley Bank online account opening experience had a 85 percent drop off following the first page. We formed a cross-functional team to optimize the onboarding experience. My role was Design Director. Deliverables included all design artifacts, content strategy and UX Research.
Tracking WeWork's Real Estate Deals
This project was a zero to one effort to design software to support the WeWork real estate team. Deliverables included personas and experience maps. My role was the UX Research lead.
Automating Photo Editing
Copilot is a proprietary content management system used by Condé Nast editors. One of the team’s primary missions was to create an application that allows editors to write once and publish anywhere. My role was the UX Lead. Deliverables included experience maps, prototypes, wireframes and high-fidelity designs.
Improving the Refugee Experience
I joined USDS as a lead UX Researcher directing field research in SE Asia focused on better understanding the refugee admissions process end-to-end. In 2015, President Obama increased the annual refugee intake from 70,000 to 85,000, with a commitment to accept 10,000 Syrians. Our team focused on understanding how technology could help the president meet this goal without adding more people or impacting the integrity of the process.
What Guides Me

Leadership Principles

My passion for human-centered design and ability to merge human factors with business considerations allows me to make significant contributions as a design leader and partner to product, engineering, data and marketing teams.

Together is better than alone.

Embracing collaboration over working in isolation not only enhances productivity but also enriches personal and team development. This is particularly evident in the realms of research and design, where shared insights and creativity can lead to extraordinary outcomes. Let’s celebrate the power of teamwork!

Balance autonomy & alignment.

My aim is to illuminate the path the company intends to take, empowering the team to align their priorities and plans accordingly. I wholeheartedly champion autonomy and creativity within our cross-functional teams.

Optimize for inclusion.

Enriching your circle with individuals who offer diverse perspectives can significantly enhance your abilities as a researcher or designer. This diversity, stemming from our collective experiences as a team, is a treasure trove of insights and ideas.

Remember the human.

This is the glue that holds us together. Human-centered design puts people at the center of everything. It doesn’t matter if you are designing for a stakeholder, colleague, user, buyer, merchant or any number of other descriptors. What is important is that you stay grounded in human factors throughout the design process.