'Asset Finance' - Lloyds Banking Group

'Asset Finance' is the first product in a wider initiative to introduce a self-serve journey for banking customers to apply for, and manage, their financial services. The work is purpose-designed for both 'colleague' and customer user-types with the former being more complex. The solution, born of UX-led design thinking, establishes the patterns (user flows, journeys and interactions etc.) that will be rolled out across all financial products and services within business banking - a standardisation of customer engagement, if you will.

Client industry / sector: Financial Services
Client location: City of London, London
Project delivery time: 7 months

Service/s provided: UX design / UX consulting


An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
Image: A series of wireframes for the colleague user-type - revealing a snapshot of the design process inc. interactive wireframes and design rational.

Discovery

Discovery began with meeting the existing product team (made up of developers, B.A.'s (business analyst/s), a P.O. (product owner), a visual designer and their departing UX designer) prior to taking on the work. This was in order to get up-to-speed on the early solution approach they had taken, and the problem/s it was addressing, seeking to understand their working process - from UX design, through visual design, and then development. Evan also met with the P.O. to understand their vision, and the B.A. to gain as much insight as possible before agreeing to take on the work.

Evan and others later met with R.M.'s (relationship managers), one of two intended user-types for the eventual product, to research how they conduct their role to gain understanding of their processes - the factual, the good and the bad, as well as the work-arounds they'd incorporated to make carrying out their tasks faster and/or easier. This research shed light on the shortcomings of the existing product and highlighted common pain-points - such as the use of multiple desktop applications to process a single product application, the lack of intuition in these programs, their complexity and even frequent system crashes.

The discovery/research revealed that of the R.M. user-types, there were in fact different 'types' of R.M.s, each with different remits, different customer groups and different ways of engaging with customers. This meant that requirements for one type of R.M. were not necessarily the same for another and so the solution would need to provide for all these user-types. Perhaps one of the most insightful discoveries was that customers would often not have all the information to hand (required by the bank) when applying for asset finance or when seeking quote. This insight would go on to inform the solution greatly.

Finally, the business' goal of increasing R.M. 'speed' and 'capacity' came to the fore, as the real business drive behind the work.


Challenges

Prior to OldWorld taking the work on, the business had identified finance brokers as the user-type for this product and some exploratory design work had been undertaken. The business case evolved, and the focus changed providing a solution for their Asset Finance telephony R.M.'s. The product brief then evolved to also include a direct customer-facing self-serve product that would also re-cater to finance brokers. Much rationalising and re-thinking of the early financial broker solution was needed.

Within the project team, there existed a tendency to 'design by committee' - either by describing the 'solution' rather than focusing on capturing and defining their requirement - or by giving undue weight to subjective opinion rather than design expertise. Ultimately, lacking understanding of what 'design' 'is' or 'did' being the recurring issue. To a lesser extent, confusion around the difference between visual design and user experience design disciplines surfaced from time-to-time too.

The wider business had an inherent practice of 'designing for the system', i.e. for the current way of doing things, with little to no emphasis on the user. By working closely with the visual designer, together we were able to voice design reasoning and champion the user. Within the project at least, the challenge was largely overcome.

This was a high-level and visible project, with much interest from other teams and the 'higher-ups'. By printing (A3) journey flows, wireframes and visual designs, and placing these up on walls, we brought visibility to it and encouraged stakeholders and other to come for a walk-through where they were taken through the solution from a user's perspective - whilst explaining the design rational and logic that informed the solution.


Outcome

The UX-led design successfully established a research-backed, expert-designed, user-testing validated product design to be rolled out across all business banking products and KYB/KYC processes. The solution addressed the wider business desire to free-up R.M. capacity by decreasing their time spent processing individual asset finance applications. This allowed R.M.'s to onboard more customers - addressing the goal of 'speed' and 'capacity'. The customer self-serve solution also addressed these goals.

Both user-type solutions tested well with no serious issues and helped tweak the final product. The product's design was effective and allowed all user types to dip-in-and-out at their pace, catering to the main user research insight. While the design and interaction patterns established were product-agnostic so could be rolled out beyond asset finance - for all business banking products.

Overall, this was a personally and professionally satisfying project to produce and a measurable success for the business.


An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
Image: User flows of proposed and existing journeys in Axure help to illustrate a journey that a user will undertake.

The process

Our design process always involves the sketching of any solution using pen and paper. The process here involved collaborating with the visual designer to try and challenge and/or validate the suggested UX recommendation. It also involved liaising with the developers to see if they could envisage front-end or micro-services issues in the UX recommendation to be built around. This working practice was mutual and organic - happening as and when, with OldWorld often asked to chip in and help on visual design aspects and development roadblocks.

The requirements that informed our solution were validated with R.M.'s and B.A.'s to double check that the nuanced details were hard and fast before considerable time and effort went into the design thinking. The inhouse testing lab was engaged for user testing with customer users (direct observation and video recording), while colleague users were test with in-person - more guerrilla-style. These methods helped to surface issues and validate the solution.

The work was iterative by nature and the development of the project run in Agile. OldWorld's UX design work was in advance and independent of this. Our work was designed for the 'end-state' and would then be reigned-in for MVP as per the business prerogative.


Learnings

This project was very satisfying as it was primarily professional peers - developers, a visual designer, and Evan at OldWorld covering the UX product design - working together to deliver and build a user-centric solution. Aspects of the project management were a reminder that design know-how, inherent thinking and practice, born of years of experience, were not necessarily universally understood. Challenges will likely always be faced even in otherwise smooth projects.

OldWorld gained exposure to the developer-oriented practice - the 'Amigo session' - a method of collectively solving development problems around suggested design solutions. Occurring rarely, they allowed design and development skillsets to input on a suggested solution, where alternatives might need to be found for purposes of last-minute scope creep, MVP changes or back-end limitations emerging. A tricky balancing act when designing for the user and not the system.

From a design perspective - the working relationships with developers on the project was ideal, and sadly very rare. Exactly how professional design and development engagements of independent contractors coming together - hand-in-hand, should be - not via 'design-by-committee'. A job well done.


A snippet of the visual design of the application overview page UX-led work
A snippet of the visual design of the informed choice page UX-led work
Image: Work-in-progress visual design examples (for MVP) showing a selection of pages that the colleague will use when interacting with their client.

This project engagement was defined as being Outside IR35 - 100% contractor control (OldWorld Creative Ltd retained control and direction over work produced, working patterns and project delivery, and was not client-office-based) as per correct contractor practices.