“I, myself, am a British born man living in Singapore. In setting up a digital bank in Thailand, how much do I know about the lived experience of Thai youth? Not that much!” he admits with a chuckle. “So employing design thinking and research serve to challenge assumptions and bridge those gaps.”
With TMRW, the primary target is urban millennials. This digital generation makes up one-third of the population in Thailand. UOB’s Managing Director of TMRW Digital Bank, Dennis Khoo, recognises that millennials “work differently, play differently, and… are going to bank differently”.The game plan to reel in millennials
A 2017 survey they conducted in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, found that millennials “respond better to prompts that are fun and do not make them guilty” when it comes to managing their personal finances.
This led the team to consider using games to encourage saving and smart spending.
A game in the TMRW app motivates users to save.
The UOB team decided to push this idea through; an ex-game developer in the TMRW team along with the UX, Product and Marketing teams invented and designed a savings game.
Mashable describes it as “the more money users save, the faster they level up in the mobile-only digital bank app. As users level up, they would unlock various options to build and enhance their virtual city.”
What started out as an experiment has now become a striking unique and popular feature within the TMRW app, which has gained interest from around the world
Besides having a game developer in his team, Smith reveals that “we have many design teams and skills within UOB Digital Bank, operating with different scope and different structures.”
From UI specialists working on screen interaction to a service design team that looks at delivering consistently good customer service through the bank’s chatbot or customer contact centre.
“In the Digital Bank, user experience design is constantly a leadership level discussion and we have no need to ‘sell’ design as it were. All of our teams have design and customer-centricity KPIs and discussions and so design has become part of the everyday thinking.”
Designing for diversity
In developing a regional digital bank for ASEAN, the biggest mistake one can make, he states, is to assume that Southeast Asia is a homogeneous market and that designing for customers across the region can be one-size-fits-all.
The challenge is to design for customers across different languages and cultural nuances.
While one option is to create a variation of the TMRW app for every single country, the higher technical costs of doing this make it less attractive. So what UOB TMRW has done is to opt for a model that blends modular reusable code elements across the region whilst designing in capability within the app itself to adapt to local circumstances.
Enter: the newly-created TMRW “eLabs”.
The engagement labs, or eLabs, are operational teams based in each country equipped with a range of advanced tools and techniques to engage with customers of that specific country, around the things that matter to these customers.
“So, the net effect is we have the technical benefits of a scalable regional app platform but the eLab teams in Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam are able to have real time and uniquely local conversations and engagement with customers in their market,” he explains.
“The process of designing this approach or system took us some time and involved a cross-disciplinary team drawing skills from technology, data science, behavioural economics and UX. I guess we would call this strategic or systemic design – we designed the TMRW organisation with a focussed intent and outcome in mind. In the course of this, we realised we needed a new type of team: the eLabs.”
Keeping it simple
Despite cultural nuances, studies across the region indicate young people seek one thing, especially in relation to finance: simplicity.
TMRW app by UOB.
By deploying best practice UX and UI principles, as well as AI and data analytics, the design teams aim is to create uniquely personal user experience for the customer, which simplifies service, for them.
Ironically, simplicity (especially in regulated financial services) is deceptively difficult to design for, a fact that Smith acknowledges. The TMRW team leverages on advanced analytics and AI in a way in which UX teams often haven’t in the past, to learn from each customer’s usage patterns, anticipating the upfront functions and information that each customer needs.