How Customer-Centric Values Helped Monzo Disrupt Banking

An interview with Vuokko Aro, Design Director at Monzo

Why the time has come for disruptors in the financial industry

Many factors play into this, but the big ones are changes in regulation and technology. Regulation, especially in the UK, has encouraged competition in retail banking for a few years now — and more changes are on their way in the form of required open banking APIs, for example.

At Monzo, we aim to become the hub for your entire financial life, and being able to show external bank accounts, credit cards and other pieces of the puzzle through open banking makes that all possible.

As for technology, smartphones are a trusted and mature platform at this point, and people of all ages are used to mobile paradigms. Maturing interface guidelines on both Android and iOS also let us use native patterns that our customers are already familiar with, making a new kind of banking experience easy to pick up.

And honestly, the ecosystem that we and our competitors are building helps propel us all forward. The fact that more and more people have used (or know someone who has used) a branchless or mobile-only bank account with a great experience helps us all. Competition helps establish the industry.

Defining what sets Monzo apart

Our unexpectedly friendly and helpful customer service definitely stands out, as does the usability of our apps. We aim to help all of our customers take control of their financial lives by providing tools so natural and powerful to use, you don’t even need to contact customer support for most tasks.

We also have a track record of bringing truly new types of features to the banking space. Things like in-app budgeting or the gambling block feature are now widely adopted across banks, but we pioneered them by focusing on real customer pain points.

We’re also very transparent about our process and where we’re going.

We want to take our customers on the journey with us, and build trust by being open. We often get asked, “Aren’t you worried that others will copy your features?”. We’re not worried, because it’s not the individual features that set us apart — it’s how they all work together in one coherent, easy-to-use package with excellent customer service 24/7 just in case you need help.

“Last but not least, we genuinely care about our customers and stand on their side. Fancy features are great, but without truly being customer-centric they’d be worthless.”

Achieving uniqueness in fin-tech

We have a relentless focus on real customer needs. We gather insight through user research, through our close relationship with our community members, through events, customer service, and many other channels. We listen to our customers and openly commit to meeting their needs.

Everyone building the Monzo product is user-focused, not just designers. This requires more effort from us than just building the easiest thing, but it’s worth it. We also release early and often, experiment a lot, measure everything, and are ready to throw away ideas that don’t work for our customers.

How Marvel helps Monzo

We use Marvel regularly for multiple things. It’s an excellent tool for getting copy (and even compliance!) feedback about precise parts of a user flow. We tag elements and comment on them, making sure we’re all talking about the same thing.

We also use Marvel prototypes for sharing user flows with customer operations, who can then help our users by understanding different phases of the flow themselves. This can be especially valuable when displaying how our transactions to foreign accounts work, for example, as customer operations don’t have to make a transaction themselves to see the full user journey.

Prototypes are also great for designers working through a flow as a customer would, seeing one screen at a time. We work in Sketch, and seeing all the artboards of a flow laid out next to each other can be misleading. The customer only sees one screen at once, and if we lose someone on one screen they’ll never see the awesome stuff that comes next.

As designers, we’ve started embedding Marvel prototypes in proposals for new features, even when ideas are rough. Seeing the journey as a user would really helps everyone understand the vision behind a new feature.

A modernised approach to design

Our product designers are all embedded in product squads, working in an interdisciplinary manner to solve problems. Each discipline has their own superpower, and for designers it’s being able to work through possible futures and literally being able to show a vision.

“We believe that design is a tool for imagining possible futures and communicating them with others.”

“We believe in universal design principles and not reinventing the wheel. We also believe in fundamentally understanding the customer problem we’re solving, and measuring our work to see if we’re hitting the mark. This is where collaboration comes in.”

Designers at Monzo work closely with product, engineering, data, compliance, and many other disciplines to first define a problem properly. They then explore the space, map out solutions and flows and discuss them, collaborating with others to work towards the best possible solution that we can come up with. We then build and release an MVP, measuring it and collecting feedback to see if we’re on the right track, and then work on the thing some more. We don’t have all the answers internally.

That’s why we share our work early and often, and take feedback from each other and our customers to work towards the best possible solution.

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