Design and User Experience (UX) in banking

By Philippe Marquetty, Head of Payments and Cash Management Products, Societe Generale - 2016

“It seems that there is still a long way to go toward bringing the full efficiency one would expect in using such facilities. There is also the question of whether the use of KYC utilities will extend beyond correspondent banks, particularly with the way banks deal with fund and asset management companies. There are big KYC challenges in these areas, and the development of utilities will be of significant benefit to banks because it will bring standardisation and consistency of approach and reduced costs.”


The trend in banking is going mobile and online, away from branch banking – and new challengers are focusing on creating the best possible user experience (UX) for customers. Millennials/digital natives are often cited as having very high expectations from their apps. What are banks doing to focus on design? Are there learnings from other industries?

  • In the past, the question of design of services was not something that banks considered. However, this is now changing, particularly with the advances being made in other industries and increasing competition in financial services from new entrants. Today, design has become important for customers in two areas: cards and mobile apps. For example, Societe Generale has more than 150 different options for the design of bank cards; customers can choose from a variety of themes to personalise the visual aspect of their cards. Options range from football club related themes through to chocolate. This has proved popular and customers are willing to pay to personalise their cards. The design of the cards has become almost as important as the banking features that are made available to card holders.
  • With regard to mobile apps, from their very inception we as a bank took the question of design seriously. A dedicated team within the bank works on web and app design, making sure that our offerings are on trend. Customers compare the experience they have with the banks offerings to apps such as Facebook, What’s App, YouTube and Google. A bank cannot push an app or web page that isn’t of the moment – it will be considered as ‘old school’ by users and is likely to be rejected. The telecoms providers, technology companies and increasingly financial technology companies are setting benchmarks for users and banks have to keep up with these. Banking apps have to look good from the start – you cannot ask a user to enter an app through an old-fashioned interface and promise better things on the other side. They simply won’t go any further if the app is not appealing from the outset.
  • Security is always important for the banking industry and has to be considered when designing apps. Banks have to combine security features, including authentication, with the look and feel and good navigation that is now required by customers. Societe Generale has developed an authentication system for online and mobile apps that is both secure and looks good. In making a secure app, banks have to ensure that they do not introduce complexity, because users will not accept it. The look and feel always has to be logical to users.
  • Banking customers use desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices in different ways. This has to be considered when designing products – a similar look and feel should be deployed across all devices but each will have specific ways for users to navigate and different features. Once a bank understands how users behave on different devices – for example, it is estimated that people look at their mobile phones up to 270 times a day - it can design apps that fit in with these behaviours and habits.
  • If an app is easy to use, customers will use it. But if an app is outdated or difficult to navigate, the image of the bank itself can be damaged. Banks invest a lot of time in assuring their customers that they are on trend and moving with the times. However, a badly designed product can undo this image. This is an important aspect of design given that financial technology companies are entering many areas of financial services and are setting new levels of expectation among customers. While customers do not yet choose a banking provider based on what its apps look like, being up to date and having a suitable look and feel will not harm a bank
  • All of Societe Generale’s web and app offerings are designed with the same level of expertise, whether the end users are retail customers, professionals, SMEs or large corporates. On each app, particular attention has to be paid to the design.
  • Individual retail customers are increasingly using mobile apps to do their banking and we now have slightly more customers using mobile apps than web products on desktop computers. The goal of Societe Generale is to make all types of financial transactions available on mobile apps. Some complex products, such as mortgage loans, will not be appropriate for mobile apps, but many others will be. At the same time, corporates are increasing their use of mobile apps – two years ago we didn’t see very much activity in this area at all. In the future we expect mobile apps to be more and more important even for corporates.