Nowadays, customers’ preferences are changing, and they are looking for more choices and solutions built with empathy. A traditional bank customer was used to standing in long queues, and banks didn’t care much as there weren’t many choices available to them. But with fintech startups being founded in every nook and corner of the business world, these financial giants are trying to pivot with the deployment of innovative designs and solutions rather than marketing and advertising of transformative technologies. Banks are moving more towards innovation in bank operations rather than just being in the business of managing. Banks are now co-creating products with customers to integrate their feedback in real-time and thus improve it with no delay.

It is a great competitive advantage to work like startups and integrate design thinking to transform organisations. Stephen Gates, the head of Citi Design said that there is no greater trojan horse to change an organisation than design thinking.

What is integrated design Thinking?

Innovative design thinking is a customer-centred design which is used to understand users, challenges, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.

  • It includes customer experience, co-creation and thinking like a start-up to generate innovative ideas and pivot with minimal effort to align with the customer requirements.
  • It is already used to architect digital financial products by many financial startups.
  • It takes into account the desirability of customers with technological feasibility and economical viability.

BBVA, USAA and Citi are three banks which have integrated design thinking in their processes and are seeing the benefits of transforming the thinking to a solution centred approach. These banks are training their non-expert staff with the help of experts and experienced people to build up interactive relationships between organisations and customers and building up startup units inside banks and working on improving the digital experiences for the customers.

Also Read: Best Design Thinking Tools for Ideation Process

How is Design Thinking Implemented?

Design Thinking in any industry or company is a five-stage process consisting of steps of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. Five-stage Design Thinking model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. It is the leading university when it comes to teaching Design Thinking. Let’s understand the steps in a design thinking process.

Empathise- The first step is to understand what problems we need to solve. It includes research and data collection about business goals, customer needs, features of products and finding the problems of both business owners and customers and also trying to find solutions to them.

Define- At this stage, we analyse the insights and define the core problems along with finding out what value we can add to their products. We also set priorities in this stage.

Ideate – At this stage, designers start generating ideas to find the best way to solve predefined problems.

Prototype- At this stage, solutions are checked based on previously generated user scenarios and gathering feedback.

Test- At this stage, we test visual prototypes to make sure that we get the needed solution, and the previously defined problem is not repeated. The results concluded are used to redefine one or more problems.

It results in a continuous cycle and involves the customer in the process of improving the processes.

Why is Design Thinking important?

Design Thinking is user experience design (UXDA’s methodology), thus it is very important to develop and refine skills and address rapid changes in the user environment.

  • It aims at designing better products, services, strategies, spaces, architecture and experiences.
  • It is an innovative design process which is prototype driven and human focused.
  • It develops practical and innovative solutions to the problems.
  • It is extremely useful in tacking ill-defined complex problems. 

What are the three banks developing?

BBVA, a Spanish giant in the banking industry is currently working on expanding its current 150 designers team by a programme named ambassador program to train 1000 staff ambassadors to spread good design practice or design thinking structure throughout the organisation. The objective is to influence a change of thinking over the organisation so that any employee despite their role starts thinking like a designer keeping customer experience improvement as a goal in the whole process. The company’s Director of Customer experience and design, Rob Brown who is also the Global CMO has an ambition of implementing design thinking to all the 900 projects of the bank and that their professionals have fun doing so.

Another bank USAA has started its 120-person design studio in Austin with a focus of enhancing digital experiences among customers and employees. The bank’s goal is to make financial planning, applying for a mortgage or choosing insurance coverage as easy as calling an Uber or one-click buying off Amazon. But there can be a gap between how the business perceives the brand versus a customer. So, that is the reason design thinking will be helping the bank to implement appropriate solutions by involving customers in the iterative process of building a relevant product.

Citi bank’s design studio has launched its FinTech unit to act as a small startup inside the bank dedicated to mobile-first solutions for its consumer banking customers. Citi has also signed a deal with its design consultant Ideo which plans to train Citi employees in design thinking. The bank is working on creating a version of design thinking that’s unique to Citi. The plan is to not differentiate creative as a different department and integrate the thinking process of psychologically supporting the department people are part of.


Like these three banks, many other organisations are working on integrating design thinking in the process of daily functions. So, to keep customers in the centre of all innovations and empathise with them for continuous improvement and ensuring the best customer experience. The process also focuses on changing the thinking process and making people responsible for the process of their department.

If you are looking to upskill and would like to learn more about design thinking, join Stanford Design Thinking Course in collaboration with Great Learning.

Also Read:
How Design Thinking can be Used in Uncertain Times
How to Implement Design Thinking steps in your Startup



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