Improving the Personal Finance Management Process for Caixa Econômica Federal’s account holders

1. The challenge

In our first contact with UX process, we accepted the challenge of understanding and improving the financial behavior of Caixa’s account holders to help them make purchases and manage expenses in an economic way.

How to help the account holder to save thinking about his future, without giving up what he likes to do or consume.

2. The current scenario

The advance of fintechs in Brazil and worldwide has provided many users with ease and convenience in their financial lives, through digital accounts that are unbureaucratic, more intuitive and have low or no cost at all. According to a survey, published by the company MindMiners in 2020, the number of fintechs users increased from 25% in 2017 to 55% in 2019. However, many of these users still have a traditional bank as their primary account.

In order to modernize, traditional banks as Bradesco, Santander and Itaú are increasingly inserting themselves into the technology market with the purpose of not losing space to new technological solutions, as was the case of Bradesco with Next, Santander with Superdigital, and Iti as an initiative of Itaú, a payments and transfers app.

However, even with this scenario, some banks are still distant from the technological and modern world, as is the case of Caixa, which evidenced by the pandemic scenario, showed a certain lag in terms of access, servers, technologies and user experience.

3. Project objective

In our project, we will bring to the account holders of Caixa Economica a technological solution, focused on the user’s experience, aiming to manage their finances in a conscious way, so that they can save at least 30% of their earnings in a 3-month interval and still do what they like, especially in this troubled economic period we are going through.

4. Personas

Initially, we created two proto-personas, represented by a younger user and the other by an older user, and we put in them our hypotheses, based on our knowledge and worldview, for further validation.

However, after the validation of the research we developed, which will be presented later, we created Julia, our persona:

Profile, major activities, pains and painkillers of Julia, our persona

Pixar Story Telling

We also used the Pixar Story Telling narrative for a better understanding of our persona:

Once upon a time there was Julia, an advertising executive, who was always connected, uses digital services a lot and loves to party with her friends and her girlfriend.

Every day Julia tries to plan itineraries (outings, restaurants, trips, etc.) as much as her budget allows.

One day she realized that she needed to manage her finances better in order to reconcile her lifestyle and her future goals.

Because of this she went looking for apps and ways to help with financial management.

For this reason she found several apps, management spreadsheets, and ways to control expenses. But they required too much effort and time with manual data entry.

Finally, she found an application where she can have an automatic control of her finances, having more comfort and economy and still maintaining her lifestyle.

5. Customer Journey

Based on this persona, we created the customer journey:

Customer Journey of our Persona

Based on the customer journey, some opportunities were identified such as the possibility of offering ways to save and to clients achieve their finantial goals, presence of partners (brands, shops, restaurants etc.) in our solution, and also financial education initiatives.

6. Research
6.1. Quantitative Research

After mapping the user journey, we started thinking about the validation of our hypotheses. We put our Certainties, Suppositions and Doubts into a CSD matrix to decide what we needed to address in the research.

CSD matrix with our Certainties, Suppositions and Doubts

The quantitative research was done through a Google Forms questionnaire. We obtained 100 respondents, of which 82 were account holders of Caixa.

We sought to understand the users’ perception of the main Caixa app available, as well as their financial control habits and their knowledge and interest in personal finance, so we could design the ideal application for our future users.

Quantitative Research Results

6.2. Qualitative research

In this stage of the research we interviewed 8 account holders and tried to understand their main problems regarding the main ATM application and how they solved these difficulties. Some observations emerged, such as

  • slowness;
  • crashing;
  • lack of practicality;

Besides, we went deeper to understand how they planned and controlled their financial expenses. It was observed that despite having a good standard of living, many did not control their spending, had no knowledge about it, and did not set finantial goals.

The interviewees looked after places with discounts and opportunities to save money. When they looked for new products and services, they searched for opinions from friends and also on internet reviews.

7. Proposed Solution

Initially, we believed that our public had difficulties and lacked financial control. However, research showed us that most of them have good conditions, lacking only a better notion of spending. Based on this observation, our solution will seek to serve people who have good financial condition, but who could improve in some points such as knowledge, management and control of finances.

Based on the ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) model, we verified through research on Google, App Store, Play Store and our own research, that many users reported some kind of problem with Caixa’s applications and had a negative view of them. Some of the terms that appeared the most were “system temporarily unavailable”, “app doesn’t work”, “must improve”, “too bad” and “too unstable”.

Because of this, we came to the conclusion that it would be ideal to create a new application, independent of the main Savings Bank application.

Word cloud with App Store and Play Store ratings made on the MonkeyLearn platform

Because it is an application linked to the Caixa bank, we assumed that we would have access to some bank information of account holders, such as account balance, number of cards and spending history.

We used an impact x effort matrix to determine the solutions that generate the most impact with the least effort and that are relevant within the context of the user and our research.

Impact x Effort Matrix

Based on our analyses and solutions presented, our application will include:

  • Financial education teaching, through a blog that will bring news about the financial world and also about subjects such as emergency reserve and investments;
  • Suggestion of places that offer personalized cashback when using the application, based on the user spending history;
  • Financial tracking tab to check the user spending history for each category;
  • Personalized goal tab, with suggested savings and spending limit settings using artificial intelligence (AI); and
  • Dreams tab, which would work as an investment to encourage the achievement of personal goals, such as a trip, exchange program etc.

We believe that offering incentives such as cashback and discounts should be aligned with financial education, because this way the customer has control and knowledge about their desires and real needs, so as not to be encouraged by exaggerated consumption and the simple desire to take advantage of a promotion or stimulus to spend.

These incentives would be given through advertising partnerships between Caixa and companies from the most diverse segments, such as food, culture, pet stores etc. Through recommendations and payments with the application, both sides would benefit. Although the proximity payment technology has a considerable effort, the insertion was necessary to connect our app to the partner stores.

The artificial intelligence would use the spending previously made by the account holder, searching for his consumption pattern and understanding in which categories his greatest financial imbalance is. From this, it would offer spending goals for the account holder to reduce his/her consumption little by little, in a healthy and realistic way.

Dreams would be a form of fixed income investment with high liquidity, to bring security in planning a goal and redemption at any time. To be attractive, however, it should have a higher yield than savings.

Proposed solution of our app, represented in a Venn Diagram

8. Sketchframes and Wireframes

We put our initial ideas about what was to be developed down on paper using sketchframes — initial drawings of the application made by hand — and saw the importance of this step in terms of bringing our idea to reality.

Sketchframes with the initial hand-made drawings of the application

Later, we evolved our designs into wireframes — the skeleton of the app — and so our app began to take shape:

Wireframes with the initial application designs made in Figma

9. First version of our app

Initially, we brainstormed ideas and designed a first prototype of our app based on our initial UX contact.

Our first prototype

However, as our vision of the target audience changed due to user research, in-depth UI studies, and validation steps, we saw that a change in its layout and visual proposal was also necessary, bringing orange and black as the main colors, giving the app a more luxurious and modern look.

10. Style Guide

Due to this change in visual proposal, we have chosen black and orange as the main colors.

For the Typography we choose the Roboto Family, because it’s a modern font available naturally in lots of devices, since it’s the system font of Android.

Colors, Typography and Buttons

11. Usability Tests

Initial testing on the sketches and wireframes showed us that the main problems concerned the icons used, but that the purpose and main idea of the app was understood.

Later, we performed usability tests on our first prototype, giving users the following tasks:

  • check finances, checking how much was spent on each category;
  • create spending goals;
  • simulate a purchase at a store and check the cashback;
  • access the financial blog;

Through these tasks, we got the following feedback:

  • responsiveness and a friendly tone were lacking in some of our screens;
  • confusion about the amount of information we were providing, especially on the cashback screen;

These learnings were taken into account when building the second prototype, which provided even more detailed feedback:

  • it was difficult to read some texts due to the size of the letters;
  • some texts were too long;
  • some buttons were not as visible and clear;
  • the functionality and goals screen caused confusion, as it was not clear enough;
  • the idea of the dream-directed cashback was very well received;

It was also a great time to learn about how to conduct interviews and user validation tests, so as not to induce responses and to improve the way of communication.

12. High-Fidelity Prototype

Based on all the research and feedback above, it was possible to build the high fidelity prototype and make it navigable. You can use the high fidelity prototype here.

High Fidelity Prototype — interactive representation of our product.

13. Metrics

The performance of our application could be verified through:

  • amount saved by account holders after they started using the app, making a comparison with their past and current spending;
  • total money applied in dreams and its yield;
  • expenses and cashback generated by the use of partners;
  • satisfaction surveys to verify opportunities for improvement; and
  • App Store and Play Store ratings.

14. Opportunities

Throughout the project, we identified possible new features that could be implemented in the future:

  • user ratings and comments from partner stores;
  • cashback when paying the credit card bill;
  • investment platform;
  • light version of the application, using the colors white and blue;

Conclusion

In light of what has been presented, we believe that the solution brought is beneficial to numerous users who wish to make a healthy financial balance between present and future, and would also make Caixa enter the technological competition of banks, digital solutions, and fintechs.

We believe that Caixa has the capacity to show itself as a modern and current bank, and our application can be the gateway to this. In the future, several improvements and features can be implemented to transform the app into a digital bank or wallet, but without losing this solution and financial management characteristic that we proposed. This would require an in-depth study and a joint action from several areas of the company.

As far as points for improvement are concerned, we believe that a more in-depth research outside the internet “bubble”, with a larger number of people, would be ideal to bring other perspectives, more detailed data about how people plan and organize themselves financially, and more consolidated numbers, especially for the definition of the project’s objective.

I accepted this challenge of Personal Finance Management for being an area of interest that I have been studying, to learn about the UX world and also as a way to complement my current Production Engineering graduation at the University of Brasilia — UnB.

I see my evolution in many ways and I intend to continue walking my path in this UX universe, seeking opportunities and professional experiences.

I ask for your feedback and comments about the project and the article!

Contact: LinkedIn

This case was my first contact with the UX and UI Design area. It was published in November 2020 with my project partner Lucas. After that, I got the opportunity to work in the UX/UI team of Caixa Seguradora and got even more knowledge in the area.

Revisiting the article today in order to translate it to english, I would have make some other decisions different of the ones that made last year with the knowledge that I’ve got in the area, particularly in the Research, UI and Metrics topics.

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Antonio Augusto Furtado de Farias

Antonio Augusto Furtado de Farias

Um estudante de Engenharia de Produção na Universidade de Brasília e UX Design. Atualmente estagiário da Gerência de Experiência do Cliente na Caixa Seguradora.