UX Designer + Researcher

VISA - Millennials


The future of banks:
Given the rise of Venmo, what can banks offer millennials in terms of useful financial transaction products and services?


For this 5-week project for VISA's Design team, I was the Design Lead for a team of 3 designers, and served as client liaison and project manager.  In this role, I led research synthesis as well as product concepting and development, created the prototype, and envisioned the design presentation story.  All of the artifacts seen in this case study were created by me, with the exception of the pictures for the first two steps of the Process (the photograph, and the storyboard).

The product/service was cited by VISA's Global Head of Design for its "high business potential" and the fact that it didn't just solve the problem, but also created personal connections.  VISA's Go-To-Market team will be pursuing further development.



How can VISA help card issuers (banks) to engage with millennials?

Millennials don't seem to be very interested in credit cards, given their fear of debt and the rise of Venmo.

  • 1 in 3 millennials believes that in 5 years, they won't need a bank.
  • 1 in 3 adult millennials has a credit card (compared to 2/3 of the over-30 population).
  • Source: "There's no slowing down millennials", First Data (2015)

The stakes are high: if millennials are not using bank-issued credit cards, VISA's current business model is not viable.

  • VISA's business is processing credit and debit card transactions.
  • It does not issue its own credit or debit cards, and relies on banks to issue them.
  • If future consumers (millennials) are not using bank-issued VISA cards, then VISA's business model is not viable.


A major pain point for millennials is the sudden spike in costs after college graduation. 

If a millennial wants to move to another city after graduating from college (as many of them do), they face the challenges of being in debt from college tuition, needing a lot of money at once, but not having any credit (because of fear of taking on more debt).  Costs might include: regular living costs, a plane ticket, rent and security deposit, housewares, and supplies for a new job.  Though millennials like peer-to-peer lending, it wouldn't make sense for them to borrow from peers in this case because their peers are also facing the same problems as fellow recent college graduates.

Banks can offer unique value by facilitating financial transactions through alumni networks.

While it doesn't make sense for recent college graduates to get peer-to-peer loans from their friends, it may make more sense for them to get loans from alumni of their college.  These alumni may be more established in their careers and have some disposable income that they can lend to an up-and-comer, or someone who reminds them of themselves.  This places banks (in a bank-university partnership) in a unique position to offer a service that could really help young adult millennials by creating an opt-in service that allows loans within the alumni netwrork.  

The inherent social connections of an alumni network create built-in trust and willingness to lend.  

Scientific research has shown that people feel better about themselves when they give to others (the "Ben Franklin effect").  And so, this service is self-reinforcing.  It will be used initially because people trust their alumni networks, and the more they use it, the more they will feel good about themselves and the more connected they will feel to their alumni networks.  We have seen proof that this works from apps like Venmo, Facebook, Kiva, and Northwestern University's Catalyzer.



A product-service hybrid that meets a major need, and establishes a system with a virtuous feedback loop.

The product-service allows recent graduates to reach out to their alumni network for bridge loans to get through challenging situations, such as after they graduate from college and have a one-time surge in costs associated with moving.  In this way, the bridge loans are meeting a major need for the millennial users of the app.  In addition, the app provides multiple avenues for users to connect with other people in their alumni network that they may not already know, and through "pay it forward" lending, creates a virtuous feedback loop and strengthens the overall network.

InVision Clickable Prototype: http://bit.ly/2vwP421


Bridge loans.


Similar to Kiva Microfinance, this app allows users to request small loans that they will then have to pay off.  The user interface allows users to tell their own stories, and keeps track of how much money they have received, as well as how much they have paid off.


Financial transactions turning into personal connections.


This app allows its users to make personal and social connections in three ways:


1) Posting to Facebook.

Through Facebook, users can keep their friends up to date, and they can reach friends of friends through Facebook's share function, and potentially gain access to a new network.


2) Chatting with people you are in financial transactions with.

This app allows its users to connect with people in their alumni network who they might be funding or receiving money from, who they have not met before.


3) Finding people with common interests.

People can be connected by their shared challenges, or passion projects requiring funding.  The need for money, and the desire to help,  can be seen as a force that can bring people to together.


Meeting a business need.

Instead of banks becoming obsolete, they will be adapting to help facilitate a unique peer-to-peer network that they alone have the ability to establish through their bank-university partnerships.  There are already many colleges in the US with bank-university partnerships, and the number continues to rise.  This also suggests potential in international markets as well.  

Clean Version of Visa - presentation (slt).png
Clean Version of Visa - presentation (slt) (1).png


Repeatedly returning to the challenge, and rapid cycles of feedback and iteration.

The design process for my projects will vary from project to project, and from team to team, but one framework that resonates with me is the Double Diamond from Design Council UK.  This model captures an openness to ideas that I value, as well as a practical turn towards a focused direction that allows me to design products and services that can be most impactful.


DISCOVER: Understanding the challenge.

For this project, it was essential to understand the challenge – we were not designing for millennials, we were designing for banks to help millennials.  It became clear that we would need to identify a major pain for millennials, as well as figure out what unique value banks could offer.


DEFINE: A focus on the need for a lump sum of cash after college, even without credit, and storyboards.

We focused on reviewing the existing research on millennials' financial habits (of which there is much).  Based on that, we identified the post-college graduation need for a lump sum of cash.  We storyboarded 3 potential solutions, and got feedback from our client.  Based on that feedback, we moved forward with peer-to-peer lending.


DEVELOP: Sketching, and intra-team debates over the best approach.

After we decided on the specific challenge we would be solving for, we began sketching different possible solutions.  Two different variations on peer-to-peer lending were proposed: one of them would have involved everyone putting their money into an alumni pool, the other would be one person lending to another person.  After much debate that helped us clarify the strengths of each approach, a quick review of existing research, and client feedback, we decided to create an app that would be one person lending to another person.


DELIVER: Continuous refinement through cycles of feedback from the client and from user testing.

Once our final solution was decided upon, we continued to get rapid cycles of feedback from users and the client.  We refined the visual look of our app, and I focused on developing the story for our design presentation.  During our final presentation, we presented through the eyes of a potential user, Simon, and focused on how this solves Simon's problems, helps VISA's business, and evidence that this project can be successful.  Ultimately, our presentation was very well received by the client, VISA's Design Team. 



VISA is very excited about this product/ service, and the Go-To-Market team will be pursuing further development. 

This product/service won a competition sponsored by VISA, with the Global Head of Design at VISA citing its "high business potential", "the really compelling business case" for it, and the fact that it doesn't just solve the initial challenge (to engage with millennials) but also provides side benefits in terms of helping millennials to create personal connections through their financial transactions. You can learn more about how we presented the design by clicking through the presentation to the right.