Making Money Valuable


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The role of ethics in financial service design.
Investigation as part of the Personal Finance Lab at ustwo.

Presented at UX Camp London March 2014.

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Making Money Valuable

  1. 1. MAKING MONEY VALUABLE Ayesha & Paz @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable
  2. 2. HEY! We’re Ayesha & Paz. We’re Interaction Designers at a place called We make digital stuff for banks and Financial Services as user-centred designers. It can get weird.
  3. 3. 1. Usual design dilemma of user vs. stakeholder needs 2. Banks and people need each other for different reasons 3. Needs imbalance can negatively impact people’s wellbeing THE BASICS @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable 1. We are human-centered designers who start with end user needs, contexts and perspectives. We get to make stuff for FS providers and banks and it can get confusing trying to make the 'right' decision. (e.g. is it unethical to make it easier for people to get into debt through the convenience of a smartphone?) 2. Why? Underneath the usual user/stakeholder clash, there’s the deeper reality that banks don't need people the way people need banks. Beyond finding more “humanizing” banking services, that imbalance creates a vulnerability. 3. And it’s not just about feeling vulnerable or a lack of trust. There's a real power dynamic that can impact the financial well- being of customers and their communities. And it’s disproportionate: customers’ well-being will suffer first, as we saw in 2008.
  4. 4. THE QUESTION Can people’s banking needs be met ethically? @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable 4. So we're interested if and how user needs for banking can be met ethically... and what this implies for financial services and our role as designers.
  5. 5. AND THEN IT ALL UNRAVELS... @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Lokacid (Flickr) Of course it’s not an easy question. What does ethical banking mean? Are ethical and moral the same thing? Who decides? What does that mean for financial services in general? What does it mean for us as designers? As consumers? As citizens? Who’s responsible? What do we really need banks for? What is money for? What am I doing down this rabbit hole?
  6. 6. PROBLEM WITH A SOLUTION PREDICAMENT WE FIGURE OUT WAYS TO LIVE WITH @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Lokacid (Flickr) So this isn’t the usual design problem - as you can imagine it’s more of a “wicked problem” with no definitive solution. We won’t share all the madness of the rabbit hole. And of course we don’t have a solution. But we can share some pieces of the map that got us out of the rabbit hole.
  7. 7. U WOT? 1. Ethics, morals and value 2. Design landscape 3. Rules of thumb 4. Now what? @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable This is roughly what we’ve mapped to date.
  8. 8. “ETHICAL” PRODUCTS @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Telegraph Today consumer banking is more about products than long-term relationships. The appeal of an "ethical product" is to your moral sense, your desire to "do good." You're not just another consumer, you're special - you can choose to support X cause but not Y. Merlin Mann: “If you want to really help people, then go out and help people. It’s like when people say, “Buy this pink yogurt, and a portion of the proceeds will go to charity!” Well, you know what’s really great? Donating directly to a good cause and having the entire portion go to charity—and you don’t have to act like you’re Gandhi because you bought a snack. Just go spend some money on something you care about, then shut up about it: that’s a dignified way to be an adult who helps people.” 
  9. 9. CONSUMER SCEPTICISM @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: tamaki (Flickr) When I'm a consumer I’m in price comparison mode. My right as a consumer is to competitive prices - so I'm skeptical about paying more for something that's supposed to be unquestionably "good."
  10. 10. HYPOCRISY @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Clay Bennett And anyway, I know it's just a matter of when profit meets the limit of your 'ethical' motive as a business. What’s meant to be generous just feels self-serving.
  11. 11. VALUE ≠ VALUE @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable  Values that sound universal are suspect. What 'green' means to a paper towel manufacturer is not the same as to me. Or to the next customer. Assigning a value to your values. How do you quantify your values? Decision-making when comparing costs in the market is not the same as ethical decision - mixing them is stressful.
  12. 12. RESPONSIBILITY @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Responsibility placed on my consumer choice rather than on service provider simply behaving in a responsible manner. The strain of making the “right” choice with the right outcome is a cognitive luxury when everyone’s competing for your attention.
  13. 13. ETHICS ≠ MORALS @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Spyderella (Flickr) It takes us into murky territory about what's moral vs what's ethical. Morals are individual beliefs. When shared or imposed, they may become law - that's when they contribute to an ethical framework. An ethical framework is more about behaviour than belief.
  14. 14. @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Damon Sacks (Flickr) Ethics are social - they’re behaviours that guide how we live with one another. They may be about a certain idea of togetherness and common well-being. They help curb individual behaviours that threaten this. Doctors, lawyers, and police follow such frameworks, for example.
  15. 15. @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Passive Aggressive Notes I may or may not hold a strong personal belief about wiping the counter when I'm done using the common kitchen, but social custom says I do it. So I do it to avoid shame or simply to fit in. Ethical behaviour is bigger than the individual, it governs outcomes that impact the whole.
  16. 16. HOMO ECONOMICUS @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Of course ethics and morals can blur into each other. Our ethical frameworks have moral underpinnings and assumptions. Defaulting on a debt is morally not considered quite right. The moral burden is on the debtor rather than the creditor. In consumer banking, the debtor is also a consumer. A consumer is an individual rather than part of a community. So they are sold a service as rational economic beings seeking to maximize their potential. As moral beings they want to respect the contract they’ve signed.
  17. 17. @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: thefost (Flickr) While morally in agreement, the creditor and debtor have a mismatched power relationship when it comes to consumer banking. They don't need each other the same way. In a fallout, the debtor will bear the brunt of the risk. The ethics of that impact fall outside the framework agreed in the contract. Starting from a user's perspective gives us a different ethical framework, focussed on minimizing harm and vulnerability. 
  18. 18. SOCIAL ONION @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: shareski (flickr) So if we’re more than just consumers when it comes to social well-being, let's look at the whole damned onion.
  19. 19. ME ME AND OTHERS OTHERS AND OTHERS System Self Community @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable We're starting from the needs at the centre. Individual well-being is related to all parts of this. In the middle we have someone who needs to care for themselves and others around them. Money helps them do this. They use services to transact, foresee and safekeep money to that end. Banks do this, and more, for them. Money as guaranteed by a bank offers access to commercial goods and services, but also access to services as a credible member of society. The further you get away from the centre, the less the needs of the system and the individual have in common.
  20. 20. @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable *Ethics* are more about integrity than consistency - maintaing well-being is the end goal and that can happen many ways: maintaining the status quo, or adapting and changing. e.g. No one should be homeless. How can we work with a situation where someone may default? *Morals* on the other hand are more about consistency than integrity - applying the same belief or law consistently to multiple situations. It makes for more predictable outcomes. e.g. It is wrong to not repay a debt. How can we implement this consistently to make sure we minimise risk? Ethical frameworks are generally about minimizing harm caused by the individual to the whole. Which means they also safeguard well-being. So what is needed to design from those needs?
  21. 21. Find the deepest need, see what's already meeting it and where See how user behaviours actually line up with those needs See what behaviours can be encouraged/ minimised to meet those needs See how those needs can be safeguarded by a service or existing social structure – let them generate the service INSIDE OUT @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Designing from inside out (user side) - Find the deepest need, see what's already meeting it (I need to save money - what’s the underlying need? Autonomy? Supporting family? How else is that need supported?) - See how user behaviours actually line up with those needs (Where we’d like to be financially doesn’t always line up with what we actually do. How so?) - See what behaviours can be encouraged/minimised to meet those needs (What ways can we help you live out the deepest need? What behaviour scan we help?) - See how those needs can be safeguarded by a service or existing social structure - let them generate the service (may be P2P, small business rather than super-scalable startup, other existing services, etc.)
  22. 22. Define harm and impact areas so you know what to avoid/minimise Service providers are human. Skin in the game = disincentive to behaving unethically Being ethical doesn't scale if ROI is measured in the same unit as investment Services need to be designed with cognitive limits in mind OUTSIDE IN @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz / Designing from outside in (service side) - Along with adding benefit needs to be minimising harm. Harm need to defined so we know what to avoid/minimise. This means defining core values and what’s “enough” in terms of growth and outcome. - Service providers are human. If they have no skin in the game, there's no disincentive to behaving unethically. (Taleb offers an example of negative bonuses - so there’s not just an incentive to acting well but a disincentive to acting poorly. Greed is harder to act on when the structure reminds you of common well-being) - Being ethical doesn't scale if ROI is measured in the same unit as investment. (Having integrity or core values can hard to implement on a large scale. It’s less predictable. Unless you have a multiple bottom line) - Engaging with services needs to be designed with cognitive limits in mind. (example: compound interest not easily calculable, need better ways to communicate concept like APR)
  23. 23. 5 RULES OF THUMB @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: Rather than moral principles, these boil down into general rules of thumb that can apply to whichever perspective you're starting  from.
  24. 24. FIRST DO NO HARM Hippocratic Oath: Rules of thumb: 1 @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Before you do good, first do no harm (Hippocratic Oath) This is just as important, if not more important, than adding more good. If you can not hurt anyone too badly, you're doing pretty well. So you have to know what harm looks like and let it set a limit for you.
  25. 25. MAKE IT HUMAN SCALE Rules of thumb: 2 @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable Image: matt.simpson (Flickr) The long going Internet meme of the 86-year-old who decides to communicate with her bank the same way it communicated with her is a great example. She makes them sounds utterly absurd - because they are. It goes like this: I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. It goes on … My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. […] Please find attached an Contact Application which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. If you flip your service around like that and the result is absurd, it’s a good indicator that you can't have a simple conversation with a customer - system scale has taken over form human scale.
  26. 26. GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE Rules of thumb: 3 Ask why, then ask why again. We may get a brief with a simple user task like "I want to check my balance." But we can ask: why do they want to check their balance? What does it help them know? What else can help them know that? What does knowing that help them fulfill? Is that the best way to fulfil that? If we can get to underlying desires and anxieties, we might end up with very different solutions.
  27. 27. DESIGN FOR HUMAN LIMITS Rules of thumb: 4 @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz / Image: hajagosb (Flickr) Our systems often tell us one thing while we're asked to do another. We're asked to be financially responsible while being encouraged to spend more. Given that less than 10% of our behaviour is conscious, most of what we do is social or systemic. People under financial strain are cognitively taxed, causing them to make decisions that put them in an even worse position. Systems that embrace human limits, like considering the difficulty of calculating interest over time, are compassionate.
  28. 28. BUILD IN SKIN IN THE GAME Rules of thumb: 5 @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz / We know people are more likely to act and help someone they see in distress in front of them, than donate to a campaign that does the same thing. We're wired like that. There needs to be a shared sense of gains and losses to address the imbalance as services scale up - so they don't cater to their interests at the expense of those they’re supposed to serve.
  29. 29. Before you do good, first do no harm. Make it human scale. Ask “why?”, again and again. Design for human limits. If you want to play the game you must have skin in the game. RULES OF THUMB @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable The problem? None of this translates very well into 'ethical products' as we know them. Encouraging someone to spend less or work with what they have may be the more ethical choice, but it's not very sexy. It's not aspirational. It won't sell pink yogurt. It won't sell anything at the scale banks are used to. It’s not limitless growth, but growth based on defining limits and deciding what’s enough for what’s required.
  30. 30. Credit Unions Ethical Bank accounts Alternative Currencies Personal Finance tools Peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding Social Wealth Maybe banks and big finance aren't what we should be bothering with. Instead it may make for some pretty damn interesting services that fill out this part of the circle. - Personal finance solutions, helping people manage their money better in more innovative and intuitive ways. - Peer to peer lending like Sopa, and crowd funding getting money from people who have a surplus to people and businesses that need it, while distributing (and therefore minimising) the risk among everyone pretty much evenly. - Alternative currencies. Our monetary system relies on debt, for every pound in the economy someone has to be one pound in debt. What happens if we start creating or using alternative currencies? - Maybe it ends up being not at all about money. When we share wealth, or a couch, without monetary compensation, interesting things happen. (Couchsurfing is an example) - Credit Unions work exactly like a bank, except they serve the local community and are run by and for the benefit of their members and not external shareholders. Nationwide, a building society, uses the slogan “You need a bank account, you don’t need a bank” and that’s very true. Switching services is a perspective shift too. We've both been trying out P2P stuff and went to the LCCU. We chatted with someone at the CU thinking we'd have all arts of slick solutions - but it seemed the first thing to do was simply join up. Be a part of it and see how that works. And that's the question we have.
  31. 31. NOW WHAT? We can't just tell people how to behave, we're human too - consumers and FS users. So to understand alternatives we have to try them. Where do you think this fits with your role as designers? How can any of this be integrated in what you do? Or Do we as designers just step up and make other choices, push for reform etc.? Is there a role for design, do you think?
  32. 32. “ No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it THANKS Your turn! —Albert Einstein @ayeshamoarif / @jazzpazz /Making Money Valueable