SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) Lending Omni-channel Experience

Re-imagining the SME lending experience from the customer’s perspective

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SME Banking Industry, United Kingdom
Immersive 6-week Design Consulting Program & User-Validated Rapid Prototype

I lead a team of 3 designers who worked with 2 business consultants and a client team of 10 key personnel from a leading European bank hand-in-hand for 6 weeks to re-imagine their small to medium enterprise lending process. Over 6 weeks, the teams worked closely to re-imagine the lending experience from the customer’s perspective. We focused on investigating how to transform the current, rigid in-person experience to a digital omni-channel experience. The design team itself worked with existing customers and key areas of the business to rapidly envision a significantly improved customer journey that resonated with customers and catalyzed business transformation through introducing new operationally efficient processes.


Highlights of what I did:

I planned and facilitated a 2 day workshop with a 30 person stakeholder team that included representation from corporate VPs, bank business relationship managers, operations, compliance, legal & technology to to align on the objective and strategy.

Validating a level of desirability of new ideas with existing consumers in order to maximize adoption and reduce risk was one of the approaches our client bought into, so I designed and executed a plan for how to gather, analyze and incorporate on-going user feedback to the 6 week process.

The company did not have digital branding guidelines that proved successful in connecting with their customers, so I directed one of our team designers to evolve their current guidelines to a direction that was more modern and better receptive to their current audience’s tastes.

We left the team with a robust prototype and a set of tools to guide decision-making going forward. I played a large hand in advising the team on next steps beyond the program since the concept was immedately funded for development. These next steps involved a strategy for breaking down the concept into buildable pieces, how to validate & measure impact upon release.

Empowering small business owners to make decisions in the privacy of thier own homes


Identifying and addressing the problem at hand:

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• Our research indicated that there was little existing knowledge of the process for SME lending on the customer’s side and that when businesses realized they needed money, the process was an unplanned, daunting and stressful one.

• The existing process revealed to be one centered around the bank’s needs and terminology, rather than the customer’s. This made for a situation where paperwork often was not completed by customers and loan opportunities were lost.

• The underwriting processes had not been revisited for the digital realm. The existing reliance the bank had upon wet signatures for final approval was a difficult challenge to take on, and ultimately came down to clearly weighing out the risks versus the gains.

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• As part of the customer experience reinvention, we produced customer personas and design principles to use as key tools for guiding rapid decision-making in desgining a significantly improved customer journey.

• The result was a clickable prototype of the ‘happy path’ that we iterated and tested the design with 11 customers and ~30 colleagues.

• By week 6, we were able to present an omni-channel consistent experience, evolving the current lengthy process of 5-20 days to cash-in-hand experience to that of one that can take less than 10 min in some cases.

• We also completed 6 business design deep-dives to streamline the bank’s internal processes as well. The end result was a new set of business processes that reduced to 20+ steps to 6 concrete steps. This was immediately approved for funding and development upon delivery.


Multi-disciplinary Perspective

During the inital 2 day workshop, the client was exposed to benefits of a design driven approach most relevant to them. At the same time, they were able to catch us up to speed on their existing challenges.

A Shift in Language

The first phase post-workshop was to perform a deep analysis of the bank’s existing lending & operational processes. Our initial evaluation revealed a process plagued by difficult to repeat or understand expert terminology & processes. One of our primary redesign principles was to reshape the experience through customer’s eyes.

Evolving the mindset of a typically self-centered industry to see through their customers’ eyes


Visualizing the abstract to aid decision-making

Rapid Sketching and Prototyping

The extreme time constraints of the program put a lot of pressure on the design team to leverage their strengths of working in the abstract to visualize the current hypothesis. These were used in review with stakeholders and users for iteration & feedback.


Communicating value through simplistic, user-oriented language

Defining an Audience, Beliefs & Needs Along the Way

Over and over throughout the 6 weeks, we presented our current state of the experience to small business owners who had recently went through the SME lending process in the past 6 months and mapped their best & worst parts of the experience to build a baseline.

Incorporating Education as a Key Part of the Customer Experience

A major shift in functionality for the digital SME lending experience was that it would also serve as a tool to educate small business owners in the research stages and educate them on the process in advance.


The final result

After an intense 6 weeks working closely with both the client and it’s customers, we presented the executive team with a robust clickable prototype of the experience that encompased an synopsis of the core attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of their current customer, as well as a streamlined and consistent omni-channel experince for web, mobile and in-person with evolved branding. The concept was immediately approved for funding for development and is currently in production.

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Immersive 6-week Design Consulting Program & User-Validated Rapid Prototype