Over the past decade, human-centered design methodologies have made their way from Silicon Valley to the financial inclusion sector. These methodologies, which are based on deep customer understanding, blue sky ideation, and rapid prototyping, have been touted as the silver bullet to address ongoing access and usage problems at the base of the pyramid, particularly with regard to digital financial services. Initial results were promising: in collaboration with leading design firms, institutions were able to develop innovative product concepts and prototypes grounded in the realities of customers’ lives.

However, these products haven’t always been as successful as expected. Many products do not ultimately gain traction with customers, and others are discontinued as institutional priorities shift. Some institutions have focused on customer needs but overlooked real operational and business constraints. Others miss the complexities surrounding customer behavior and financial decision making and inadvertently solve the wrong problem.

The need for digital, customized and responsive financial products and services is greater than ever. The economic fallout from COVID-19 has disproportionately affected those without the access, resources, or network to weather the storm. Innovative financial products can help people to recover from the crisis and restart in the new normal.

Key tenets of innovation: feasibility, desirability, and viability

Innovative digital products must balance customers’ needs with organizational capacity and should be built upon a solid business case to ensure that the product is sustainable in the long term. This trifecta of desirability, feasibility, and viability seems intuitive but is not easy to implement — institutions must navigate competing priorities, limited resources, and tradeoffs between each area. Our latest white paper explores the interplay between desirability, feasibility, and viability, and shares lessons learned from our recent experiences working with five financial services providers and fintechs in Chile and Mexico. With the support of MetLife Foundation, we are working with these institutions to design and launch behaviorally informed products that build customers’ financial capabilities and ultimately improve their financial health.

A few key takeaways from the paper:

Innovative ideas will not help customers reach their goals or recover from the pandemic if they cannot be implemented and scaled. In the long run, products that truly drive financial inclusion are those that balance desirability, feasibility, and viability. For customers, this approach translates to more intuitive financial products and services that are aligned with their behaviors and help build their financial health. For financial service providers, this approach leads to innovative products that are sustainable, use internal resources efficiently, and achieve business goals. Learn more about how we created sustainable and innovative products in Mexico and Chile by reading our paper, To succeed, innovative financial products must be desirable, feasible, and viable.

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