ChatGPT in banking could fuel new types of products, more personalized and more connected to users, so this case study explores an actual experience with AI-powered conversational banking design. Visionaries from BELLA and technical masterminds from LivePerson approached UXDA with a mission to infuse love and empathy into finance through a conversational banking app.

Post by financial UX experts of the UXDA: Alex Kreger, Linda Zaikovska-Daukste, Andra Gindra, Santa Paegle

As the world becomes increasingly accustomed to interacting with AI-powered interfaces and chatbots, the bar for usability in products has been raised. The team at LivePerson, in collaboration with the creators of Buddybank, dared to become the pioneers of conversational banking and wanted to make their product feel revolutionary in order to truly stand out. They sought out a UX partner who was bold enough to help them create and execute a design vision for the innovative conversational banking service, BELLA.

BELLA’s founders aimed to design their app as the heart and soul of their brand, to fulfill their mission and bring a breath of fresh air to the industry. Given that the banking industry eschews emotions, seeing them as noise that gets in the way of settlements, the BELLA team challenged that legacy. They set out to bridge the emotional gap and break down the barriers of traditional user experience models by treating users like family members.

In 2020, they challenged the UXDA team to create a never-before-seen banking interface that seamlessly connects the ChatGPT-like interaction and full-range retail banking services. After the initial research, we understood that this was one of the first attempts to create full-featured, AI-powered conversational banking.

There were no ready-made banking solutions or proven products in this category on the market. We had to come up with functionality from scratch, while achieving the natural feeling of communicating with a real person who will offer an instant banking service and help solve problems even beyond it.

Mobile banking apps are typically built upon a series of menus and buttons, but the BELLA team required something entirely different: full-range banking services through a conversational interface ─ something similar to the ChatGPT experience available today. But, unlike the usual chat services, they did not want messaging clouds, standard navigation or other familiar elements; they wanted something fundamentally different.

With the UXDA human-centered design approach, we have focused on understanding the psychology of digital conversations and the ways in which people use it to exchange ideas and information. The research helped to find a way for designing the banking app’s interface so users can interact with it more naturally and intuitively.

Creating an unconventional ChatGPT-like conversational interface required a thorough understanding of the psychological patterns of conversations and how, why and when people use them in the digital environment to achieve their goals. Conversations in digital services eliminate the manual work of searching for answers by tapping through interfaces, because often users are not aware if the answer even exists within the service.

Our approach began with ideating and testing three solutions for the conversational interactions: text-to-text, voice input and a hybrid approach.

The text-to-text conversation concept involved using a single screen with an open keyboard for users to type their thoughts and receive text-based responses. This approach of using text-to-text alone had the potential to be minimalistic and simple, but it also presented several challenges, including high cognitive load, difficulty creating emotional connections and lack of discoverability for first-time users.

We also discussed using speech-to-text technology for voice input, as voice assistants have become increasingly popular. Users expressed interest in this feature. However, that alone would not be viable for use in public or professional settings.

Ultimately, the hybrid approach, which combined text and voice input, simple navigation and visual elements, proved to be the most successful. It allowed for the creation of emotional connections, increased discoverability, minimized cognitive load and ensured usability in a variety of settings.

Artificial intelligence in the service remembers and recognizes users as they are interacting with the app. It gets to know them over time as a friend and is therefore able to provide smart clues to the most frequent or recent searches, or prepare personalized answers.

By harnessing AI technology to understand user intent and provide personalized, contextual responses, the BELLA app set out to create a deeper emotional connection with banking users. Our client’s main priority was to treat all customers as human beings, regardless of their wealth status.

This philosophy is reflected in the service design DNA, which aimed to reduce the stress, fear and frustration that often accompany dealing with finances. The BELLA team wanted their app to become a seamless and enjoyable part of users’ daily lifestyles.

To create this experience, we integrated conversational aspects across many product features, like transactions, finance and card management, investing and concierge service. As a result, we got a conversational interface similar to ChatGPT but completely focused on full-range banking services. Let’s look at it in more detail.

BELLA’s dashboard is designed to provide a 360-degree view of users’ finances. The inspiration for this feature comes from traveling. When taking 360-degree photos, you can get a full immersive viewpoint from all angles of the places where you have been. Similarly, this dashboard offers users a comprehensive overview of their finances with just a simple swipe.

The main screen displays contextual information and notifications, while swiping left allows users to access pinned conversations with their personal banking concierge as well as summaries of all the previous conversation topics. Swiping right provides a more traditional banking experience, allowing users to view their accounts.

BELLA transforms the traditional banking experience by introducing customers to a financial and lifestyle AI-powered concierge. A ChatGPT-like banking concierge guides them through their banking needs, while providing an intuitive and user-friendly way to access and explore banking services through a mobile app.

In cases in which users need more complex guidance or elaborate information, they get automatically shifted from the AI chat service to a conversation with a real person from customer service who is ready to offer help in a matter of seconds.

Users can easily initiate banking transactions through the ChatGPT or Siri-like request by simply saying or typing in the needed action, for example, “send $200 to my mom.” The app processes the request, confirms with the user and executes it.

In the case whereby a user for some reason doesn’t initiate action through the conversation, the app offers two other options:

1) to input keywords like “pay,” “payments” or “transfer,” and a payment form will appear, or

2) to receive a subtle tip that informs users how to use full sentences to initiate a payment.

To enhance the user experience, a predefined statement is launched when a keyword is triggered, allowing users to learn the sentence pattern for future use.

The financial service also provides innovative conversational ways for users to save, invest, donate and perform other financial actions, such as automatically donating a portion of their travel expenses to green funds or purchasing a fraction of a company’s stock every time they make a purchase at a specific retailer like Starbucks.

Users can conveniently manage their cards through the app. They can block or report a lost card, change their PIN or turn on contactless payments.

Conversational AI allows the app to anticipate users’ needs before they have expressed them, for example, if the user tells the app through the conversational interface “I’ve lost my card!” The app will guide them through the process of identifying which card is missing and provide all the necessary information for the next steps, including the option to order a new card.

The app allows users to create savings accounts through ChatGPT-like natural language interactions.

Users can choose a specific savings goal, personalize the account with a picture and set the desired target amount. Additionally, users can easily add funds to the account through the conversational interface.

In addition to traditional saving methods, the app offers unconventional ways for users to move money, such as automatically sending money to a savings account when certain events are triggered, like when the NY Knicks win a game.

The app provides users with the ability to make investments directly from the dialog box in the chat.

Users can easily initiate and track investments without the need to switch between multiple applications. This seamless experience allows users to make informed decisions and manage their investments in real time.

The Safebox feature in BELLA is like a typical safe in banks but only for digital assets. It allows users to store personal photos, documents, access cards and other sensitive information in a secure and encrypted manner.

As people increasingly use smartphones to store important information, there is a growing need for added security measures. To address this, BELLA implemented a digital safe within the app with advanced security measures. This allows users to easily access and locate their digital assets through the app’s conversational interface.

The items stored in the Safebox can be linked to a specific transaction, such as a warranty check for electronics or a purchase that may be returned. This allows for easy access and relevance when needed.

In marketing execution, the BELLA team decided to go their own unique way. They decided to abandon the traditional banking marketing approach and focus on community development. They sent the entire advertising budget to users in the form of random cashbacks.

Also, by encouraging the users to create a Karma account, the banking app aimed to foster random acts of kindness among its community. Users can transfer money to this account, which will then be used to randomly pay for other customer purchases.

Although anonymous, customers can see each other’s first name in their feed, creating an emotional connection between the anonymous donor and the recipient, as well as with the BELLA brand. This encourages recipients to continue their acts of kindness, fostering a positive and supportive community.

When designing the user experience for this AI-powered financial product, our goal was to evoke feelings of futurism, curiosity and innovation. We wanted to create an emotional and philosophy-driven design that exudes sophistication and balance.

To achieve a unique result, we drew inspiration from BELLA’s visionaries. They sought to infuse the product with the colors of a Los Angeles sunrise, the ambience of Florence’s Duomo Cathedral and even the peacefulness of Japanese Zen gardens. By drawing inspiration from outside the banking world, together we were able to bring fresh perspectives to the digital product and create a truly unique user experience.

The visual design features a combination of magnificent colors and gradients, enriched with abstract movement energy. We also used typeface sizes and hierarchy to provide a sense of order and unexpected elements to surprise users.

At the center of the design is a metaphorically-shaped heart representing the emotions and love associated with the brand philosophy. This abstract heart is brought to life and serves as an AI manifestation that guides users throughout the app.

BELLA demonstrates the potential for using conversational banking ChatGPT-like AI and machine learning solutions to provide new types of banking enriched with personalized, contextual responses that establish an emotional bond with users.

We tried to dive deeper into digital human behavior to find a new edge for the banking experience. This required courage and an innovative approach to combine cutting-edge technology with a design rooted in beauty, love and empathy.

This case study illustrates an example of how disruptive AI technologies, such as ChatGPT, could be integrated into the banking experience with the help of customer-centered UX design. By treating customers as human beings and reducing the stress and frustration often associated with dealing with finances, the BELLA mobile app searched for a way to establish a true friendship between customers and their financial institution, opening new possibilities for the banking industry.

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