Tim Steele Published: 08 February 2019

Expert practitioners shared their insights on how design thinking can “reframe the conversation” to transform financial services for the benefit of employees and clients alike. Design thinkingadvocates a solutions-based approach to solving problems, with a particular focus on simplicity, empathy and the user experience. Experimentation, observation and visualization are also central to the application of design thinking, as is the cross-pollination of ideas across different industries and disciplines.

During a panel session held at Capco’s London offices on Tuesday 5 February, Mike Ethelston, Managing Partner, UK at Capco, highlighted three key dimensions of design thinking. “First, the philosophical element, which involves putting people at the center of design,” he said. “Second, the approach and methodology, which deliver a return on investment around design. And last is behavioral change – bringing organizations together to collaborate and co-create.”

The panel session was prefaced by a presentation from Professor Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Chair of Design, The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, a long-standing and feted advocate of design thinking. He opened his remarks by flagging the achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss and British inventor James Dyson - all pioneers who revolutionized their industries by applying design thinking that prioritized the needs and desires of the end-user.

Myerson was clear on the foundations for the successful application of design thinking: “Show empathy with the human experience. Look and learn about your customers’ needs. Use visual techniques to gather user insight. Demo or die – prototype early, fast and often. Adopt a participatory mindset, not an expert one.”

It is at the intersection of the feasible, the desirable and the viable that innovation occurs, he added. Discover, define, develop and deliver – these are the distinct stages that map the arc of design thinking. “Don’t trust the model - instead, define your own,” Myerson said. “Embrace ambiguity and tolerate failures.”

Capco principal consultant and panelist Amir Dotan, whose whitepaper on empathy and co-creation noted that innovation cannot just be viewed as a technology issue, said: “A human-centric approach to innovation is key to defining solutions that address employees’ and clients’ pain points effectively.”

Dotan’s fellow panelists included Ann Callison, Managing Director and Global Head of Strategic Initiatives for Operations; Kevin Lee, Executive Director & VP, Head of Design EMEA at Visa; and Google and Microsoft alumnus Dan Makoski, now Chief Design Officer at Lloyds Banking Group.

Topics touched on by the panel included the benefits of pushing teams beyond their comfort zones to encourage ideation and innovation; the limits of technology, and how “engineering can only take you so far”; and the key role visualization techniques such as the use images and diagrams play in unlocking complex concepts. The measurable performance benefits of investing in design was also covered, as was balancing the perceived risks associated with divergent thinking against the very real risks posed to institutions by apathy and inaction.

The importance of promoting open and inclusive discussion around innovation to allow fresh voices to be heard was also highlighted. In the words of one panelist: “You never know where the spark of creativity, or courage, will come from.”

Speaking after the event, Capco partner and panel moderator Kim Sgarlata said: “Design thinking offers investment banks and other financial services organizations the opportunity to step back and identify new perspectives that reframe how they conceive, engineer and deliver solutions and services to their clients.”

The Capco Institute delivers thinking to advance the field of applied finance. Learn more about it here.