Is Design Thinking The Future Of Financial Services Innovation? 


  • Sebastian Beebee
  • Published: 23 May 2019

“Design thinking is not just a tool to help our customers, it’s important to help build a better company culture,” stated guest panelist Rachel Carpenter, Global Head of Insights and Design Strategy at Citibank. On Tuesday, May 7, Capco Digital hosted a design thinking panel event at our New York offices to discuss the extensive and highly effective uses for design thinking and how to apply it in today’s organizations. 

Our panel included four industry experts: 

  • Professor Anne-Laure Fayard, a design thinking expert from New York University 
  • Rachel Carpenter, Global Head of Insights and Design Strategy at Citibank
  • Karen Pascoe, Senior Vice President of User Experience at Mastercard 
  • Lawrence J. Lipkin, Head of User Experience Design, Treasury Services, CIB, JP Morgan.

After a brief introduction from New York Digital partner Matt Singleton, Anne-Laure kicked off the discussion by sharing how “design thinking isn’t new; it’s always been around.” She explained that the term ‘design thinking’ is said to have been coined by IDEO in 2005 to help describe the shift from a product focus to a service focus, emphasizing the need for companies to create meaningful and sustainable design.

So how does it work? The design thinking process starts with identifying design challenges. As Anne-Laure explained: “what people say, think and do are not the same.” Indeed, the ‘Double Diamond’ design thinking approach highlights the need to diverge and converge to formulate a clear view of users and their goals and pain points. Only then can we start to ask the right questions that narrow our research and identify the real problem – and opportunity.

Anne-Laure then demonstrated the difference in a design thinker’s mindset to other problem solvers. The decision attitude says, “there’s a problem so there will be an answer,” but the design thinker asks, “is that really the problem?” The panel agreed with the idea that people need to implement this type of creative mindset in financial services to foster successful innovation. We can ask our clients to think differently, but the first step, our experts agreed, is to make sure our own culture promotes a design thinking mindset.   

The evening’s Q&A outlined our panelists’ key design thinking implementation elements. “What organizational challenges do you see when it comes to using design thinking in your organization?” Capco’s Head of Design, Digital, Meghan Byrnes-Borderan posed. Lipkin stressed the importance of administering a design thinking culture from the top, “leadership needs to drive it.” Carpenter added, “yes, executives must be challengeable, you can’t be afraid of execs.” One key component of that culture is allowing your people to take risks. “If you fear them, you won’t take risks, and you won’t innovate. As Pasco confirmed, “execs shouldn’t be afraid to communicate failure, that encourages people to take risks.”

Carpenter continued to emphasize the risk-taking theme. When questioned about the challenge’s organizations face when striving for creative innovation, Carpenter said, “we need to encourage failure fast and most importantly, to apply what we’ve learned, quickly.” According to Pascoe, Mastercard encourages its people to work with entirely new customers and work on innovating RFPs to help drive innovation.

Our panelists were then asked to give their thoughts on future uses for design thinking to help solve financial services industry problems. “It’s all about fun, getting our clients excited when they come in for a workshop,” Lipkin responded. He went on to explain that by having a design thinking culture, we can encourage colleagues to feel human at work, play and have fun. This will help drive the best young talent into financial services. Carpenter agreed that encouraging a better culture through the design thinking mindset will effectively promote colleague collaboration and inclusivity, which ultimately drives innovation.

In conclusion, there was a clear sense that design thinking doesn’t have to be solely focused on our clients but can be focused around ourselves. The design thinking mindset is something that all companies can adopt, helping make them a better place to work and create, as well as helping our clients innovate.