Differentiating Digital Experiences – Part 1

March 08, 2023
Jim Tessmer, BBH’s Head of Digital Product Strategy, sits down with Dave Cowing of NovusNorth to discuss how BBH considers building digital experiences for clients.

In this first part of a 2-part episode, Jim Tessmer, Head of Digital Product Strategy at BBH sat down with Dave Cowing of NovusNorth to discuss how to create a compelling experience through digital platforms. In this conversation, Jim explains how BBH utilizes digital experience to showcase product value, while also ensuring the user experience is engaging, interactive and immersive.

In this article, we summarize the conversation between Jim and Dave. Please enjoy the video for the full conversation.

Dave: How do you use UX to differentiate in an institutional business that’s very transactional and data driven?

Jim: It’s certainly very different than a retail type of experience to be designing for. We really think about it from two perspectives, and two very different user personas.

The first one being that of a decision maker where our goal is to really differentiate Brown Brothers Harriman’s products, services, and technology. These personas at the end of the day may not actually be the ones who are using and engaging with our user experience. But we utilize the digital experience to showcase product value propositions in real time, highly interactive, and engaging demonstrations. It's really immersive and enhances all the technology and operations that underlie and make up our product offerings. So here, we leverage the user experience to differentiate our core services to executives who are making decisions about hiring Brown Brothers as their service provider.

We utilize the digital experience to showcase product value propositions

The second persona is really sort of our core one, and it's what I describe or think about as an operational manager/processor. And as you as you mentioned, when we started, Brown Brothers provides outsource services and value-added services to the bigger ecosphere of the asset management industry and operations. Those services range from critical daily time dependent processes like transaction processing, and record keeping, to other types of events like tax processing and board reporting. But in general, these processes are real time, they’re global, and they produce massive amounts of data. Key to this persona, is the ability to surface what's really important right now, dive into the detail, and remediate and resolve any types of exceptions or anomalies. So, while the objective of our industry is certainly system to system integration, straight through processing, and automation, there's a real sweet spot for the user experience that's well tuned for that role. And we've guided our UX strategy around three key themes: actionable insights, operational transparency, and data centricity.

Dave: Can you drill into these themes and how they’ve impacted your strategy

Jim: Let’s start with actionable insights, which is driven by looking at the full user journey with data and connecting the detection of an anomaly or risks with the tool that the user needs to remediate it. So, connecting discrete data and applications into a more seamless user journey. Examples we have in our industry and services include trade fails, or overdraft forecasts, where we have plenty of data to serve surface to our users, anomalies that they should address. But we also have other tools with which gives them the opportunity to then take an action, then resolve that issue that we have surfaced. And so, we look to connect the insight with the action and deliver to our clients a connected and executable, comprehensive journey. A great analogy that I always think of is my car alerts me when I'm low on fuel. So, there's my insight, I need gas. But it also activates my navigation system and locates for me nearby gas stations. And so, there's the fuel system connecting to the navigational system, to not only give me an insight, but then give me the ability to act on it by telling me how to get to the closest gas station. It connects discrete systems and discrete pieces of information to put together a holistic user journey. That's how we think about actionable insights.

We look to connect the insight with the action

The second theme is operational transparency. As I mentioned, Brown Brothers plays a role in a broader Asset Management ecosphere. And in that ecosphere, for example, one of our services is daily net asset value calculation for various types of global fund products. Here in the U.S., you can think about mutual funds and net asset values that we all see in the newspaper or on various websites where we go to look at our retirement portfolios. It's a time critical process. It has hard deadlines for those net asset values to be calculated and distributed into market facing channels. Early in the pandemic, our clients were really anxious about our ability to complete that daily nav processing and hit those deadlines. But on our portal, we have built an experience that we call nav progress, which provides real time transparency into our operational processes and the detail of all the steps and checks that need to happen in the nav calculation process, including that key last one about getting them distributed out to the market channels. So that gave our clients a lot of trust and real time insight into our ability to meet those goals.

I think of it like package tracking. When you order something, a package or a product, you get an estimated delivery date. But it's always great to look at the detailed tracking and understand and be comfortable that that package is indeed, on its way to you and not misdirected somewhere else, or not going to hit the date when you expect it. And so, we've always found it with our clients, it's much more comfortable for them when they understand when those events and those processes are happening.

I think of it like package tracking.

Another great example is client onboarding in our Transfer Agency service, where time to revenue is really important for clients, but is dependent on complex account opening processes. Again here, our digital experience is focused on the intra-company workflow and the processes around opening an account and receiving all this unique information. So, status, tasks, and information needed to complete an opening, which again, is really complex in our market and driven by unique regional regulatory requirements and very necessary Know Your Client verifications. We've also tied that experience to our actionable insights goal. We use the operational transparency, as well to allow clients to act on and collaborate with us in resolving issues with account openings. It's been a real game changer for a service that was historically supported by faxes, emails, and phone calls, and generally opaque to our clients once they submitted that original opening.

My final, and maybe one of my favorite themes is around data centricity. And David, you know, as I mentioned, that I had spent time in the roles that I now design products for. This is one area that I really empathize with, about quick and easy access to data, whether its transactions, record keeping, whatever it may be. But I always found that there was a uniqueness of the analysis that I was doing, or the client account that I was working on, where a standard canned report just never fit the need. And it was always really hard to unpack and restructure the report or the data to fit the question I was trying to answer or the analysis I was trying to complete. And so many times I've heard from my clients, just get me the data. So, we've moved from a report-centric experience to a data-centric experience. And I characterize that around a couple key terms that I like to use. The first is instantly adoptable. We really believe that ease of use in this part of our UX design is absolutely key. The bottom line for us here, as we think about this is to avoid replicating the software that’s already on our users’ desktops and the ones they use to consume and analyze this data. Instead, we want to focus on getting the right data into those tools effortlessly. The second key term is around immediate immersion to the data. As I mentioned before, our users and clients spend their days in the depths of massive amounts of transactional and record-keeping data. They feel really at home in it and when they can see the data, they quickly get comfortable and then are able to massage it into what they need. Our UX approach here is to expedite the user journey, to seeing the data and present it in an interactive experience that then users can really quickly and easily organize it to fit their needs and get it into the tool that fits them fits them best, and they’re most comfortable with.

About NovusNorth

NovusNorth is an outcome-oriented experience consultancy that designs and develops digital products and platforms for the financial services industry. Capabilities include strategy, design, technology, and product management. Building on decades of experience helping firms compete and delight their customers, they’ve created a new way of delivering digital applications that starts with metrics and embeds measurement throughout the process.

Learn more at www.novusnorth.com

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