How it started

As an engineering student at the University of Toronto, I had the opportunity to participate in the Professional Experience Year (PEY) co-op program, which allowed us to complete a 12-month internship before my final year of undergrad. For my PEY, I joined the Royal Bank of Canada as a UX Designer for an entire year. To get the most out of it, I decided to do 4-month rotations to explore different teams across the bank.

Unfortunately, my projects are protected by a non-disclosure agreement, which means I'm not allowed to show any of my work.

Part 1: RBC Amplify

During my first four months at RBC, I joined the company's innovation program RBC Amplify. In this program, 72 students are selected to participate and are then grouped into teams of 4. Each team is assigned a business challenge from a group within the bank, such as Commercial Banking, Cybersecurity, Fraud Detection, and so on. Teams have 16 weeks to design and build an MVP to solve their assigned business challenge. At the end of these 16 weeks, each team has to pitch their solution to RBC's senior leaders and executives, including the CEO.

My team was made up of a Business Analyst, two Developers, and a UX/UI Designer (myself), and we were assigned a business problem from RBC Insurance.

The challenge: Selling insurance to millennials

Our challenge was to create a way to offer life insurance to millennials since this demographic is severely underinsured according to industry studies. Recent findings have shown that life insurance is a low priority for millennials as they prioritize day-to-day expenses, paying off debts, saving for a house, or saving for retirement. At its core, the challenge is about changing consumer behaviour and attempting to move insurance higher on people's hierarchy of needs, which is extremely difficult. The problem with insurance is that it is very counterintuitive: the younger you are, the cheaper it is to buy it. However, people only start considering insurance when they become older and less healthy, making it much more expensive.

From idea to MVP in 16 weeks

Since our project is protected by an NDA, I'm not allowed to show any designs of our solution. However, I can talk about our journey from the day we received our challenge until we pitched our solution to RBC's senior executives and won the Best Overall Solution prize.

Understanding the problem

When we first received our challenge brief, my teammates and I were slightly worried since we knew nothing about insurance. In hindsight, I think that helped us since it eliminated any bias or misconceptions we may have had about insurance and allowed us to start on a blank page. We spent the first four weeks conducting user research.

Brainstorming time!

With all this newfound knowledge in our heads, my teammates and I had many different ideas that could potentially solve the challenge.

cartoon

Divergent Thinking

Our team collectively brainstormed around 20+ ideas that included games, health & fitness apps, new premium payment models, and more.

cartoon

Convergent Thinking

We eliminated over half these ideas based on technical feasibility, regulatory barriers, and what we could implement in 16 weeks.

cartoon

Paper Prototyping

For the remaining five solutions, we created paper prototypes that we can use to get some initial feedback from potential users.

Converging to one solution

We tested our paper prototypes with six millennials and gained very constructive feedback, which helped us narrow down to 2 solutions that were significantly well-received compared to the others. We developed these two ideas further and iterated on the paper prototypes and tested them with millennials again. The first idea involved a game that educated people about insurance, and the second one was financial planning app for new parents. The first idea was praised for its engaging and fun experience but didn't encourage people to buy insurance. On the other hand, the financial planning app for parents was better received. It showed more promise because it was educational and compellingly communicated the value of insurance. We realized that explaining complex financial topics in a simple, jargon-free manner added massive value to millennials, who emphasized their need to improve their financial literacy. For this reason, we decided to move forward with the financial planning app for parents.

The selected idea was called Baby Pocket, an app that helped young parents with financial planning and educated them about insurance, retirement, investing, and any other financial topic they should know about when starting a family. Unfortunately, that's the most I can say about our solution.

Crafting the perfect pitch

Our last few weeks were spent finalizing the development of our MVP and creating a compelling 7-minute pitch that highlights the value of our solution to RBC's senior executives.

Our team with Bruce Ross (Group Head - Technology & Operations) and Ramesh Siromani (SVP Strategy & Transformation).

receiving the award

The aftermath

While designing and building our MVP for Baby Pocket, we applied for a provisional patent for one of our app's features. After our final pitch, RBC Insurance decided to continue the work on Baby Pocket to release it to customers in the future.

What I learned

Listen to users

Talking and listening are very different things. This was my first time solving a problem that I knew NOTHING about. Before this project, I knew nothing about insurance, financial planning, or parenthood. By talking and listening to so many people, I was able to understand what their problems were and design a solution that offered a lot of value to them. This reminded me of a quote from the legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:

"There’s a reason that God gave us two ears, two eyes and one mouth. It’s so you can listen and watch twice as much as you talk. Best of all, listening costs you nothing."

People like to hear stories, not presentations

When you work on a project full-time for 16 weeks, it's hard to talk about everything you did in 7 minutes. In the first iteration of our pitch, we adopted the traditional school-style presentation that was very linear and just listed out everything we had done. We realized that this failed to convey the impact of our solution that we believed was very beneficial to users. Instead, we decided to tell the story of a father who was struggling financially after his son was born. Looking back, I believe the story we told during our pitch was one of the main reasons we received the "Best Overall Solution" award.

Know your audience

Besides storytelling, knowing your audience is another crucial consideration when presenting your work. The story we told focused on the struggles of parents, which resonated deeply with RBC's senior executives and other 200+ employees in the room, many of who were parents themselves. Since we were pitching to RBC's most senior executives, we also mentioned the potential revenue that our solution would generate to show the high return on investment. Like any company, any product that you release in the market should have some positive financial gains, which you must communicate to executives or investors. Finally, we ended our pitch with a future vision of our solution and how it can be expanded further with new features and services to align it with RBC's values and long-term vision.

Part 2: X1 Lab

After spending the first four months in the RBC Amplify program, I joined the Xperience First (X1) Lab. The X1 Lab is responsible for organizing Design Thinking workshops across RBC and collaborating with product teams by offering UX Research and Design services. Think of it as an internal design agency that serves all areas of the bank. During my time at the X1 Lab, I was fortunate to contribute to multiple projects requiring different skill sets:

During one of our Design Talks

design talks workshop

Part 3: Genoa Labs

In my last four months at RBC, I joined a new team under RBC Insurance: Genoa Labs. The team was so new that we came up with the name during my third week in the role. The team's mission is to rewrite what insurance can do for Canadians by creating new products for the underserved millennial market—fun fact: the first insurance contract ever recorded originated in Genoa, Italy. To give our team an identity, I designed our logo. The "rewind" icon represented how we wanted to go back in time to rethink and reimagine how insurance can help people.

genoa labs logo

When I joined, we were only a team of 4, so we had to wear a different hat every day and work like a startup. This helped me go beyond my traditional UX Design role and learn how to test and validate ideas using lean startup methodologies, design optimal landing pages, and run ad campaigns on social media. I spent my time working on raincheque, a new job loss insurance product. I led the branding and design of the landing page and assisted the Product Manager in creating the ads on social media. In 2 weeks, our landing page received 100+ signups.

Awkward double thumbs up 🤙

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