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
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.
- Guerrilla Research: We started our research by talking to people on the streets of Downtown Toronto. We kept these conversations casual to find general reasons why millennials weren't buying insurance. After having casual conversations with 20+ millennials, we found common reasons as to why most of them didn't purchase insurance, such as the expensive monthly payments, lack of trust in insurance companies, and believing they won't die anytime soon.
- Structured Interviews: To dig deeper into these initial findings, we conducted more formal interviews with eight millennials to understand some of the root causes of these problems. We found that millennials didn't trust insurance companies due to stories in the media about people not getting their payout. We also learned that they are much less likely to buy life insurance if they didn't have anyone that depended on them financially.
- Survey: Since we had only spoken to a few people, we wanted to confirm that our findings resonated with the broader population of millennials. For this reason, we created a short survey that we shared on Facebook and LinkedIn to validate our initial hypotheses.
With all this newfound knowledge in our heads, my teammates and I had many different ideas that could potentially solve the challenge.
Our team collectively brainstormed around 20+ ideas that included games, health & fitness apps, new premium payment models, and more.
We eliminated over half these ideas based on technical feasibility, regulatory barriers, and what we could implement in 16 weeks.
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.
- UI Design: After deciding on the solution, I designed the UI for the app on Sketch.
- Animation: Part of our solution included animations that were a crucial part of the core experience. I illustrated and created animations from scratch using a combination of Sketch, After Effects, and Lottie.
- User Testing: We kept continuously testing our solution and refining it.
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.
- Fully Developed: Our two talented developers were able to complete the development of our MVP two weeks before the final pitch.
- Practice, practice, practice: We spent a significant amount of time creating and practicing our pitch. To improve, we ran multiple dry runs with different RBC employees to get feedback before our final pitch.
- Best Overall Solution: On pitch day, we pitched Baby Pocket to a room of 200+ RBC employees, and we were awarded the "Best Overall Solution" prize out of 18 international teams of interns based in Toronto, LA, London, and New Jersey and a grand prize of $25,000.
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:
- Front-End Development: Leading the design and development of the X1 Lab website that was used to raise awareness about our team internally within the bank.
- UX Design: Designing and testing a new tool for Wealth Management advisors with another UX Designer and two UX Researchers.
- Workshops: Helping facilitate design thinking workshops to different teams at RBC.
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.
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.
Combining user research and data analytics to redesign the phone purchasing experienceRead story →