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Centre of Excellence

Leading a respected digital bank to become one of the UK's highest-rated

We established a Human-Centered Design Centre of Excellence (HCD CoE) within a leading bank to promote the value of customer-centred design throughout the business, create design research operations, increase expertise, and place the customers at the heart of retail banking experiences.

The challenge 

  • To provide insight to underpin the optimisation and development of the bank’s digital banking app and web experience as well as touching on haptics and voice. 

  • Build an internal design centre of excellence. 

  • Thread customer-centricity throughout the organisation, to embed the voice of the customer within Product and Service teams. 

  • Upskill the organisation in design-thinking through education. 

The impact 

  • Established a self-sufficient and scalable HCD CoE.

  • Raised design maturity from across personal banking making it a day to day part of banking operations. 

  • Harnessed new technologies (wearables, chat, voice and AI) to successfully deliver projects as part of the HCD as customers look for new ways to engage. 


A leading UK Bank

Project type

Centre of excellence


satisfied customers


App Store rating

Making a commitment to the customer

With our help, the bank we worked with raised a team capable of scaling research and harnessing design thinking models to fuel digital solutions that work for every retail banking customer across personal banking. 

9 practitioners, in 10 business areas, completed 287 projects, conducting 1355 hours of research in the process, gaining insights from 11,744 customers in a qualitative setting.  

As integrated partners, we joined forces, forming a team of over 50 Designers, Researchers, Strategists and Project Managers. Together, we formalised the bank’s commitment to their customers, using strategic insight, as a north star, to:

  • Raise internal understanding of the end user.
  • Steer the immediate and future direction of experience design at the bank.
  • Set the pace for financial change within banking.

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This image shows key highlights of our engagement from customers interviewed to projects completed.

Promoting design excellence across the bank

Building a robust team requires a strong foundation. We embedded 10 of our own people into the bank’s personal banking team. This team of user research and strategy specialists led the insight operations, while supporting other agency partners and bank employees. Together, we comprised the core of the HCD CoE. 

Our driving force was always the voice of the customer, and using their insight to build better, more usable, experiences. Starting out small, initially with a team of 6, we gradually ramped up and shared our expertise, from design education across the bank to conversion rate optimisation in other digital streams.  

As such, the HCD CoE is now a fully-functioning and efficient team of multi-disciplinary practitioners whose working relationships and processes generate business value, and better outcomes for customers of the bank.

For the customers

Our work within the HCD CoE can be felt across the bank’s digital ecosystem - here are a few standout examples of what we achieved together. 

Early on, our team worked on concept testing for the mobile app, which simplified the payment experience and increased the number of self-serve users. After speaking to customers, we optimised existing, and imagined all-new features and functionality. This improved the bank’s NPS, security and propelled them toward being greener and more sustainable.  

To move away from the traditional, antiquated card reader, and provide an alternative for impaired consumers, both permanently or situationally, our team within the HCD also explored voice authentication. We performed qualitative research, and a quantitative survey to understand how customers of the bank would use voice, and where in the financial ecosystem it would be most useful. This innovation went on to help new customers sign up, providing the option to do so by using voice. Our work helped increase the completion of this process by 300%. This innovation is now also being used to verify user identities when opening the bank’s mobile app.

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Our work helped increase the effectiveness of some processes by as much as 300%

The team also assessed credit and overdraft limits, and how to notify customers if they were edging closer to theirs. Fast, remote unmoderated testing benchmark existing solutions against alternatives we devised. The alternative made these alerts clear, and ensured fewer customers would incur charges. The associated changes further reduced pressure on the bank’s customer service lines, who customers often called on to process late fees. 

We were instrumental in the bank-wide initiatives including those which helped customers start saving, as well as those which encouraged new customers to join. The former aims to help 2 million new customers start saving. To support this ambition, we validated the daily round-up feature, ensuring customers were aware of background savings and its long-term advantages. With the latter, which sets out to acquire 1 million new customers, we conducted a quantitative research piece comprising insight from over 500 UK banking consumers. We used this insight to consult on imagery and brand positioning within brochureware.

Acting in the moment: Rapid COVID-proofing 

Most recently, we reviewed the banks digital debt management pathways to relieve pressure on call centres and provide an important alternative for customers in arrears and wanting specialist support during the pandemic. 80% of research participants struggled to complete the existing journey without intervention - we helped craft alternative solutions. These findings combined with our usability and strategic recommendations improved the service which is now clearer and easier to navigate.

An award-winning design function 

We used our deep understanding of customer insight and bank strategy to educate the bank, rolling out an extensive and bespoke educational coaching and training to develop key competencies internally and support the agreed transition. In total, we trained 40 Journey Developers and improved knowledge and understanding of design thinking by up to 60% within personal banking teams. 

The bank is now self-sufficient and we’re beginning to withdraw our team having done what we set out to achieve; to develop a self-sustaining in-house design and research capability who put the bank’s customer first in the design of leading financial products and services.

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  • Activities

    Formative, explorative and summative research via in-depth interviews, diary studies and focus groups, stakeholder management and workshops, business & data analysis, value proposition development, proof of concepts, MVPs, visual design, experience strategy, design standard definition, product roadmap management, technical integration, and UAT.

  • Delivery

    Ongoing relationship of 2+ years across multiple work streams and teams within the bank.

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