Designing complex and data-rich experiences for Moody's Analytics Banking Cloud platform
UX Design Intern
April 2021 - August 2021
September 2018 - July 2019
For my end-of-studies internship and master thesis, I had the pleasure of working as a UX Design intern at Moody's Analytics. I was working on the Banking Technology team, in which the goal was to improve software that helps banks around the world asses the overall health of their balance sheets and generate regulatory reports. My findings were used to inform Banking Cloud platform's design and future iterations of the Credit Risk product.
Due to the sensitive nature of the work, I'm unable to fully showcase my result work publicly. If you're interested in learning more, I'm happy to talk more about the deliverables more concretely at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Within Moody's Analytics, I was based on the Technology team of Banking Cloud. Banking Cloud is essentially application that supports banking solutions for generating regulatory calculations and reports, along with helping banks around the world assess the overall health of their balance sheets.
One of these software solutions is Banking Cloud Credit Risk, which is a cloud-native calculation and reporting engine that helps make sure customers are complying with current and upcoming regulatory capital requirements. This includes the latest Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) standards and European Banking Authority (EBA) Capital Requirements Regulations (CRR). In general, the goal is to help users measure portfolio-level risk actively and more accurately in this unit of the company.
Before joining Moody's Analytics, I had virtually zero financial knowledge prior to this internship. Therefore, it was extremely important for me to learn as much as I could before I was able to design a better user experience.
I began my research with internal stakeholder interviews to understand how Banking Cloud works and their roles within the team. Internal stakeholders included people from the product team (who were directly in touch with customers) and people from the development team (such as software engineers and quality assurance engineers). Interviews consisted of open-ended questions around:
For better organization of the notes, the user research was then organized into what kind of insights there are on the user experience as a whole. To clarify, the quotes were organized into the following categories: information, insights, positive feedback, pain points, suggestions. The purpose was to clearly see which post-it notes could potentially bring valuable insights for further analysis.
Based on the organization of interviews, the next step performed on the data was using thematic analysis with the Affinity Mapping method. The purpose of this technique is to make sense of the information structure and discover themes around the points made in the data collection. For this affinity diagram, I identified the following major categories: calculation transparency, navigation & organization, comparison tool, time & technical limitations, clarity & user friendliness.
Based on the emerged topics, the initial affinity diagram was reviewed by a senior user experience designer on the Banking Cloud team. At this point, this senior user experience designer suggested that based on these groupings, there is a clear distinction between individual features offered in Credit Risk software and qualities that have an impact on these individual features. In other words, “calculation transparency” and “comparison tools” are features offered, while “time & technical limitations”, “navigation & organization” and “clarity & user friendliness” are all attributes that influence the product.
With this in mind, a design workshop was then organized with other senior UX designers to further develop the results from the initial affinity diagram. The aim of this design workshop was to achieve additional insights about the Credit Risk product offered at Moody’s Analytics from more expert perspectives, together with reframing the ideas into a different matter as suggested by the senior user experience designer’s review. Participants were asked to organize the post-it notes into the categories they felt were appropriate from the initial affinity diagram into this matrix. Any post-it notes that did not fit into the affinity diagram were put to the side into a category of “other cards”.
I have to admit that this stage of research was intimidating at first because it dealt with several financial terms and concepts that were out of my scope of knowledge, but I also found it fascinating to start from scratch. Thankfully, everyone I worked with was so supportive and helpful.
What is the best way to improve the Banking Cloud platform so that it is more approachable, even with all the technological and time restraints involved?
Although the original task of work was to improve the comparison tools feature, many insights about the Banking Cloud Credit Risk solution as a whole were found.
Overall, it was determined that there must be a balance between complexity and simplicity. With Banking Cloud Credit Risk, the nature of this product requires a high domain of expertise in credit risk analysis and several powerful tools to give users a simplified compliance process. To keep user satisfaction high, the interface must be intuitive and easy enough for a user to get acquainted with the system in a reasonable amount of time yet still be able to accomplish all the desired tasks.
Throughout the interviews, as participants discussed their work, there were several pain points mentioned especially about how much of an influence time and technical limitations have on the product. Some stakeholders commented:
Another significant thing to consider is that it is usually the IT sales department who is looking into assessing and buying the product, rather than the end-user or product team themselves. For example, an IT sales department is typically looking at a checklist of features and seeing if the product potentially fits all this criteria. However, system requirements can certainly add to the complexity of a system. There should be much attention paid to this process because it can be a common mistake in the user experience to overload something with features in an attempt to address all possible needs.
Another feature of Banking Cloud Credit Risk that many participants commented on is calculation transparency. Calculation transparency is a feature on the software that is “transparent” by showing the logic and steps used to arrive at the presented results in its calculations. Making this complex feature understandable to customers essentially requires simplification and hiding functional logic, which could be interpreted as a negative view since it comes at the cost of reduced accuracy of explanation.
To solve these issues, I proposed to add a technique of progressive disclosure on the comparison tools feature to help make sure the screen is not too bloated with information. Specifically, I suggest the usage of tooltips and pop-up windows in this context of work to alleviate the user experience.
Moreover, there is a challenge of balancing functions for both beginner and advanced users.
It must be considered that sometimes expert users may need advanced features that beginner users don’t touch in this software. Therefore, this proves another reason why progressive disclosure can make a positive impact on Banking Cloud Credit Risk’s usability. This method allows beginners to prioritize their attention on useful features and avoid mistakes, while simultaneously making an efficient experience for users who are already familiar with the software.
Moreover, one of the key activities performed was to evaluate the current Banking Cloud system and inspect its current usability and accessibility.
For usability, I worked with senior UX designers to complete a heuristic evaluation on the current comparison tools feature of Banking Cloud. We used Nielsen's Heuristics to spot for find potential usage barriers to users. The heuristics include:
As part of an evaluation on usability, an accessibility check was completed on the comparison tools feature. For the evaluation, this work utilized the design standards that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international standard group, have come up with. One important thing to realize is that web accessibility has been stated as a low priority in this context. This is due to the fact that users who are typically using the software generally do not fall in the category of those who are in need of web accessibility the most, whether it be people with disabilities, those who are ageing, or those who are using small screens (since they use desktops). Still, it is becoming an increasingly required standard to have something that is accessible and provides equal access and opportunity.
Ultimately, this evaluation allowed us to spot several features that can be problematic. It was especially effective because I provided a "fresh eye" to the platform compared to my senior team members. These evaluation findings, partnered with the insights from research, helped to provide solid solutions to a more approachable user experience.
Based on the issues found in the previous steps, I proposed several solutions to improving Banking Cloud. Adhering to Moody's Analytics' style guide, I was responsible for creating clickable prototypes in Adobe XD. All of the design insights, solutions, and prototypes I have provided were communicated to various groups of stakeholders, and have been considered for implementation onto the next software release.
At first, I was eager but intimidated to work for such a large company and product. As a young designer, I had to keep reminding myself that UX design is a process, especially when dealing with such a complex software. Learning information as complex as this takes time. It’s fine to not know everything in the beginning. There’s a lot to learn, but understanding as much domain knowledge as I could was one of the goals I set for this internship. Overall, I can honestly say this goal was more than exceeded.
This project was probably one of the most challenging projects that I had ever faced, and I felt overwhelmed at times, when trying to piece together solutions for all the issues I found, due to the sheer volume and breadth of the system. However, these frustrations were all learning experiences for me, as I knew that resolving these issues would only help me get better at capturing the big picture experience.
Despite some of these challenges, I would like to especially thank the rest of the Banking Cloud team and the recruiting team at Moody’s Analytics, who have welcomed me with kindness and made my onboarding process as seamless as possible even while I was working remotely due to the pandemic. They have been wonderful people to work with because they have always been willing to take time to help me out with any problems I had with my own projects, have been great to have conversations with, and more importantly, truly care about customer experience.