Feeling in control of our money is good for our mental wellbeing. Jenni Ralph, Digital Product Owner at BNZ, explains how the BNZ app now helps deliver on this.
There’s a very real link between our financial wellbeing – and our mental and emotional wellbeing. For me, that became very clear when my role at a previous organisation was disestablished. I remember the fear and loss that comes from having uncertainty, wondering how long I could go before things got dire, or what it meant for my family. I also remember feeling a strong desire to seize back control, and I needed to start with looking at my money. If I’d had oodles of savings, I probably wouldn’t have stressed, but I didn’t, so I did. It wasn’t just about having enough money; it was about feeling in control of the money I had.
Addressing people’s financial wellbeing, by understanding their mental and emotional wellbeing was one of the many things I’ve seen since joining BNZ’s digital team – and started working with BNZ customers on the development of the BNZ app’s new features. Whatever their individual relationship with money was like, and regardless of how good they were at managing their personal finances, these customers all shared a need to feel they were the ones in charge – that they were being good with their money.
This input more than anything shaped the technical solution to this human problem, and as someone who tells people at BBQs ‘I solve human problems and I just happen to use technology to do that’, facing into this with BNZ has me feeling fulfilled.
The main challenge statement we posed as a team was: ‘What are the tools we can develop to empower customers and help them be good with money?’
An emotional and technological journey
The focus for stage one of this mission was to give customers greater transparency and oversight of their finances. A huge amount of cross-departmental, back-end data-wrangling, and development work has gone into doing things like ‘surfacing information’ – simplifying, summarising, and presenting individual customer’s spending activity into instantly accessible, easily digestible bits of information they can put to use straight away. We call it the ‘reflective’ stage, like jumping on the scale or standing in front of a mirror, we acknowledge that people need to be able to understand where they are at before they can make conscious decisions for change.
The app’s ‘Spend Tracker’ feature for example, presents customers’ daily, weekly, and monthly spending activity in simple bar graph form, showing them exactly how they’re spending across a variety of categories – such as ‘Groceries’, ‘Entertainment’, ‘Pets’, ‘Transport’, and ‘Bills’. They can quickly see where their money is going – and where to cut back if necessary.
They can get deeper insight by seeing how they’re spending in one category compared to last month, understand which businesses they spend the most with, and see at a glance whether they’re driving a surplus or shortfall from their money in, versus money out. People tell us sometimes this is really confronting, but it’s what they needed to know. I also revelled in the fact people told us we’re making it easier, that we’re doing the hard lifting for them, so they can focus on the right stuff.
We sought customers’ input all the way through the journey. In monthly workshops (also held remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown) we’d get their input into things such as how they’d like to see their spending activity presented to them in the app – even getting them to draw for us how they thought it should look.
This work led to the development of an entirely new layer of functionality for the BNZ app, with more intuitive, visually-oriented navigation systems, and functionality – and the primarily visual, non-numeric, presentation of information.
Significantly, it reflects BNZ’s Mobile-First approach to customer enablement. One driven primarily by customer needs, not business ones.
We also used our customer workshop sessions to observe not just their rational, logical responses to what we were showing them, but their emotional ones too – seeing which solution might make them feel more motivated to change their spending behaviour, for example. Or give them a greater feeling of control over their money.
Bottom-line, transparency of their finances was vital: it created a real sense of being in control, which in turn, could improve emotional wellbeing. People expressed they feel like they’re ‘winning’ when they’re able to see how a change in behaviour is reflected back to them, or they’re driving a surplus. Other times there’s a sense of ‘shock’ which can act as the motivator.
The added challenges of COVID-19, with the lockdown that temporarily closed bank branches, together with the ensuing job losses and financial uncertainty, has further confirmed the need for what the app can deliver – both practically and emotionally.
All this added functionality, which lives on the app’s ‘Activity’ tab, has taken a team of 70 people two years, from ideation to implementation. But it represents a tiny slice of what the app will ultimately deliver.
Further stages to come will be broader than ‘Activity’ and will encourage financial behavioural change with the ability to take action from the insights, or set up safety rails to help customers to stay on track – elevating it to a more experience-driven, less transactional approach towards our goal of helping people be good with their money. It feels good to be a part of this, good to be a part of BNZ.
Any views expressed in this article are the personal views of Jenni Ralph and do not necessarily represent the views of BNZ, or its related entities.
The information in this article is provided for general information purposes only, and is a summary based on selective information which may not be complete for your purpose.
Spend tracker is available with a personal BNZ credit card or transaction account, including joint transaction accounts. Non-personal accounts like family trust or business accounts won’t show in the spend tracker. Mobile data is required to access the BNZ app. Internet banking terms and conditions apply to the use of the BNZ app.