The efficiency and anytime, anywhere
availability of the digital economy is something we’ve come to expect in the
Western world. We easily transfer funds between accounts, deposit checks using
our smartphones and split the bill at dinner with an app and a few emojis.
However, that perception of fintech isn’t universal. In developing countries, a
cash-based economy is often the norm and fintech is new, if not uncharted
Fintech isn’t just about convenience, it’s
also about inclusivity. Today, there are 2 billion unbanked people in the
world. The opportunity for fintech to bring great freedom to those people is
evidenced by the $57.9 billion in funding fintech companies secured in the
first half of 2018 alone. With so many companies focused on bringing financial
technology to market for consumers, it’s important to remember fintech’s
potential to change lives around the globe.
If you’re thinking about developing a
fintech product or are already down the path, you probably know that
successfully building products for global users who span different cultures,
languages and comfort levels with technology isn’t a simple task. At
Brightwell, we’ve learned a lot in our journey to help global migrant workers
get paid and better manage, spend and share their money safely. We’ve
discovered the smartest path to creating a fintech solution that meets the
regulatory requirements of multiple countries, crosses language barriers and
addresses the unique needs of multiple nationalities and economies. It takes
considerations that go far beyond tech specifications.
doesn’t fit all
When building a truly global financial
product, a “one size fits all” approach will fail every time. You have to
consider behavioral, cultural and socio-economic differences across the
geographies you plan to serve. Designing one simple and intuitive product that covers as much of the financial spectrum as
possible is not easy. It requires research, an enormous amount of listening to
what people need and a true understanding of the macroeconomic circumstances of
the cultures and people who will use your product.
When building our mobile app, we knew that
77 percent of Filipino adults are unbanked. In the Philippines, a deeply rooted
and pervasive culture of migration has made moving abroad a common and even
desirable option for earning income. For decades, sizeable numbers of Filipinos
have left home in search of permanent settlement or temporary work overseas.
Today, more than 10 million Filipinos are working and/or living abroad. Many of
them work on cruise ships and need a way to send cash home to loved ones who
might not have money otherwise. While it was important to give our Filipino
users the ability to send money home, it was critical that their loved ones
could pick up those funds in cash. Without this option,
our solution would be irrelevant to a very large segment of our users.
If you’re truly designing software for a
global audience, you can’t approach it from the perspective of Western culture.
The Western experience of how money works does not translate to other parts of
the world. Being successful means getting out and seeing firsthand how money
works in the geographies you want to serve. Ask questions and immerse yourself
in the culture.
Other tips for building a global fintech
product that encourages inclusion:
someone who is passionate and well versed in the socioeconomic challenges of
the markets you plan to reach.
similar products in the marketplaces you plan to pursue to understand what
works, what doesn’t and how users interact with them.
behavior. At Brightwell, we send employees on cruise ships to meet with our end
users and interact with them face-to-face. This gives our employees a real
connection to the work we do and helps us understand how we can adjust, improve
and shift to best meet the needs of crew members.
iterate quickly. For example, we learn by conducting
surveys and interviews and follow a lean startup methodology, working in Agile
and Scrum to help uncover and quickly address opportunities.
that not every user will have the same comfort level with technology. When you
build a solution for a global audience, it needs to be intuitive. Creating
something simple and easy to use will meet the needs of users who are less
comfortable with fintech and also those who are more experienced.
to understand the meaning of colors and words in the different markets you
serve. You’ve probably heard one of the most famous of translation fails – the
Chevy Nova which translated to “Won’t Go” in Spanish. Well, that one is an
urban myth, but take a look at this long list of
real fails. An understanding of language and colors is essential when creating
a product for use in other countries. For example, the color red has a meaning
of good luck in China but in South Africa, it is the color of mourning.
your marketing and product teams are closely aligned. Marketing is building a story about the features the product
team is creating. Their goal is to communicate to a level that ensures a user
understands the product, while the product team is aiming for simplicity and
quickly bringing new features/products to market.
colloquialisms and bring local, authentic words, phrases and elements to
marketing. Doing this requires you to take the time to understand the different
cultures and people in the geographies you hope will use your product.
requires education. A big part of bringing the convenience and control that
come with fintech is educating end users who may be less comfortable with
fintech and helping them better understand it. For example, at Brightwell we create materials to help our end users plan budgets, review options
to decide what is best for them and their family and provide savings tips.
The bottom line: if
you build a product through the lens of the Western world, you’re setting
yourself up for failure. Fintech is changing lives but bringing a life changing
product to markets across the globe isn’t done overnight. There is no quick
fix. If you put in the effort and truly care about understanding the people on
the other end of your product, you’ll not only be more likely to succeed,
you’ll be doing something positive for people around the world.