What comes to your mind when you read this word?
To me, beauty is the experience I recently had in a quiet village of central Bali. I was graceful to behold the beautiful nature. I observed how Balinese people pursue harmony with the nature and the way they revere beauty in their every day life. Fresh blossoms nicely placed on the somewhat insignificant corners of a living space every day – statues, table, staircase, even on the floor… I felt good. I felt beauty.

“Beauty is a characteristics of a person, animal, place, object or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning or satisfaction.”
(source: Wikipedia)

Looking at the definition of beauty, I understand why I felt beauty there. It’s the pleasure I had, the personal meaning I found in this place and my satisfied senses.

Now, you must be wondering what has ‘beauty’ got to do with this serious blog on money, financial services and technology. It’s such a weird concept to talk about, isn’t it? Let me ask you a question. Why shouldn’t we feel that way when it comes managing your money? Isn’t money supposed to be an important enabler to make you feel good? Why do we feel often unsafe and frustrated when we deal with financial services?

I boldly suggest ‘beauty’ as a value to be revered, studied and applied in the financial services to meet banking customers’ emotional needs. Here are the two reasons why:

1. People want to feel good about money.
Owing to my role in leading banks as a customer experience designer, I’ve been talking to over 300 banking customers individually from different countries ranging from private banking customers to Gen Y. My interviews and workshops were around specific banking topics that time, but what I learned from all those conversations, there are three basic things people want when it comes to managing money.

– People want financial services to be easy and simple to use.
– People want to make a confident decision.
– People want to feel good about money.

But people I talked to feel often unsafe and frustrated when we deal with financial services organizations. Financial services failed to meet the basic needs of their customers.

We are living in the era of de-banking where the role of traditional financial service institutes such as banks is increasingly replaced by non-banks that offer a greater flexibility and a far more superior user experience. People now have more choices and are heavily influenced by the heightened standard in every day experience owing to the advancement of technology and design.

It is time to go beyond providing customers with the banking products that meet their functional needs. The key objective of financial services now should be meeting ‘emotional needs’ that is a sense of satisfaction, meaning and even pleasure – the characteristics of beauty. People will replace banks sooner or later if banks keep frustrating them and letting them down.

2. Role of emotions in a decision making process
We often think facts and reasons are the most important factors in managing money. To make a confidence financial decision, we must make a rational decision based on facts.

However we may be missing an important point here – the role of emotion in a decision making process.

People are about 80 percent emotional and 20 percent rational. A research by a neurologist Donald Calne revealed the essential difference between emotions and reasons is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions.

Herb Simon, Nobel Prize winner for his ‘bounded rationality’ theory, argues that people want to believe that they are rational. However in reality people’s rationality is limited due to the lack of information, their cognitive limitations and the amount of time they have to make their decisions. Therefore people make adjustments: from looking for best possible solutions to optimal ones, from optimal ones and satisfactory ones.

Understanding the nature of decision making process, I see the connection here with beauty. We, decision makers seek a satisfactory solution rather than optimal one, and ‘beauty’ facilitate the journey of seeking satisfaction.


Do beauty – the mindset boosters

Creating awareness why beauty matters is a tough one, but bringing beauty in financial services it’s still a long journey ahead. (It’s another series of articles all together.) However I suggest three mindset boosters that financial services can take.

1. Solve basic problems
Beauty starts with a common sense. Before doing anything fancy on the surface, think about why people need financial services in the first place. Commit to bring a common sense in their experience by solving
basic problems first.

2. Be friends with designers
Design is a means to express and translate ideas into language that can be shared. Be friends with artists and designers who can connect the concept into something tangible and sensual. Empower them to drive design decisions.

3. Seek beauty as destination
In the end the ultimate goal of financial services is to help people succeed and enhance people’s life. (Look at all the banks’ mission statements!) Financial services organizations need to have a sense of urgency that it is imperative to make customers feel satisfied and confident. Furthermore bringing beauty in product and customer experience will create a stronger emotional connection. Aspire to touch people’s personalities and dreams through beauty.

Financial services can be beautiful.


I wrote this post as a guest writer for Money-mesh.com – a thought-provoking blog about mobile financial services.