I wrote this article for EFMA Journal – the design journey behind OCBC Money Insights, Singapore’s first personal financial management tool. 
Special thanks to for my colleauges, Liow Yong Hwa and Joisse Ong for their amazing work and sharing their story.



Money InsightsSingapore’s first finance management tool, aims to provide customers with new insights into their financial behaviour and motivate sound financial decisions. It builds on OCBC’s strategy to compete by solving customers’ financial pain points and delivering a superior customer experience in a market where acquisition and retention efforts are entirely based on pricing and monetary incentives.

Starting out

About three years ago when OCBC Bank embarked on its digital banking journey, the challenge for OCBC Bank was to make sense of what personal finance management (PFM) means for our customers and define our focus in designing a tool that combines banking and an online tool that didn’t exist before in Singapore.

We wanted to answer three big questions in defining our PFM: What is the role of a bank in offering a PFM tool?; what is the pain point in managing personal finances?; and how does ‘a social factor’ play a role in better managing personal finances?

We took a user-centred design approach and conducted various forms of research including ethnographic studies and customer interviews. We prototyped our assumptions-based concepts and sharpened our vision of PFM through rounds of testing. This iterative design process allowed us to filter assumptions we had. We drew a conclusion that the key to designing PFM is to focus on enhancing the customer experience in managing money rather than offering a suite of exhaustive features.

Identifying the pain point

A study of the financial behaviour of customers conducted in partnership with the Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design and in our customer research labs uncovered that customers were over-spending, struggling to save for important
things, forgetting important financial dates and, most importantly, did not really know where their money was going. They had attempted to use money management tools or created their own spreadsheets before, but given up due to the effort required. The main pain point we found we needed to address was the amount of manual work needed to know where a customer’s money is going.

money flow

savings goal

Visualise ‘me’ data

During the design phase we soon understood the power of visualisation and its impact in engaging customers. We observed the aha-moment was created when the customers saw the visuals rendered with their figures.

It felt magical because it was the graphical presentation of their financial behaviour, not a random chart. It marries behavioural finance, data visualisation and analytics to present personal financial data in a manner that promotes customer self- realisation and motivation to action. Key differentiators in providing this are rich visualisation of money movements over time and categories, social comparisons, contextual insights and alerts. Visualisation can make personal finances tangible and approachable.

Design for context

Money Insights is available on all channels – PC, iPhone as well as iPad. To make this tool most useful it was imperative to have a clear channel design strategy. The iPhone app focuses on ‘on the move tasks’ such as getting an overview of monthly spending and checking the transactions presented in a simple format. On PC and iPad users can do more complex planning related tasks such as setting a savings goal or a budget alert.


Driving positive behaviour

How much social should a PFM tool be? That was the trickiest spot we had to identify. People we talked to gave us lukewarm responses on being able to share their behaviour or savings goal with others. They felt that finance is a personal topic to share. However, through observation on how they reacted to our prototypes we learned that people naturally want to know about how they compare with others. People compare because if gives them a sense of validation if they
are doing okay. To us this was the unarticulated need that we wanted to fulfil. People want information that helps them validate and feel good.

We concluded that the right level of social information can gently nudge customers to think about their finances such as asset allocation, liabilities, average spending, top spending categories and savings goals.

After a year of the learning and developing journey, Money Insights was born. With Money Insights, our customers are able to: track spending via automatically-categorised expenses such as dining, entertainment and travel; set budgets and manage expenses through SMS or email alerts; manage cash flow with payment reminders; set automatic contributions to savings goals within one savings account; and compare and learn from the savings, spending and investment habits of people with similar demographic profiles.

Feedback from customers has been very encouraging. Money Insights gathered 60,000 active customers in the first two months since the product’s launch. Among the 400 customers who shared their feedback on OCBC Money Insights, over 90% said they discovered something interesting about their expenditures/savings and found the tool convenient for them to track and manage their money. Over 600 customers proactively wrote in the feedback form to express their excitement and suggestions for further improvements – such as being able to edit and create own spending categories. This showed that once people started using it, they love using it and want it more.

Money Insights is the first big step for customers to better manage their money. For OCBC, Money Insights became a platform to experiment with other innovations that make banking and financial management easier and more meaningful for our customers.

More about Money Insights


EFMA coverEFMA_nov2013Published on EFMA Journal No. 241 November/ December 2013 Issue