Teaching teens responsible financial behaviors using gamification and personalized banking services

Teaching teens responsible financial behaviors using gamification and personalized banking services

Context      CMU Course, Service Design
Timeline     3 month, October to December 2017
Client          PNC Bank
Team           Jamie Curran, Shannon Lin, Zoe Feng, Tianmi Fang


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Teen Financial Literacy is Dangerously Poor 

Research has shown that fewer than one-third of young adults can claim a basic understanding of critical financial concepts like interest, inflation, and risk (Lusardi and Mitchell, 2007). This is especially problematic as it is increasingly easy for young adults to get credit, spend “virtual” money, and accrue huge college debt.


How can we teach teens responsible financial behaviors using real money while ensuring parents feel comfortable and in control?


Facilitating a Gradual Transfer of Agency and Gamified Incentives

Through research, we identified an opportunity to facilitate a gradual transfer of agency (of financial decisions) from parent to teen, starting with helping the teen to save for what they want utilizing a mobile game as incentive.

Our solution is FINJO, a service that provides teens with three key features: 

  1. A Personalized Banking App
  2. Gamified incentives
  3. Unique savings and checking accounts


Personalized Banking App 

Teens create their own savings goals which are broken into smaller, achievable milestones automatically.

Insight: Long-term savings goals are too abstract for teens, they often loose motivation. 

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 Milestones Screen


Gamified Incentives

Money saved in the real world means money available in the game world using separate game applications.

Insight: 70% of teens age 15-17 play games and they spend average 6 hr/day on mobile.


 Dashboard Screen


Unique Bank Accounts

As teens complete savings goals, they unlock achievements. Achievements mean new financial responsibility -- loans, credit card, investing.

Insight: Teens most effectively learn about good financial behavior when they use real money.

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.33.31 PM

 Achievements Screen

Starts by Making Saving Easy, then Unlocks More Responsbility

As a product, FINJO engages both teens and parents to play active parts in learning about what it means to be financially literate. The application starts out by encouraging the teen establish and save for customized saving goals, which may be supported by parent matching. As the teen demonstrates more and more responsible behavior, they can unlock more financial responisbilities such as low-limit credit cards or loans. 


There's Value for All Stakeholders Involved

By facilitating a gradual transfer of agency, starting with helping teens save, PNC Bank can generate lifelong, financially responsible customers.

Non-Profit Financial Entertainment Organizations can partner with PNC Bank to develop the game. The service will help them to have a real-world money aspect.

Teens would be given increasingly more  financially responsibility over their own decisions. They would able to learn in a fun and gamified way!

Parents gain financially responsible teens while still retaining some influence and visibility into the  teens’ finances.



Going from Literature Reviews to Designing a Service

The process to design this banking service concept comprised of four major phases (Research, Ideation, and Concept Generation, and Concept Development). These phases overlapped slightly as we used a research-through-design approach.

To name some of our most notable activities we did to arrive at our solution: literature review, exploratory interviews & affinity clustering, concept modeling, personas, storyboarding & speed dating, and service blueprints. Below I highlight these activities in more detail. 


Understanding the Space and Talking to Teens and Parents

Through Secondary Research and some Competitive Analysis we tried to understand what the current experience was like for teens. What are the most effective techniques for learning about money? What are teens mindsets around financial literacy? and what currently exists for teens to learn about money? 

In addition to our initial research, we also interviewed teens and parents from different ages and cultural backgrounds.

There were a lot of interesting insights from the participants in that there was varying levels of interests from the teen’s side. From the parent’s side, there was a varying level of effort in terms of teaching their teen.

We did a quick affinity clustering activity to understand what common trends we found in our interviews.


affinity discussion

Major Insights from Research

Personalized Financial Education
Financial Education is most effective when it’s related to a teens immediate needs and when they have the opportunity to make and discuss financial decisions.

Focus on the Teen-Parent Relationship
The largest impact for financial education happens between parents and teens.

PNC has a Gap between Children + Adults
PNC has a large gap in their services and educational materials between early childhood and college students.


Visualizing What We Knew to Identify Opportunities

From the research, we took what we knew and what we learned to start to visualize the problem area by creating concept models. Through the act of creating these models and analyzing them we were able to further analyze the problem space to find needs and areas of opportunity.


Modeling Current vs. Ideal States 

We modeled the current value flow between key stakeholders to identify areas of opportunity in the current system. To contrast the current value flow, we created an ideal value flow.

Current State Model


Ideal State Model


Developing Personas

We also developed a two of the key personas to capture details from our interviews and identify specific needs, goals, motivations, and frustrations of our potential users.  

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Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 7.07.39 AM

Opportunities from Analysis

Help Parent Empower the Teen
How might we enable parents to still have supervising power while transferring agency over purchases?

Demonstrate Impact of Financial Decisions
How might we help the teen become more aware about the potential effects of spending / saving?

Encourage Financial Independence
How might we allow teens to not have to always ask parents for money and permission?


Generating Ideas, Testing Them, and Iterating

Following the development of our personas and clarifying our opportunities, our team ran solo brainstorming exercises to generate over 50 concepts. After grouping our like ideas together, we evaluated each concept area on how well it met the needs of our personas and opportunities.

We narrowed in on three scenarios, developed them into storyboards, and performed speeddating with potential users


Final Direction Informed by Feedback

Facilitate Gradual Transfer of Agency 
Parents need to feel comfortable giving their kids more control over their financial decisions. Parents felt that their teens needed to demonstrate they are responsible. 

Focus on Savings, rather than Earning
Teens need help to with the money they already have - usually money they receive through small part-time gigs, gifts for holidays, and allowances. 

Make Savings Goals Achievable and Fun! 
Teens need help overcoming barriers to larger savings goals. These larger savings goals are abstract, and they often lose interest. They do, however, spend a lot of time on games. 


Refining the Service and Designing the Product

To give more form to our concept, we started to identify high-level user stories to understand how different stakeholder would interact with the application. These user stories were then grouped into system features.  

The top features, as outlined above were: 

  1. Saving Goals + Milestones to Motivate Saving: Teens can create and contribute to savings goals, parents can help them by matching.
  2. Game Incentives to Motivate Saving: Teens can unlock game incentives when they save money. 

  3. Achievements to Unlock Responsibility: Teens can reach achievements to unlock more responsibility, parents agree to these responsibilities through the service.


Mapping out the Product and Wireframes
To understand how the different features of the system would be related within the FINJO application, we laid out a rough product map and selected a few key screens to wireframe.

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Detailing out the Service Blueprint
To understand how the different stakeholders interact with one another within the product-service system, we sketched out a detailed service blueprint and a simplier high-level blueprint. 

Iterating through Higher Fidelity Designs
We then moved to higher fidelity mockups of the product screens to explore, in higher detail, a few different ways we could present the features. We also explored multiple color and type options.

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Final Designs + Design System
After a few interations and feedback sessions, we landed on our final look and feel. As part of the class, we created the three main screens to communicate our concept and a design system to build upon for creating other screens or interactions. 



Develop a Full Prototype and Test with Enactments

With only a semester to explore and ideate within the space, I believe we did a great work ideating a preferrable future. While it was amazing to pitch an idea vetted by some speed dating to PNC, the team and I would've loved to continue developing on the core functionality of the system.

Given more time, we would've loved to develop a clickable prototype to start to perform user enactments with. With these tests, we would be looking for what are the users reactions to such a system, what do they expect are particular stages, and where are potential areas of friction or higher barriers for use. From these insights we could continue to refine our concept.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story." - Sylvia Plath