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Empowering the Latinx community: A look at designing Pana App
App Design, IA, Service Design, Financial
Pana Finance Inc.
Pana (Pal or Buddy in Spanish) is a mobile banking app for latinos living in the US. It offers a range of financial services, including a bank account, the ability to make transfers both locally and abroad, and a virtual and physical Visa card among other features. What really sets Pana apart is its social banking features, where users can connect with like-minded individuals and build communities, making it easier to navigate the financial landscape and achieve their financial goals faster.
Three in ten latinos living in the United States are unbanked or underbanked1. Most of them do not have access to traditional bank accounts due to various reasons such as lack of documentation, language barriers, and high fees from their local banks. This situation makes it difficult for them to manage their finances, pay bills, and send money back to their families in their home countries.
Pana aims to allow latinos in the United States to open a bank account 100% online and easily transfer money overseas. The goal is to provide a convenient and accessible banking solution for this traditionally underserved community.
As the Lead Design Consultant for Pana, I was responsible for leading the design process for their MVP. I worked closely with the in-house designer to ensure that all design needs were met, and that the final product was visually appealing and user-friendly. My role involved everything from conceptualizing design ideas and creating wireframes, to producing high-fidelity mockups and collaborating on the development of the app.
The initial purpose of the research was to gather insights and understand the needs of latinos living in the US. To validate the initial hypotheses, I conducted two surveys with a total of 100 participants each and also interviewed stakeholders and target users. One of the key findings from this research was a need for financial features such as salary advance and also the ability to send money overseas and pay expenses for relatives back home.
In addition to these financial needs, the research also revealed a desire for social banking features such as a live chat function. As a result, users would be able to get personalized support (NOT advice), build communities around common financial goals, such as saving clubs, and share their experiences and tips online, especially with newcomers.
The benchmarking study included mainly four major competitors in the US: Majority, Seis, MyBambu, and Revolut. In general, it helped shape the initial Information Architecture of the app and provided us with a landscape view of the features it should have from day one, such as virtual debit card, integration with the digital wallets Zelle and Venmo, bill pay, check deposit, etc.
Additionally, we discovered we had a unique opportunity to provide our users with useful material to promote their financial wellbeing and education.
Through our research activities, we identified several pain points that latino immigrants in the United States commonly face when trying to access banking services:
Lack of documentation:
Many immigrants do not have the necessary documents to open a traditional bank account, such as a Social Security number or a driver's license.
Many immigrants do not speak English fluently, making it difficult for them to communicate with bank employees or understand complex financial documents.
Limited access to physical branches:
Many immigrants live in areas with few or no physical bank branches, making it difficult for them to conduct in-person transactions.
User Persona #1
Occupation Retail Sales and Bartender
Salary $4.500 / month
Time in the US 2 years
I just want to be able to pay my bills and send money to my family without having to rely on someone else to do it for me. It's hard when you don't have a bank account
Maria wants to open a bank account that will help her build credit and earn points.
Maria does not have a Social Security Number and does not speak English fluently, making it difficult for her to build credit.
User Persona #2
Occupation Construction Worker
Salary $5.500 USD / month
Time in the US 8 months
Nationality Dominican Republic
I work hard every day and I just want to be able to save some of my money so that I can achieve my dream of owning a home. It's frustrating that I can't even open a bank account because I don't have the right documents
Jorge wants to open a bank account so that he can save money and eventually buy a car and a house.
Jorge does not have a driver's license and does not live near a physical bank branch, making it difficult for him to open a traditional bank account.
User Persona #3
Time in the US 4.5 years
Nationality El Salvador
I want to switch to a new bank account because my current one has high monthly fees and I want to be able to send money to my family back home more easily and affordably
Ana wants to open a bank account that has less monthly fees and allows her to send money to her family in El Salvador from her phone.
Ana does not speak English fluently and is intimidated by the process of opening another bank account 100% online and sending money from her phone.
My design goal was to create a financial app for Latino immigrants in the US that was easy to use and accessible. I considered the unique needs of this demographic, such as potential lack of access to certain documents, in order to make the app as straightforward as possible for all users.
To address all the challenges, I took the following actions:
- Setting up the foundation: I led the creation of a design system with guidelines and documentation to ensure that the app was consistent and easy to use.
- Discovery: I oversaw research activities, including interviews, surveys, and worked on design explorations.
- Prototype: I used Figma to create prototypes that helped us visualize the app's features and functions, test and iterate the designs before handing them over to the devs.
- Test: I led the team in conducting usability testing to ensure that the app was intuitive and easy to use.
- Product Management: I fostered a collaborative team culture, encouraging open communication and contribution among team members from different areas such as Stakeholders, Customer Service, Marketing, Development and contractors.
Takeaways and Findings
Here are some key takeaways from this project:
Pana's focus on serving the Latino community is a key differentiator in the market. Its bilingual support and resources for financial education are valuable assets.
Social Banking Opportunity
Latinos have a strong preference for being able to discuss their financial goals with family and friends, rather than just relying on financial experts.
Native Language Support
The ability to do banking in Spanish is particularly important for Pana's target market, as it allows for a more sociable and personal connection.
Now some findings from this project:
Our market research found that latinos place a high value on being able to discuss financial matters with family and friends in person or even a chat setting, rather than just relying on experts. This preference for a more sociable and personal connection is in line with the strong sense of community that is prevalent in Latino culture.
Customer service in Spanish
Additionally, many latinos may not feel comfortable managing their financial needs (direct deposits, checks, remittances, etc.) in English, and being able to do so in their native language allows for a more seamless and efficient process.