How does digital technology enable the customer to manage their finances? Does your banking app check up on your spending?

The mobile is the device that should have transformed the way consumers manage their finances. And though there is now a slew of transfer/payment apps, and many banking apps are some of the slickest you’ll ever use, their functionality rarely addresses a very common customer need – ‘How can I protect myself from spending too much?’

After all, spending isn’t just a folly of the rich, there are many people who may be unable to properly manage their own finances due to a mental health condition such as bi-polar disorder.

In a beautifully clear blog post, Monzo explains how it might tackle this issue with what it calls ‘positive friction’, the idea of adding beneficial extra steps to a user journey.

The article gives the very non-digital example of blister packaging, which when introduced in the 1990s for the drug Tylenol saw a decrease in related suicides. Popping the pills from their individual blisters is a more involved process that uncapping a bottle and swallowing a draught of tablets.

Monzo’s concept design of positive friction can be seen below. It includes options such as late-night spending reviews (see the notification in the middle screenshot) and spending and top-up limits. In the concept, these options are enabled in the Monzo app within settings (much as accessiblity functionality like bigger buttons can be enabled in iOS).

Monzo also discusses the idea of contacting customers whose income has stopped to ask if they need advice, and of allowing customers to set communication preferences (such as choosing telephone over email).

Click to enlarge

monzo prototype

These concept designs from Monzo arrive on the back of a report from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) which says that banks must offer basic account options to those with mental health conditions (these are accounts with no overdraft, that are fee-free and given to vulnerable people or those with bad credit).

There are other online-only banks that have pioneered money management as part of their UX, to allow every consumer to better control their finances. Mint is the obvious example (see budgeting screenshot below).

Monzo already does this so-called ‘smart banking’, with plenty of transaction data and instant notifications. Users can check spending totals split into different categories, daily totals and merchant totals. 

And, of course, there are scores of money management apps that can be used separately from any banking app.

mint 

However, Monzo’s blog post is a reminder that service designers need to consider a wide range of users. A common mantra of UX may to “get out of the customer’s way”, but there can be no absolutes.

Go and read the Monzo blog post.

And for more on design: