NatWest in “off-brand and disruptive” beta-testing for new services

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The bank is piloting a series of new apps at two branches in east London, in a move it says is part of a wider aim to beta-test and develop designs at speed.

In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers Photography
In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers Photography

High street bank NatWest is beta-testing a series of new apps at two of its branches in east London in an “off-brand and disruptive” move that the company says ties in with its ambitions to “iterate services at speed”.

The bank has developed a series of apps with consultancy Bold Rocket, which aim to engage customers around “life events”. One of the apps, Spendorama, is a series of games and challenges based round spending habits. It challenges users to “Spend Nothing in a Day” and also features a “Tinder-like” experience for finances.

The Spendorama app
The Spendorama app

The other two apps being trialled – HouseMove and ManageMoney – aim to engage customers around life experiences and day-to-day management of their finances.

NatWest managing director for branch & private banking in London and the South East Philip Northey says the aim of the apps is to change banking from a “transactional” process to one that “helps people to live their lives”.

The Manage Money app
The Manage Money app

Northey says: “We’ve improved our digital content and we wanted to provide people with tools that would help them to plan their lives and the events they will encounter – whether that’s going to university or having a baby; buying a home or dealing with bereavement.”

Instead of releasing full versions of the apps, NatWest has decided to trial beta versions of them at its Shoreditch and Moorgate branches to engage customers and get feedback.

Northey says: “Traditionally what we might have done is develop an app and release it and then see what happens next. But we knew that with this, if we were going to get it right we would need to expose it to customers and get their feedback.”

The bank worked with Bold Rocket and architect Four by Two to develop a series of “disruptive” and “off-brand” branch installations which could be used to showcase the apps and gather feedback around them.

Northey says: “We felt that if we just put this app on our in-branch iPads it really wouldn’t have the same impact. With this campaign theres a visual disruption which looks to get people to stop and pause for a few seconds.”

In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers
In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers

The installations feature a sketch-like “blank canvas” style. Northey says: “It’s about the concept of a blank canvas and how we can help customers add colour to their lives through a great relationship with their money.”

NatWest is currently gathering feedback on the apps through conversations with users. Northey says: “What we are finding in the first few days is that we are getting really rich immediate feedback. In a more traditional process you might have had a focus group and a questionnaire and we wouldn’t be halfway to where we are now.”

The testing will continue for several weeks before NatWest decides how to develop and potentially roll out the new apps.

This type of fast iteration and live-testing is something NatWest wants to develop more of across its branches, Northey says. He adds: “We put a new branch design into South Kensington last year and iterated it twice through beta testing, to arrive at the version two of the NatWest designs which have gone live this year.

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“For us it’s a constant iteration – and of course we want to move quickly because the customers are moving quickly.”

Window displays to promote the testing. Image by Philip Volkers Photography
Window displays to promote the testing. Image by Philip Volkers Photography
In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers Photography
In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers Photography

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In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers
In-branch installation to test the new apps. Image by Philip Volkers

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