Handle It

Access public financial services, digitally



Product


An app which links a bank account to public benefits programs for lower income families and individuals, removing the need to waste in-person hours on transactions.


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Bank account integration

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Full summaries per benefit

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Personalized login per locality

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Access to each benefits system, linked to user's bank account



Problem


Lower-to-middle income families (LMIs) have difficulty accessing benefits provided by the public sector. Those that remain enrolled have to manually travel to brick-and-mortar locations to stay on top of both incoming and outgoing payments, thus wasting a lot of time.




Context


The City of San Francisco was our test location, and it provides benefits like payday “plus” loans and matching programs for child college savings. But these aren’t yet accessible online or linked to financial institutions.




Design Process


I primarily worked with a local civic innovation consultant through the design process. We knew we needed a dead simple mobile web application (initially) that allowed Android and iOS users to quickly onboard and register their bank and benefits accounts.

So we went straight to the users. "Where are the pain points in the process?" "Walk us through the as-is." In parallel, we set up discussions with financial institutions and municipalities so we could fully understand why this product wasn’t already on the market.

Using the input from users, I built some initial prototypes and vetted them with friends at Ideo.org meetups. Then I worked closely with my friend (a UX grad student working at NASA JPL) to fine tune the eventual mockups. Finally I created a clickable prototype and further tweaked the design to ensure simplicity for users.

We continue to work with banks and city leaders to operationalize a model as we refined the prototype with user groups.


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Early sketches

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Some sketch variations



Implementation


We attempted to partner with Chase Bank and the City of San Francisco but it fell through due to an impasse on the rates given to banks and the interest rates charged to new account holders. We're still actively meeting with both government and financial leaders to get this going.




Overall Benefits (we’re still looking for a pilot city!):


  1. Quick onboarding to asset building and financial products for LMI Families to help grow wealth, repair credit, and increase opportunities to college, homeownership, small business and increase access non-predatory capital

  2. Helps financial institutions meet CRA requirements

  3. Nonprofits & government agencies track metrics on asset building products, and grow standards of living for LMI workers & families

  4. Users have a real-time dashboard of their complete financial portfolio in the palm of their hand with access to all of their financial products 

  5. Easy transferring of money between checking account and program accounts

  6. Removes barriers to entry for asset building financial products such as lengthy applications, in-person engagement and loss of interest

  7. Gives users more control, eliminates leaflets and paper applications, and cuts time wasters out -- which is critical for increasing numbers of younger families taking advantage of these products