The Client

    SBI Bank is part of an international group called SBI Holdings. The umbrella company manages an investment fund of $29.8 billion and is listed in the Forbes Global 2000.

    Project Idea

    SBI Bank was one of the first to focus on a mobile application for family banking, paving the path for other banks in their search for family services and ways to implement and utilize them.

    Creating a unique banking service for the whole family

    The bank approached us in 2018 with the request to create a new native app. By that time, SBI already had an app, but it was outdated and had only 400 users. Our team faced an ambitious task — the bank decided to fill a niche in family banking, and in order to do so, it needed an app that was simple enough for anyone in the family to use.

    We provided SBI with an app that now has over 9 thousand monthly users. In 2022, a large consulting agency, Markswebb, nominated it as the best family banking product.

    Drawing level with the market leaders

    To get expert advice and investigate the niche, SBI Bank turned to a consulting agency specializing in UX studies. The solutions implemented to improve the app were based on those study results.

    To do the job, the bank chose Surf. One of the criteria that influenced their decision was our 11 years of experience in mobile app development for banks and fintech companies.

    The task of upgrading the mobile bank was assigned to a powerful group of people, including researchers, developers, and the product team of the bank. Thanks to our joint effort, we upgraded the app in as little as half a year.

    The Challenges

    Creating a tool to meet the needs of each family member

    To encourage everyone in the family to use the app, we enabled shared access to bank accounts. This being said, the owner of an account can set limits for every member of their family “circle”. Kids now have a separate account where they can save money and do the tasks set by the adults.

    Giving the app a modern design to reflect the “family” concept of the bank. 

    In 2021, we created a new design for the app, building it on the brand colors of the bank and balancing them out with pastel hues. Each block of features now has its own color, and all the essentials can be found on the home screen, providing quicker access.

    The Solutions

    To speed up the project’s development, SBI Bank created an individual department called the Digital Lab. At the very start, the team knew exactly what the product had to look like. Thanks to that, we managed to implement all the features contributing to a better user experience on a tight schedule. Within half a year, Surf and Digital Lab relaunched SBI family banking and carried out multiple studies on family banking, banking for kids, and AgeTech.

    Putting ideas into practice

    SBI showed us their vision of family banking: 

    • what should be put first,
    • what crucial family features we should focus on,
    • where and how to display personal products for each user,
    • how to simplify a customer journey.

    Each of these points was addressed in the prototypes designed by the bank. The new corporate strategy entailed the following key aspects:

    • shared family accounts,
    • statistics that are well-organized and easily accessible,
    • shared family features,
    • modern design.

    Reconsidering the design in accordance with the family concept

    To bring the concept of family banking to life, the Digital Lab team picked premium pastel colors. First of all, the current design was a bit outdated, and second of all, the bank was looking for a design that was fundamentally new and in line with the family concept.

    In the end, we decided to “marry” the classic brand colors of the bank with some calmer hues, thanks to which we managed to create a visual environment friendly to every member of a family, no matter their age. Thanks to light pastel colors, it was easy to match several colors on the home screen, making different sections and blocks stand out and stay stylistically cohesive. 

    The bank was so impressed with our concept that they requested we evaluate their website and adapt the design to match the style of the new app.

    Implementing family statistics

    The main purpose of a mobile banking app is to show how much money is left in an account, how much was there before, and what it was spent on. Moreover, it has to have some budgeting tools: deposits, savings goals, etc.

    An account has the main holder, or, in other words, the owner. He or she can grant access to a proxy, and the latter will have equal rights to use the banking products available. The owner and the proxy then both have access to a number of shared accounts. Those can be used collectively to link and detach cards, as well as transfer funds to personal accounts.

    We built the app in line with the vision outlined by Digital Lab, creating a transparent financial tool for the whole family. The owner can see which cards are linked to the accounts, who is nearing the limit and who needs a top-up.

    The owner of the main account can set spending limits for the rest of the users. This feature is crucial to the concept of family banking. Besides, setting limits can be a flexible process, i.e., you can set one limit for your daughter and a different one for your son. The owner of the main account can see how much the family spends and what categories or items they spend on. 

    Adding tasks and a piggy bank for kids

    Adults can set tasks for their kids, who can mark those as “done”. Once a task is done, a parent gets notified. Then he or she can ask their kid to do it properly or accept the job, in which case the kid receives money.

    Tasks are jobs a parent can set for their child in return for money or stars. Some tasks are hard to convert into gifts. For instance, you can’t get a Sony PlayStation 5 by making your bed. This is why the app has a flexible tool to help users set goals.

    Kids can set goals, which parents are free to approve and set a price on. That way, a kid can get a much-desired Sony PlayStation 5 in exchange for 300 stars. To collect the stars, they need to do the tasks, each of which may have a different price, depending on its difficulty. Simple tasks, such as cleaning up their room, may be worth 10 stars, while the trickier ones, such as getting only As and Bs at school, may earn them as much as 100 stars. 

    A piggy bank is equivalent to a savings account, but in a kids’ version of the app. Parents can transfer money to it directly. This idea is integrated with the concept of teaching kids financial literacy. The app can encourage frugality and rational spending habits. For example, whenever kids spend less than their daily limit, whatever is left goes to the piggy bank. The money in it can only be spent once the piggy bank is full. Then, it has to be broken to get access to the entire amount saved.

    Adding family features

    The appeal of shared cashback for a family is that a percentage of any purchase made by any of the family members added to the “circle” in the app is returned to the account. This concept of an extended cashback program also involves ranking. The more users spend on a given category of items, the higher the cashback rate. Let’s say you spent some money on “Clothes”. If your expenses go over the threshold set in the system, your cashback rate increases and you can add one more category to the list.

    To implement this feature, we used game mechanics and graphic visualization. The horizontal progress bar with category icons shows users the number of points gained, what level they are currently at, and how much they have left until the rate goes up.

    In addition, users can save bonus cards from their favorite retailers right in the app. As a result, each family member has access to the cards at all times. No more carrying a plastic card around! This feature can be especially appealing to eco-conscious customers striving to cut down on the amount of plastic they use.

    Improving usability

    As we and the bank’s team worked on the app, we constantly tested its usability. As a result, we made a few changes, either increasing the number of customers or conversion with respect to specific operations. 

    Redesigning the exchange rate button

    We have changed both the location of the button and the way it looks, making it stand out more. According to the data, it boosted conversion and improved currency exchange via the app by approximately 2 to 2.5 times.

    Allowing users to get a plastic card before they are in the app

    In order to attract new users, the bank decided to implement a simple but appealing feature. Whenever a user who is not an SBI client installs the app, they are shown a screen inviting them to join and issue a card. 

    And the tool is working: over the first few months, approximately 100 people applied for a card, about 50 of whom activated it, and another 30 made at least one transaction. 

    The Results

    Customers are already enjoying the app: according to statistics, in the last six months, the number of new users has grown by 25%, while the number of monthly active users has grown by 27%.

    As we and the bank’s team worked on the app, we constantly tested the usability of the product. As a result, we made a few changes, either increasing the number of customers or conversion with respect to specific operations.

    Surf built native apps with Kotlin for Android and with Swift for iOS. This was a complex infrastructure project that had to be done on an extremely tight schedule. What added to its complexity was that the mobile app and the backend infrastructure were built simultaneously. This challenge required coordinated teamwork, which the entire team pulled off with great professionalism.

    The most impressive thing about Surf is their great expertise in mobile development and excellent teamwork. It is also worth mentioning their extensive banking experience, as well as their clear understanding of fintech projects, their specifics, and typical UX aspects. Last but not least, they place a high priority on app security.

    Head of Digital Business Development at SBI Bank

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