Purpose-driven Wealth Management

We worked with a multinational bank to make financial services meaningful for millennials.


Can wealth management be disrupted through improved service? A multinational bank challenged us—a team of recent graduates—to develop service innovations for their Asian wealth management division. Our team developed and wove together diverse insights to innovate the heart of the company. We proposed a new company culture and multiple possible ways that culture would look in practice.

Millennials and banking: a clash of cultures.

We quickly identified millennials as an important target audience. Not only are they a growing customer group, their culture explicitly clashes with the current wealth management offering. Further, their digital tools and lifestyle have yet to be embraced in the industry.

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Millennials are digital natives. They are spoiled with information and share their lives openly online. They have a strong sense of purpose. And they trust in people and businesses that are authentic and unscripted.

Wealth management is scripted and careful. The service culture is rooted in the long-standing institutional standards. Its products are abstract and opaque. And the industry values formality, privacy and security.

Our challenge was to reconcile these two groups differences with innovations that could be implemented 3-5 years in the future.

Innovation and Service Design


Julian Cheng, Sorina Catunya, Agi Cheung, Nick Wang, and Flame Wang

Multinational Bank and Ignite Innovation Initiative at PolyU

Service assessment tools


What would wealth management look like if a millennial invented it?

We began our work with a thorough review of the industry and the customer experience. In building the standard products—empathy maps, competitive analysis, service blueprints, personas and stakeholder maps—we were able to unearth how the industry works, and identify industry beliefs that have been held so long, they have become fallacies.


Trend Map


In-depth analysis of each trend. Click to zoom.

Because the project took a future-oriented perspective, we felt it was important to understand how lifestyles and technology would change in the coming years. We conducted a trend study, identifying sixteen current trends which we believe will affect the coming 3-5 years.

The bank couldn't give us access to real customers due to the confidential nature of wealth management, so we had to get creative to understand their experience. Rather than observing real meetings, we set up mock on-boarding and review meetings. In them, members of the design team impersonated our personas, and were led through the process by experienced client advisors. We added further depth by interviewing a bunch of bank stakeholders, and reviewing training materials. Together, we gained a solid understanding of how the bank structures client interactions, and how clients might feel about them.

At this point, we had enough information to identify spaces for innovation. We selected eight, and with the help of our bank counterparts, selected three to pursue.

  • Meaning: Millennials want everything they do to be meaningful, and wealth management is too abstract to mean anything but money.
  • Trust: Millennials trust transparency and unscriptedness. How can that mesh with wealth management?
  • Education: Millennials want to know everything themselves, but they just don’t understand wealth management.

Provoking a conversation around wealth management.

Rather than prototyping realistic services, we built tools that could incite a critical discussion about wealth management. Presenting radical new approaches to wealth management in read-aloud scripts helped us pick apart which parts of the experience were most important to them. Using a low-fidelity paper interface, we tested the boundaries of clients’ trust. Presenting them with fictional investment options and perks helped us identify to what degree investment decisions are swayed by personal interests. And giving them a mock course-catalog helped us identify what parts of the service they don’t understand and feel vulnerable about.

Prototype discussions

Prototype discussions

We harvested the few high net worth individuals in our personal networks to run the prototypes with, eight people overall. The prototypes were incredibly useful for evoking conversations. In the end we got the answers we wanted, and a lot more between the lines. We processed all of the information, individually and as a group to identify needs and interests around which our concept was structured.

We used multiple rounds of personal and group discussions to process information gathered from the prototypes.

Millennial clients are trying to find their purpose.

Over and over again in our prototype sessions, we encountered millennials scrambling to find their own personal purpose. They understood that they could use their money to pursue those ambitions, but lacked clarity on what to pursue.

Digital tool to identify client interests.

Digital tool to identify client interests.


Creating their purpose through investment.

Our service offering focuses on helping clients to identify and fulfill their purpose through wealth management. Clients use a digital tool to sort through and identify their interests. Onboarding meetings look more like co-creation sessions, where the client and advisor work together to identify a client’s purpose, and structure goals around it.

Portfolio composed of meaningful investments

Portfolio composed of meaningful investments


Clients can connect with experts in the fields they are interested in who help them build strategies to delve into those areas through their investment. After showing interest in green energy, a client may be presented with stocks in a chemical business critical for battery production, government-issued green energy bonds, or private equity investments into a solar energy startup.

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Ongoing customer engagement is also structured around these interests, by creating occasions for investing. Clients who’ve showed interest in fashion might be invited to a documentary about a famous couturier. Then prompted about investment into the textile and luxury industries afterwards.

Aligning wealth management with customer values.

Putting purpose-driven investing at the heart of its culture, would could clearly differentiate a bank in the crowded and monotonous private-banking sector. It aligns the bank with customer’s values. The solution supports customers in defining, exploring and then becoming who they want to be.

Header photo by Maria Morri