QCash Financial provides emergency small-dollar lending services to credit unions and small banks. Their platform offered an important alternative to predatory lending services that once in, are hard for customers to get out of. These small-dollar loans provided a critical source of emergency funds especially for customers with variable or insufficient income.
These low resiliency customers were eager to improve their financial outlook and break out of their current financial cycle, and financial institutions lacked the knowledge and expertise to help elevate customers from low resiliency into higher revenue generating products.
QCash hypothesized that bringing proven digital therapy techniques from MedTech to Financial Services, they could create an app that improved people’s financial outcomes.
Financial services
Project time
15 months
My role
Product owner & design strategist
Objective & scope
The project had two critical objectives:
•  Validate that digital therapy techniques could create measurable financial health improvement for users
•  And, identify the go-to-market strategy, processes, partnerships and resourcing needed to take an early stage app to full release
During the project's time, I took the team through:
•  Designing and building the targeted workflows for early releases
•  Developing a content strategy and scalable framework for the app’s financial education library
•  Defining the notifications and triggers that drove ongoing engagement
•  Creating a product roadmap and product backlog
•  Drafting support processes and materials for customer and coaching support
•  Defining and monitoring the markers and metrics used to validate engagement over time
What I learned
I took the early stage app through two limited releases with users matching our low resiliency profile. There were impactful learnings from participants that shaped the messaging and support for users on the platform.
The biggest takeaway was that financial hardship is an emotional time for people, and they can quickly disengage from their financial goals. When users disengage, they have to be carefully re-engaged to avoid creating a negative feedback loop. This meant aligning the re-engagement experience across app notifications, coaching outreach, and financial content.
We also learned user engagement fluctuates naturally, and reflects where they are in their financial journey. If users feel confident that they are improving, they may not engage as frequently or as deeply. Or, if they faced a significant setback, their activity might stop entirely. This meant our metrics and measurements needed to account for these nuances and show distinction between a disengaged user and a stable or comfortable user.
Two early-stage releases were run, each lasting 3 months. During this time, the project team saw quantifiable, measurable changes in the financial health of participants. In interviews, users reported positively that the coaching support, financial education and in-app feedback was improving their financial acumen and left them more resilient in times of financial setbacks.
The early stage releases gave the project team time to adapt the product roadmap, outline a budget and build and a detailed implementation plan to take the app from early-stage to a general availability release.
The work
QCash had crafted an 8-screen design prototype to validate the product vision with different financial users. The product vision utilized three key pillars brought over from behavioral health: Financial education, coaching, and real-time behavioral feedback. When paired with tools and goal setting, users could improve their outlook over time.

Five core principles based on behavioral health app strategies work together to create improved outcomes.

To take the focused design vision and create a fully-functional app, I first had to extend the design and create the assets the development team needed to build a robust product experience. 

The design vision used the Washington State Employees Credit Union brand (WSECU), QCash’s banking partner. I extended the visual language and developed a style framework for engineering.

While engineering implemented the app's design and experience, I worked to build a content framework and source the materials for the app's financial education. Content was organized into a consistent hierarchy and grouped by topic, and each financial lesson was presented using multiple content mediums including articles, videos, and quizzes.
Presenting content in a consistent structure and different formats was a proven way to reinforce learning and aid in maintaining engagement.
WIth a financial library in place, I developed a methodology to map new users to the content most relevant to them. Using markers in their financial data, new users were benchmarked to identify where they were at in their unique part of the journey, then served content catered to their needs.
The financial journey flows through the recognized components of financial health. Topics - and lessons within topics - sequenced from basic to more advanced, improving the user's financial understanding over time.
Financial coaching was a huge benefit to users struggling with financial setback. I developed a dashboard for the financial coaching partners which allowed them to make suggestions based on the user’s actual, real-time financial data.
The user’s progress through the educational content was supported through automated notifications based on their engagement and progress. I identified the activities that would prompt notifications, then outlined the implementation details for the development team including things like transactional data and parameters.
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