Understanding people’s financial behaviors

Erin Taylor and Gawain Lynch of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (UCI) lead a research project aimed at understanding people’s financial behaviors.

Their project, Consumer Finance Research: Global Approaches and Methods, is investigating how different sectors – development, commercial, academia, and government– are innovating to understand the consumers of financial products. It’s clear that no one method – ethnography, interviews, data analysis – is enough to provide us with adequate profiles of people using these financial products.

Their key idea is that sharing knowledge across different sectors of consumer finance research will benefit us all.

“A major obstacle to knowledge sharing is that the language that different sectors of consumer finance use lends the impression that we are trying to achieve different ends. Commercial businesses, such as banks, tend to refer to people as ‘consumers.’ Governments have ‘citizens.’ Product developers and designers more commonly refer to people as ‘users.’ Microfinance has ‘clients,’ and academic researchers usually have ‘subjects’ or perhaps ‘participants.'”

The last few decades has seen a trend that illuminates just how much the different sectors of consumer finance have in common. This is the much-touted shift towards what’s known as “client-centricity” or “human-centered design.”

“This isn’t just a more humanistic approach. Nor is it just a useful approach to designing better products and services. It also provides a platform for collaborations. Putting people’s understandings of their needs at the center means that we are starting from a common vantage point, making it easier to conceptualize shared projects. And focusing on the problem we are trying to solve, whether it is conceptual, policy, or end user oriented, can help to offset the siloing effects of professional or academic-specific language and framing upon which many projects depend.”

Here is more information on their project.

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