Millie-GillonBy Millie Gillon
Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Client Experience, Innovation & Transformation
Standard Chartered Bank

“If you build it, they will come.” Gone are the days where businesses could follow this motto to become successful. What now?

Established financial services companies, or banks, created products from the lens of the business, the business, and the business. Why are customers invisible?

Products were built with a waterfall methodology, meaning figure out every detail of the solution, and launch it over the next several years. Regardless of societal, macro-environmental and economic changes. Where does the customer come into play in any of this? What happens when the world changes, just like it has with COVID-19 nearly overnight?

Over the last several years, there’s been a gravitation to Agile ways of working. It’s easier said than done to move from Waterfall to Agile. I witnessed the change through: (1) brute force; (2) start small and wait for the ripple effects onto other teams; and (3) replace the words Waterfall with Agile, so that it magically appears with hope. There are other paths from Waterfall to Agile, and each organization can reap successes and failures with different degrees.

Design thinking can definitely increase the chances for success, along with handholding the cultural evolution. Design thinking pushes us to put the customer in the center, and design around her. After designing and validating, then layering on the business or profitability, risk, compliance, regulation, and other facets.

As with Waterfall to Agile, there are many paths to Design Thinking. I’ll share my standard Design Thinking process that I like to start with. It is important to me to strictly follow the standard process, especially with organizations, that are just starting out. If you do not start with a standard process, this concept is too abstract for most to grasp, much less be able to process. Once there’s maturity or wide Design Thinking adoption, then I’m all for empowering others to customize the process. Often times, before design thinking workshops, I’m asked for the agenda. I always decline because the discussion typically shapes the agenda. Don’t worry; I do have a standard agenda with time constraints that allows for flexibility to pivot:

    1. Customer Insights
    2. Define and Empathize
    3. Ideate
    4. Prototype
    5. Test
    6. Business Case
    7. Technology Blueprint
    8. Prioritization
    9. Re-validation

    How does my standard Design Thinking process work?

    I always start with research and insights. Research and insights builds the foundation for solutions. Quality is imperative. This helps us to connect with customers on an emotional level.

    It’s good to have quantitative data, and deep dive with qualitative insights from 1-1 ethnographic type interviews. I typically structure interviews to get an understanding of (1) psychographics; (2) best in class; and (3) likes and dislikes specific to the topic. This helps us to understand how to influence behavior beyond YouTube and Instagram influencers. Knowing who are indirect competitors are will identify the gaps in order to how to narrow them through likes and dislikes.

    External insights from either landscape or competitor analysis and futurology trends round out the pivotal research and insights foundation.

    Clearly defining the problem statement will determine the success. Often times, when presented with a problem, we jump to solutions. This can end up creating more problems, while not solving the original problem.

    Leveraging the research and insights to empathize pushes us to humanize

    Ideate through building the end to end customer journey map from the client’s lens. For beginners, I like to do two rounds of mapping. The first with the current state, and the second with the future state. The business interests are still invisible. This is where blue sky thinking leads to converging and diverging of ideas into what’s realistic. When you think of ideate, think about what’s in it for the customer, and how might you eliminate their pain points?

    For beginners, low fidelity prototypes are helpful to transition to testing and building a business case. For more robust organizations, I prefer and recommend high fidelity prototypes built in a secure sandbox. This is where personalized solutions are illustrated to showcase addressing or eliminating pain points.

    It’s imperative to conduct several rounds of testing with iterating the prototype in between each test. All of these design thinking steps, plus financials, risk mitigation, and other imperative information will build the business case or what’s in it for the business?

    Once approved to proceed, it’s instrumental to craft a technology blueprint and determine what to buy, borrow, or build. This will help to prioritize sprints. It’s important to revalidate between milestones. Imagine starting a sprint in November 2019, and then beginning the next sprint in April 2020. The world turned upside down. If revalidation isn’t conducted, what are the implications of proceeding after the world changed?

    Where Design Thinking works are in the three phases I believe organizations can evolve. Major consulting firms have their own version.

      1. Optimize existing core business
      2. Differentiate
      3. Disrupt and Innovate

      Why Design Thinking works: Honoring the customer first to truly understand needs and pain points can help us move and pivot faster. This is realized in cost and profitability savings. The needs and pain points of a customer creates stickiness to your solutions.

      Have I sold you on Design Thinking yet? Yes? Great! Where do you begin?

      I started with my most important customers: My colleagues

      I’m a big believer in up skilling and re-skilling colleagues. Not everyone is opened to this. Change is scary. Up skilling and re-skilling is my first step in the evolution, not the change. Of course, there’s organizational and leadership discussions that must come first. Let’s table this for now.

      If you ask me who do you up skilling and re-skilling? My response would be: everyone. Start with your leaders, and empower them to nominate their one downs, and the next one downs. Yes, there are specific skills and experience you should look for.

      I was asked why is up skilling and re-skilling so important to me? As leaders, we owe it to our colleagues to do everything in our power to empower and enable them to future proof their careers.

      I will leave you with an equation: CX = EX + cX + PX

      Employee experience plus client experience plus partner experience creates the Next generation of Customer Experience.

      We are all facing a brave new world. How will you help reshape financial services into 2025?

      Millie Gillon is a native New Yorker and Singapore transplant who has a wealth of knowledge about innovation and strategy, and combines this with the use of data and design thinking to reshape the client experience.


      Millie is currently the Global Head of Client Experience at Standard Chartered Bank. Prior to joining Standard Chartered, she led co-innovation for Citi and American Airlines at Mastercard. Millie has held senior product and innovation roles at Prudential Financial, JPMorgan Chase and American Express, where she concurrently earned her Masters degree in Communications and Leadership Studies and her Six Sigma Black Belt.