User-experience Design: The Link Between Design and Engineering

User-experience Design: The Link Between Design and Engineering

Things are always moving forward at Juntos. From our earliest attempts at creating our messages, the focus has been on iterative design based on feedback from our users . Although this philosophy extends across all parts of the company, the core remains with the development of our products. For us, this means a deep connection and collaboration between engineering and design.

On a weekly basis our designers set the course, detailing which new messaging experiences we want to test, and which existing ones need to be re-designed or removed. Their vision of how users will receive and interact with our messages then gets queued up, ready to be integrated with our platform.

In most cases, the new experience is scheduled to go live within a week. By the time it goes live, the design team will have the next iteration ready to be queued up and integrated. These quick iterations, fed by the data from our live conversations with customers, are essential for finding the best way to talk with our users and to create content that engages them with information they can truly use.

To maintain agility in creating these experiences, we’ve designed a process that does not require an enormous commitment of resources from our software engineers. Instead, they have built a highly flexible and configurable framework that can accommodate any design.

Working within this flexible framework to continuously improve our automated conversations makes communication and connection between the teams essential. The point where a design reaches configuration is where all the “what if” questions get answered.  All the paths that the users can take through our messages get defined here, which often means several rounds of questions and comments back and forth between the UX engineer and the designer.

The idea is to create an experience that is warm and engaging for the end customer, so that their responses will dynamically shape the messages they receive back. Ultimately, it is the user who shapes our product and shows us the way to design Juntos dialogue.

What Is Lost in a Digital Financial World — And How to Get It Back

What Is Lost in a Digital Financial World — And How to Get It Back

Written by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion. This is a re-post from CFI’s blog

A lot happens in even the simplest meeting between two people. Instantly, and without thinking, each person observes the other’s appearance and body language. As their eyes connect, they form impressions and make judgments about each other. Whether it’s a smile, a handshake, or the response to a question, the information and emotional content that passes in simple acts can be far richer than the words exchanged.

It has long been important for banking operations to ensure that when customers meet staff, whether at the teller window or in the marketplace, the interactions build customers’ trust and convince them to use the institution’s services. At the same time, crucial information about the customer would flow back to the bank.

For example, a loan officer visiting a business owner’s premises observes the customer and his business directly, while the business owner gets answers to his particular questions. When a teller provides cash at a window, the customer enjoys personal care while the bank has a chance to discuss other products that serve the customer’s specific needs. And when a staff member greets a customer in the market, she can remind her that her loan is due, letting the customer know that bank staff are paying attention—and increasing the likelihood of timely repayment.

In today’s digital world, however, customers may rarely or never interact with a person. Digital transactions are fundamentally different from person-to-person encounters. Information flows in precise, narrow and predetermined electronic packets: ID verification, account balance, transaction amount, receipt. No spontaneous exchange of additional information occurs. A digital transaction lacks a social aura. It is often simply a completed task.

As we work to extend financial services to the two billion, typically lower income, people around the world who are disconnected from the financial grid, we must rely on digital financial services. Business economics make digital delivery of financial services unstoppable. And, digital services can bring dramatic benefits—service for small ticket and remote customers, 24/7 availability, fewer errors, and faster responses.

It is undeniable that in the transformation to digital interfaces, valuable personal connections between financial service providers and customers are lost. But what exactly is lost, and how can that loss be mitigated or replaced?

Among the benefits that might be at risk in the transition to digital are:

  • Customer trust and comfort with the financial institution, especially if the customer is new, interacts infrequently with formal institutions, or comes from a socially disadvantaged group
  • The ability to respond efficiently to a customer’s specific questions, supporting successful use of financial products
  • Emotional and social connections that drive behavior
  • In-person assessments that allow providers to discover and address potential problems or find new opportunities
  • The wealth of market information—about things like political events, competitor moves, or problems with specific customer segments—that front line staff gain as they do their work

How can a financial service provider mitigate the loss of these benefits? There are many creative responses. Providers can integrate elements of technology while retaining personal interactions in some parts of their delivery systems. Alternatively, they can enrich the digital experience itself, making it more like a face-to-face interaction.

Finding the Right Place for Human Touch

With staff time freed by digital transactions, banks can choose to deploy people only where they will be of the most strategic value. They can identify the points in customer relationships where person-to-person exchanges really matter—whether in initial outreach, customer enrollment, or periodic check-ins. One of the greatest needs for person-to-person support is when customers have questions. Another is assistance using technologies for the first time. Perhaps financial institutions’ branch locations could become centers of problem resolution and learning rather than routine business.

Banks can provide staff and agents with digital tools to compensate for some of the weakness of human interactions—such as inconsistency, misinformation, or bias. Digital tools can help agents provide consistent information and gather responses efficiently from customers. When banking agents are equipped with tablets, their ability to provide accurate product information is improved.

Going one step further, digital tools could be used to create richer interactions with customers. As new apps and voice and video features expand communications capabilities, and as artificial intelligence advances, providers could create richer digital customer interactions with some of the same features that a person-to-person interaction provides. It is now possible to build interfaces with data flowing in two directions to answer customer questions, provide nudges and reminders, help build financial capabilities, and receive regular customer feedback.

This future is already closer than one may think. Juntos, for example, is a platform that allows financial institutions to carry on personalized, electronic conversations with customers through text messages. Juntos’s powerful data analytics can tailor messages to customer behavior. The friendly style of the messages suggests the presence of a person, and indeed, Juntos reports that many customers share personal news and even wish Juntos a Merry Christmas during the holidays. Through the two-way data flow, customers gain a sense of connection to the institution, support for financial discipline (via reminders), and information about products. At the same time, institutions hear from customers more often.

The financial inclusion sector has barely begun to explore these possibilities. It deploys technology mainly to select customers and perform transactions. But as these basic digital functions are increasingly available, the sector may soon need to focus on creating rich, multifaceted customer interactions that capture more of the benefits of a person-to-person interaction. Customer engagement, facilitated by a combination of technology and the strategic use of people, could be the next competitive frontier.


This post was also published on NextBillion.

CFI Outlines the Benefits of Banks Partnering with Startups

As part of a series presented by the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) about the financial sector, Vitas Argimon explains the unique value presented by partnerships between financial startups and banks. Instead of every player duplicating the work of the others by forging ahead alone, partnering is the best way to strengthen the sector together.


In an article titled Commercial Banks Are Partnering With Fintechs to Reach the Unbanked, Argimon elaborates:

“As challenges by tech-enabled competition mount, banks are seeking to link-up with startups as they see opportunities to reach new markets, bring down costs, and/or enhance their service offerings. Startups offer agility, a proclivity for risk-taking, and a disruptive mindset. On the other hand, banks already have the customer scale, comprehensive product portfolio, robust infrastructure, deposit insurance, branding, and experience/expertise. The combination of these strengths can be especially enabling when seeking out previously unreached population segments because the business models for serving those segments often depend on technologies that bring down costs. Startups can offer banks the tools they need to serve lower-income customers that would be difficult to serve within the confines of their traditional banking models. At the same time, many startups need access to customers and financial resources that banks can provide.” (emphasis added)



Image via CFI


Argimon further highlights the benefits of bank-fintech partnerships in another article called “The New Wave of Partnership Models Between Banks and Startups.” He states that “many banks are building a vast ecosystem of partnerships to expand their reach and service offerings and to improve internal processes.” Juntos’ partnership with BBVA is highlighted in a graphic within the article.



Image via CFI


The characteristics inherent to both banks and startups provide a unique opportunity for partnerships and growth between both entities. For further reading, be sure to read both the first and second article in the CFI series.




Juntos Featured in CFI’s July 2016 Report

In a report titled “The Business of Financial Inclusion: Insights from Banks in Emerging Markets,” the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) lists Juntos as one organization enabling innovative means of financial capability for banks. The report explains:

“Many banks are designing simpler products, usually entry products that give new customers experience with
banking. Others embed financial capability into product design and delivery. They find ways to help customers
learn by doing and give information at teachable moments when customers are most engaged in learning
about potential services. BBVA Bancomer and Bancolombia each contract with Juntos to send SMS messages
to customers. These messages are tailored to each customer’s use patterns, and customers respond with text
messages that then give the bank more information about the customer’s needs and preferences. The two-way
communication not only builds customers’ capability, it also builds the bank’s capacity to understand its


Juntos CFI Report

Image from page 27 of CFI’s report


Read more on pages 23 and 27 of CFI’s July 2016 report.

BBVA Bancomer Publishes Results of Partnership with Juntos

BBVA Bancomer recently published the results of their partnership with Juntos. On page 19 of the report (full report available here; in Spanish), BBVA notes that the partnership resulted in overall higher average balances and an increase in transactions in digital accounts.

BBVA Bancomer ya publicó un reporte sobre los resultados de la colaboración con Juntos. Abajo se detallan las diferencias entre los saldos promedio de los usuarios en el grupo de Juntos y el grupo control. Se puede encontrar el reporte en su totalidad aquí.

Juntos’ Platform Profiled by GSMA

Juntos was recently featured on GSMA’s Mobile for Development blog. The article outlines the needs that mobile money operators have when developing a merchant payment proposition, including issuing, acquiring, and pricing characteristics. Juntos is highlighted as a company that provides support to customers and merchants as merchant payment systems grow and expand in many markets. With a new mobile money feature such as merchant payments, awareness of the service is essential, and Juntos’ SMS messaging can help facilitate use of and engagement in such a service.

While mobile money providers must continue to deploy a strong sales team on the ground to support the growth of merchant payments, partnerships with third parties who can offer support on education and training for increasing… awareness and usage of such a service can lead to a significant growth in transactions.” (emphasis added)


Read the full text of the article here.

Social Proof and Mobile Money: New CGAP Blog

Juntos’ conversational design relies on common principles of behavioral economics and on-the-ground research about users’ beliefs and experiences with money. A recent article at CGAP explores Juntos’ successful implementation of the behavioral economics concept of social proof.


“Social proof gives people a cue about what risks are worth taking by sharing with them the outcomes and experiences of their peers…. In order to do this, Juntos leverages two-way interactive SMS to increase transactions, account usage, and overall engagement with customers.”

Read the full text of the article here

La percepción y el comportamiento: un análisis multicultural del ahorro

Escrito por Verónica Pugin, Latin America Relationship Manager


Estudiando las percepciones con respecto al ahorro

Las instituciones financieras suponen que cuando pensamos en “el ahorro,” todos tenemos la misma percepción que el ahorro =

  • Dinero depositado con frecuencia y no retirado de una cuenta bancaria que genera interés


En nuestra comunicación con miles de usuarios alrededor del mundo, nos hemos dado cuenta que esta percepción de la banca tradicional muchas veces no corresponde a la percepción de los usuarios de bajos ingresos. Las percepciones más comunes que hemos observado hasta ahora entre las comunidades de bajos ingresos que hemos encontrado indican que el ahorro =

  • Dinero efectivo
  • Ítems de valor que no son monetarios
  • Crédito
  • Fondos grupales


Estas percepciones varían entre países y regiones, con algunas más prevalentes en algunas comunidades que otras, pero más que todo, todas difieren de la percepción presumida por la banca tradicional. En algunas comunidades de usuarios de bajos ingresos, en especial en las áreas rurales, uno no se encuentra con el dinero en efectivo con tanta frecuencia como en los centros urbanos; por lo tanto, muchas veces la percepción del ahorro no es monetaria. A fin de cuentas, los usuarios tienen varias percepciones conectadas al “ahorro.”




Después de que se forma una percepción, esa percepción influye el comportamiento, de forma consciente o inconsciente. Aquí siguen algunas manifestaciones de comportamiento que resultan por causa de las percepciones del ahorro de los usuarios de bajos ingresos.


Estudiando el comportamiento con respecto al ahorro


El ahorro en forma de dinero efectivo

  • La percepción de usuarios: En varias comunidades, observamos que los usuarios perciben el ahorro como “dinero efectivo no gastado y guardado para más tarde.”
  • El comportamiento de los usuarios:
    • Colombia: En nuestras investigaciones, notamos que los individuos ahorran billetes y monedas en cajitas. Los individuos que antes no practicaban hábitos del ahorro consistentes muchas veces guardan el dinero efectivo en una cajita como primer paso hacia el ahorro, en vez de depositar en una cuenta bancaria.
    • Filipinas: Encontramos individuos que ahorraran billetes y monedas en una jarra en su casa. Los individuos sentían que el monto de su ahorro no era suficiente para depositar en una cuenta bancaria, así que la jarra servía como su manera de ahorrar dinero efectivo.
    • Rwanda: Es común que las mujeres ahorran dinero efectivo en sus casas. Para las mujeres en estas comunidades, es difícil encontrar dinero efectivo. Cuando sí lo encuentran, se fijan de ahorrarlo.


El ahorro en forma de ítems de valor que no son monetarios

  • La percepción de usuarios: En varias comunidades, hemos aprendido que el ahorro puede significar ítems que no son monetarios pero tienen valor o sirven como fuente para otra meta.
  • El comportamiento de los usuarios:
    • México: Algunos individuos y familias recogen ítems no monetarios que son insumos hacia su meta sin necesidad del dinero efectivo. Por ejemplo, la meta más común era ahorrar para comprar una casa. Los usuarios ahorraban para una casa por medios de ahorrar concreto y ladrillos que luego podrían usarse para construir una casa en vez de depositar dinero en una cuenta bancaria.
    • Filipinas: En nuestra investigación, aprendimos que ciertos individuos usan ítems de valor que no son monetarios para ahorrar. Es común usar la joyería, en especial oro, como medio de ahorrar valor en vez de depositar dinero en una cuenta bancaria.
    • Tanzania: Ciertos individuos ahorran ítems de valor que no son monetarios que se pueden vender más tarde cuando necesiten dinero efectivo.  Los ítems de valor que no son monetarios se perciben como medio de conseguir dinero, tal como tener dinero en una cuenta bancaria.


El ahorro en forma de crédito

  • La percepción de los usuarios: A veces, los usuarios perciben el crédito como una forma del ahorro porque se puede usarlo para alcanzar una meta o estabilizar los ingresos. Se necesita tener una “reputación de ser confiable” en la comunidad para conseguir ese crédito, tal como una calificación de crédito.
  • El comportamiento de los usuarios:
    • Paraguay: Aprendimos que el crédito informal se puede usar para metas de larga duración y también los gastos diarios. Por ejemplo, se puede conseguir un préstamo pequeño para comprar el almuerzo. Los usuarios trabajan para tener una reputación de ser confiable para poder obtener préstamos de otras personas. Esta reputación de ser confiable es un bien que les permite enfrentar choques en su ingreso y perseguir metas financieras.
    • México: En nuestra experiencia, aprendimos que el comportamiento de prestar dinero es una manera común de manejar las demandas financieras de corto y largo plazo. Asimismo, una reputación de ser confiable es un bien que protege a los individuos para poder tener acceso al crédito.
    • Tanzania: Aunque no es tan popular como antes, existen asociaciones semiformales de crédito y ahorro que les ofrecen a los participantes cuentas de ahorro y opciones de intercambio de préstamos. Es decir, se puede sacar dinero o sacar un crédito como una forma de intercambiar el ahorro. Las opciones de intercambiar préstamos se ven en paralelo como forma de ahorrar.


El ahorro en la forma de fondos grupales

  • La percepción de los usuarios: A través del mundo, los usuarios de bajos ingresos participan con frecuencia en grupos que juntan fondos como medio de ahorrar. Grupos de individuos organizan un fondo grupal en que cada persona contribuye su propio dinero y se rotan los beneficiarios.
  • El comportamiento de los usuarios:
    • Indonesia: La cultura indonesia valora los logros en comunidad, incluyendo el ahorro. Los grupos de ahorro no solo sirven para juntar fondos sino también como una actividad social en que los individuos disfrutan del tiempo juntos. Los usuarios también sienten que en caso de una emergencia siempre podrán juntar fondos de su comunidad porque tienen la confianza que se ha establecido entre los miembros del grupo de ahorro.
    • México: Es muy común que individuos participan en tandas (grupos de ahorro) en que el líder recoge una cantidad pequeña de dinero de cada persona semanalmente o mensualmente. Luego, se distribuye una suma agregada a cada participante cada semana o cada mes hasta que todos han tenido la oportunidad de recibir una suma agregada.
    • Rwanda: Para las mujeres, una manera más segura de ahorrar dinero efectivo es participar en una chama. Una chama es un grupo de diez a quince amas de casa que son amigas en una comunidad. Todas contribuyen una cantidad de dinero a la chama, y luego tienen que decidir quién será la beneficiaria del dinero cada mes hasta que todas han recibido una suma global. Cada beneficiaria tiene que devolver el dinero a la chama.

Estos son sólo algunos ejemplos que hemos encontrado que muestran la diferencia entre las percepciones de la banca tradicional de las instituciones financieras y las percepciones de los usuarios de bajos ingresos con respecto al ahorro. En Juntos, invertimos recursos en entender esta diferencia de percepciones para guiar y diseñar nuestras conversaciones bidireccionales para nuestros usuarios. Comprender las percepciones de los individuos es el primer paso para poder comprender la gente y su comportamiento, que es fundamental para cualquier esfuerzo para promover cambios positivos en cualquier grupo o un individuo.

Perception and Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Look at Savings

Written by Veronica Pugin, Latin America Relationship Manager


Exploring Perceptions Around Savings

Financial institutions assume that when we think about “savings,” we all have the following perception: savings =

  • money deposited and not frequently withdrawn from a bank account with interest

As we have communicated with thousands of users around the world, we have noticed that this traditional banking perception is often times not shared among low-income users. The more commonplace perceptions that we uncovered are that savings =

  • unspent cash
  • non-monetary items
  • credit
  • group-pooled cash

These perceptions vary across countries and regions, with some more prevalent in certain communities than others, but ultimately they all differ from financial institutions’ assumed perception. It is also key to note that in certain communities of low-income users, especially in rural areas, one does not come across money as often as in urban centers on a day-to-day basis; therefore, one’s vision of savings is often times non-monetary. Ultimately, users have different perceptions tied to the word “savings.”




After a perception is formed, it drives behavior, consciously or unconsciously. Below are some of the savings behaviors that we have noticed manifest themselves as a result of the above savings perceptions of low-income users.


Exploring Behavior Around Savings

Saving in the Form of Unspent Cash

  • Users’ Perception: In many communities, we noticed users view savings as cash that is “not spent and put away.”
  • Users’ Behavior:
    • Colombia: In our research, we noticed individuals would save bills and coins in tin boxes. Individuals who previously did not practice consistent savings habits would often times deposit into a tin box as a first step towards savings, instead of depositing into a bank savings account.
    • Philippines: We encountered examples of individuals saving bills and coins in a jar in their house. Individuals felt that their quantity of savings was not enough for a bank saving account, so the savings jar was their source for cash savings.
    • Rwanda: It is common for women in particular to save cash in their house. For women in these communities, it is often times rare and difficult for them to come by cash. When they do acquire it, they are sure to save it.

Savings in the Form of Non-Monetary Items

  • Users’ Perception: In various communities, we have learned that saving can mean non-monetary items that store value or are an input towards a long-term goal.
  • Users’ Behavior:
    • Mexico: Certain individuals and families will collect non-monetary items that directly translate to their long-term goal without the need for cash. For example, the most common long-term goal was saving for a house. Users would save for their house by collecting concrete and bricks that would then be used to build the house rather than depositing money into a bank account.
    • Philippines: In our research, we learned that individuals use non-monetary items to store value. A common practice is to use jewelry, especially gold, as a way to “save value” rather than using a bank account.
    • Tanzania: Individuals will save non-monetary items that they would be able to sell later during a time of need for cash. The non-monetary items are seen as value-storing items that can provide cash when needed, much like having cash in a bank savings account.

Saving in the Form of Credit

  • Users’ Perception: At times, users view credit as a form of savings because it can be used for a future goal and/or income-smoothing purposes. One also needs to have earned a “trustworthy reputation” in their community to gain this credit, much like a credit score.
  • Users’ Behavior:
    • Paraguay: We learned that informal credit can be used for long-term goals and also daily expenses. For example, one could get a small loan to purchase lunch. Users work towards building a trustworthy reputation to allow them to get loans from others. This trustworthy reputation is an asset of sorts that allows them to confront income shocks and pursue financial goals.
    • Mexico: In our experience, we learned that net borrowing behavior is common as a way to manage short and long-term financial demands. Similarly, a trustworthy reputation is an asset that individuals protect to access credit.
    • Tanzania: Although declining in popularity, there are semi-formal savings and credit associations that offer participants savings account and loan swap options, and the loan options are viewed in parallel to savings as a form of “saving down.”


Savings in the Form of Group-pooled Cash

  • Users’ Perception: Across the globe, low-income users often times participate in groups that pool together funds as a form of savings. They organize a group of individuals to each contribute funds to pool together money and rotate being the beneficiary.
  • Users’ Behavior:
    • Indonesia: Indonesian culture values achievement through community, including savings. Savings circles are not just a functional activity to pool funds but are also a social activity in which individuals look forward to meeting together to socialize around the savings. Users also feel that they will be able to pool funds from their community when in need because of the trust they have build with their community members.
    • Mexico: It is extremely common for individuals to participate in tandas savings vehicles in which a leader collects a fixed sum from all participants on a weekly or monthly basis and then rotates distributions of the total collected funds to a given participant until all participants have obtained large lump-sums.
    • Rwanda: A more secure way for women to save cash is by participating in chamas. A chama is a group of ten to fifteen housewives that are friends within a community. They contribute a certain amount of money to the chama and then agree to give certain sums to benefit a given participant in a given month. One at a time, each month one member is a beneficiary, and each beneficiary is then responsible for paying the sum back to the chama.



These are just some of the examples we have encountered that demonstrate a difference between financial institutions’ assumed perception and low-income users’ real perceptions regarding savings. At Juntos, we use this understanding of perceptions to design our two-way text message financial conversations for our users. Understanding individuals’ perceptions is the first step to understanding people and their behavior, which is foundational to any effort in driving a positive change with any individual or group.

Juntos’ Design Strategies Featured by Karandaaz Pakistan

MacGregor Lennarz, Commercial Director at Juntos, recently wrote a post for Karandaaz Pakistan in which he details Juntos’ individualized design process:

“Every Juntos message is personalized to the specific receiver in terms of both subject and language.  Each message is based on the customer’s financial behavior (deposits, transfers, etc.) and information he or she has communicated previously in the conversation with Juntos. For example, someone who sends PKR 2000 weekly and has asked about security of transactions will receive a different message than someone who has deposited PKR 500 and alludes to the importance of education for his or her children. All messages from Juntos also reflect the language the customer uses. Thus, someone who sends SMSs in formal Urdu will receive communication back in formal Urdu. Someone who sends SMSs in Pashto relying on abbreviations and/or ‘text speak’ will receive communication back in a similar style.”

The personalization and localization employed by Juntos’ design team work to facilitate the relationship and lower the barriers between financial service providers and their customers, ultimately driving mobile wallet adoption and continued usage.

Read the full article here: Unlocking the Potential of Two-Way Messaging