How we found Nickel’s place in Portugal
A bank that is not a bank and which allows anyone to have a bank account, irrespective of their origin, income or debt status. An account that frees everyone from the constraints of traditional banking. This is Nickel, which has over two million customers in France and chose to enter the Portuguese market via Tangível. Taking a simple approach to financial services, Nickel works with small shop-owners to help people open an account in five minutes, get a card and take back control of their money.
Nickel’s story began when the family of one of its founders left their comfortable upper-middle class life in Algeria for France. Having arrived at their destination, they experienced at first-hand the exclusion from access to basic services that immigrants are so often subjected to, prevented from doing something as simple as opening a bank account.
With a clear mission spirit, Nickel stepped up as a bank that is not a bank, one that does not offer credit and is, therefore, risk-free. And it intended to do things differently than the traditional banks:
- everyone should be able to have a bank account, even those who do not meet the banking system’s requirements,
- it should be easy to open an account and get a card – in just five minutes.
The proposal was a success in France and quickly expanded into Spain. Portugal and Belgium would be the next destinations.
Nickel and Tangível: a partnership forged with a focus on people
Bringing a universal value proposition centered on empowering people with regard to their finances, what space could Nickel occupy in Portugal?
This was the challenge Nickel brought to Tangível: to understand how the value proposition could be adapted to the Portuguese market, given that Nickel is part of BNP Paribas, which also operates in the country.
Nickel is especially concerned about user experience, so we wanted to acquaint ourselves with the Portuguese reality, the pains and preferences of the Portuguese people in relation to the financial institutions. We went out into the market looking for a partner and Tangível was the obvious choice, since they were the ones most in line with our goals“
CEO, Nickel Portugal
Simplifying people’s lives is Tangível’s mission. Usefulness and simplicity are Nickel’s standards. This partnership was made at a distance of over 1,700 kilometers, with a view to reaching people who need a bank account, irrespective of their origin, income or debt status.
4 continents, 11 countries and over 250 users contacted
It was a demanding mission that deserved a tailor-made plan. To bring Nickel to the Portuguese market with a unique and effective value proposition, we brought together eight processes and tools over the four months of the project.
Process and Tools
- interviews with prospective customers and traders,
- online questionnaires,
- usability tests,
- ethnographic studies,
- guerrilla testing,
- Kano analysis,
- Value Proposition Canvas.
Our diverse sample encompassed people of some of Nickel’s target audiences:
- with below average income, minimum wage or unemployed,
- considered middle class,
- immigrants in Portugal,
- who lost access to the banking system due to credit default.
We were aware that talking about money and personal finances is always sensitive. The interviews we conducted brought us face-to-face with the reality of those who have to decide between buying essential medication or food.
But this recruitment process brought us new challenges.
We set out to find representative users, such as people with very low incomes and, consequently, difficulties in accessing technical means of communication.
We encountered understandable embarrassment about the sharing of personal information by those who are heavily in debt.
We spoke to immigrants from Portuguese-speaking countries, such as Brazil, Mozambique and Angola, as well as people from such places as Sudan, Nepal and Poland, among others.
Apart from the language barrier, it was important to talk to people who had just arrived in our country and had not yet started dealing with the required bureaucracies, such as having a bank account.
Suspicious, tied to commissions and accustomed to doing the math
This is how we would describe our sample, where the need for transparency stood out as a recurring theme. Among the main findings of our qualitative research, we discovered that the people in our study:
- are suspicious of charges changed by banks without their knowledge,
- feel tied to bank charges and commissions,
- do the math when drawing up their monthly budget to see how much will be left over after paying for basic necessities.
Tangível successfully turned our findings into concepts making it possible to communicate Nickel’s value proposition on the Portuguese market perfectly.”
Lead UX Designer, Nickel
A friend on every corner
In the digital world, everything can be done remotely, but nothing is a substitute for a friendly face.
Familiarity and convenience are characteristics of Nickel’s proposal, which sees its main agents and allies as being small neighborhood traders rather than bank branches.
For this reason, we conducted ethnographic studies on the ground to observe people in a mini-market and at a kiosk, in two cities, to study the dynamics of these potential sales points for Nickel. Quick in-and-out shops with a multicultural array of customers turned out to be spaces where people greet each other by name – a demonstration of trust.
It is Nickel’s ambition to be present in 2,500 shops and have 450,000 accounts opened in Portugal in 5 years. Even before its one-year anniversary in France, Nickel already had 70,000 accounts opened.
The trust in the informal in-store relationships – some dating back decades – would have to be reflected in the digital touchpoint interfaces that Nickel would use to reach customers. Nothing that couldn’t be verified by means of a few usability tests.
With these tests and an expert review as well, we wanted to test not only the Nickel app and website but also the onboarding process for shop-owners, i.e. the places that would serve as Nickel’s points of sale.
We compiled 44 main findings from these activities and drew up a list of 65 improvement suggestions.
What do Deolinda, Luan and Alex want?
All of the research work carried out began steering us towards more defined solutions regarding Nickel’s value proposition for Portugal. But we still needed to see if people were ready to embrace this disruption to the normal way of managing their money.
Using a Kano analysis, we were able to determine the potential satisfaction levels that the main characteristics of Nickel’s service would likely generate. We implemented an online questionnaire that let us confirm the findings of our qualitative research.
Yes, people are ready to have an account that can be opened easily in just five minutes.
Yes, people want processes that are free from bureaucracies and files full of documents, and to be able to open an account with just their personal identity document or passport.
Yes, people value receiving a card instantly and not having to wait for it to be sent to them by post several days later.
We used three personas to exemplify our findings. Deolinda, Luan and Alex demonstrated to us how Nickel could address their concerns, anxieties and needs. An exercise in co-creation between Nickel and Tangível, supported by a Value Proposition Canvas, made it possible to pinpoint the aspects most appreciated by people and the ones that help keep their “pain” to a minimum.
The result was a handful of inspiring concepts that we felt summed up Nickel’s personality and the relationship that it could subsequently build with its customers in Portugal:
All of the tools were in place to give Nickel’s mission its Portuguese codename, meaning its slogan or positioning.
We received a lot of very relevant input from Tangível, including some that we are implementing in our tools worldwide, specifically in the app and customer area.”
CEO Nickel Portugal
An account that frees
We began by putting together eight positioning proposals with the team from Nickel.
After some tweaking, we were both satisfied and we moved onto guerrilla testing of the three winning suggestions that had Nickel’s strong concepts at their core: enablement, empowerment, financial autonomy and release, disruption from tradition and inclusion for everyone.
Four of our researchers surveyed potential customers in two geographies to reach the unique value proposition, the one that would open the doors of the Portuguese market to Nickel: the account that frees.
Why get stuck with commissions, unforeseen costs and complex processes? Nickel empowers its customers to explore new possibilities:
- to enjoy time with the people who matter most,
- to have peace of mind when it comes to finances,
- to build plans and go further.
Freedom is the key idea of this account that gives people back control over their money – and their future. An account that frees.
The result of that people-centric partnership was a new outlook on financial services in Portugal, an area in which Tangível is proud to have developed numerous projects.
We have gained additional knowledge about how diverse the habits of people in Portugal are when it comes to managing their money, because their conditions, needs and concerns are very diverse too.
We spoke to many people with very specific circumstances, always in the humble effort to understand and take an empathetic approach to our design.
We are grateful to Nickel for entrusting this challenge to us and for the opportunity it has given us to learn the stories of these people, some of them unforgettable.
The team were amazing. (…) They were so kind and very professional and they managed to adapt very quickly. If something wasn’t working, they always managed to find a solution. (…) Communicating with them was very easy.”