Embark Group is one of the largest retirement solutions providers in the UK, and growing fast. They manage about £40 billion in client assets on their investment platform, which they use to develop propositions for client businesses including Nutmeg and Wealthify. Equator was appointed as their lead digital agency in November 2019.
15 years of legacyEmbark’s online platform is a crucial element of the day-to-day business - it’s where financial advisers manage investments and tax wrappers. When we got involved it was already 15 years old.
Built as a data-driven rather than experience-driven environment, the platform wasn’t meeting the needs of our client or their customers. Naturally, the brokers, advisers and paraplanners who used the platform regularly had become used to it, but migrating and onboarding new users was risky, as it wasn’t easily navigable or intuitive.
So staying the same - or a piecemeal upgrade - just wasn’t an option.
A challenging brief
Part of the initial brief from our client assumed a handful of core journeys, and about 20 screens. When we looked a little deeper, however, we found we’d need about 50 times that for the optimum customer experience, simple onboarding journeys and proper API integration.
Our task was to deliver an investment platform to support the needs of financial advisors and management, as well as an elevated experience for clients, allowing them to self-serve, transact and trade. The platform had to be configurable, flexible and future proof for Embark’s long-term objectives - which included servicing white-label partners.
What we did
Equator and Embark people combined in an augmented transformation team. Due to the pandemic, this was largely co-located and remote, but experience and skills came to the virtual table from both organisations.
Our overall approach meant that CX, UX and UI guidance was input at every stage. A design framework evolved along with project requirements, and the end result is an end product that wins users’ confidence while meeting or exceeding their current and future needs.
How we did itTo make the process more efficient and reduce lead times we ran two types of sprints - ‘gold’ and ‘silver.’ These were an adaptation of traditional design sprints, involving different levels of detail, which allowed us to deal with varying complexity in the most effective manner. (It’s important that design sprints work to solve UX and technical factors, as well as specific features and journeys.)
Gold sprints - intensive two-week bursts of client and agency collaboration - featured rapid prototyping and user-testing processes to handle and verify our approach to complex challenges. We ran these on-site at Equator’s offices, with Embark and Equator experts working closely together.
Silver sprints took a more conventional Agile approach. We built wireframes directly through to development for the less complex parts of the platform, which meant translating user flows to lo-fi interface mock-ups and applying best UX practices. The build benefited from a flexible and scalable design system of elements, rules, and UX patterns.
Involving both developers and designers in these design sprints delivered the following benefits:
- increased overall understanding of the problem and proposed solutions
- fast, confidential decision making
- the ability to work through complex concepts quickly, feeding learnings into production sprints
- lower risk, increasing the development team’s contextual understanding while reducing the overall effort required
While we’re still in a soft launch period only financial advisers are using the platform, with a public launch to follow. Users have reported significant positive points, while the scope of the project means there’s still considerable work to do. Highlights of the work include
- two sitemap architectures in one application, for financial professionals and customers
- shared code with bespoke journeys per user type
- a secure, flexible, future-proof platform
- API integration with business systems
- Umbraco CMS to manage content and white-label application
- data warehouse integration.
- scalable hosting infrastructure
Our work for Embark showcases the capabilities of the Umbraco CMS - and demonstrates the power of client and agency teams working in unison, even when face-to-face meetings are practically impossible. Call us now for an idea of how we could work with you.