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Citi Venture


The majority of people from people of color low-income communities use financial services that don't build their credit and cost them more money.


Jessica Zhang
Ted Lee
Leah How
Esther Lin


2021.09 - 2021.12

My Role

Led the user experience design including user flow, interface design, and UX writing. Recruited and conducted 5 in-depth stakeholder interviews.  Directed and produced the product video.

Design Challenge

How might we (Citi) develop an innovative fintech product that increases racial equity, expands financial inclusion, and empowers people of color?

Target User Group

Low-income people of color in the United States

Our focus

How might we help low-income people of color build or improve their credit scores so that they can plan and make progress towards their
long-term financial goals?

Video Intro

Design Principles

During the process of creating Finana, we were extremely honored to collaborate with our non-profit partner: Qualitas of Life. Qualitas of Life was founded in 2007 and has been providing financial education workshops to the Latinx community for 14 years. With their extensive knowledge and experience in the field, we co-create these four design principles that catered to the community’s pain points: Accessibility; User-Centeredness & Cultural Competence; Trust & Empowerment; Financial Sustainability.

Easy Onboarding


For accessibility, Finana supports multiple languages and has minimum identification requirements to accommodate our target users' different linguistic needs and financial  backgrounds.

Financial Dictionary


The financial dictionary allows users to learn financial jargon in a more digestible way by providing easy-to-understand explanations and examples. 

Online Community

User-Centeredness &Cultural Competence

From our research, we learned that our users are active community members, they love to help their community even when they are in a tough situation. Therefore, we designed an online community forum where people can share their financial experiences and receive professional advice. 


Trust & Empowerment

As for trust, we learned that our users have difficulty in forming trust with the current financial institutions. Therefore, Finana allows users to access all resources without entering personal & banking information. We also made sure our data collection policy is as transparent and upfront as possible.

Personalized Plan

Financial Sustainability

During our research, we discovered that users could not achieve financial goals due to their unpredictable living situations. As a result, Finana helps users achieve long-term goals by creating a personalized plan that is unique to their needs. 

After they choose their top three goals and timeline, Finana creates a plan based on their financial habits, breaking down long-term goals into actionable steps. 


Achieve financial goal

Financial Sustainability

Trackable financial steps make the personalized plan more feasible. 

Financial advisor

Financial Sustainability

Finana will recommend financial advisors for each user based on their financial situation to better assist them achieve long-term financial goal.

Discover Problem Space

Research Process


We received this design challenge from Citi Ventures, which is “How might we develop an innovative fintech product that increases racial equity, expands financial inclusion, and empowers Black and Latinx low-income individuals?”. To learn more about the problem space, we decided to take a trip to the Bronx area, located north of Manhattan, to see and experience our target users' living environment.

When we explored the neighborhood, we saw a lot of check cashing services that are usually not as present in Manhattan. These services allow individuals to cash their paycheck without a bank account in exchange for a high fee. Majority of the services within the neighborhood are focused on residents getting instant cash.

Banking Status

Research Process

We collected quantitative information to validate our findings by creating a survey that was posted on craigslist under the Bronx’s job-finding category. The results are, out of 57 of the people we surveyed, 75% of them are underbanked, which means they have some type of bank account but heavily rely on cash and other alternative financial services.

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Research Process

​We conducted 7 interviews with our target users in order to have a better understanding of their current financial situation,  how they manage their finance, and what challenges and frustration they have. We also interviewed 5 stakeholders and experts to dig deeper into the problem space.

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User interview empathy map. After each interview session, we organized the content into

what they think, do, say, and feel, to see what's the pain and gain and highlight the findings.

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Interviewing Qualitas of Life organisation.


We also organized our interview findings by categorizing them.

Ecosystem Map

As we did a lot of in-depth interviews with target users, stakeholders, and financial experts, we clearly understood the different actors that influence the user's financial standing.

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Financial Behavior 

Research Finding

How do they handle their money? Without access to traditional banking services, research shows that financially underserved customers spent $189 billion annually in fees and interest. That said, Black and Latinx households are two times more likely to have used these services as compared to white households.

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Key Insight

The majority of people from people of color low-income communities use financial services that don't build their credit and cost them more money.


Research Finding - why don't people use traditional banking services?

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Why does it matter?

Research Finding

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Own a house

Why does developing an innovative fintech product matter for our users?.  From our interviews, our users' long-term financial goals are to own a house, get a better car or even start a business. All of these goals require a good credit score. we decided that our focus is “How might we help low-income people of color build or improve their credit scores so that they can plan and make progress towards their long-term financial goals?”


Get a better car


Start a business


Design Process

To truly understand our focus, we choose Keira as a representation of our target users.

Competitive Analysis

Design Process

With a clear understanding of our target users, finding a marketplace for our product is essential. This is a competitive analysis focused on financial planning products and services. we focus on accessibility and personalized financial literacy education.


Accessibility means that if people can easily access financial services or products. For example, if the service provides multiple languages without any jargon and terminology that is difficult to understand, or they ask for fewer identification requirements like Social Security Number.


Personalized financial literacy Education means how personalized the app can be, depending on people's current situation. We did this analysis to determine what the financial services have done even though they do not target only low-income people of color.


Based on the chart, we do find that there is space for a financial products that focus on accessibility and personalized financial literacy education to help users build or improve their credit scores.

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Design Process

After we decided on our focus, we brainstormed some potential features based on the problems and user needs we have found, including how to sign up; how to make a personalized plan; how users can engaged in the online community forum; how can we provide financial resources.

Co-design Workshop

Design Process

After brainstorming the key features, we hosted a co-design workshop with 4 target users remotely. The goal is to bridge the gap between the current financial tools & services and low-income individuals. Also to understand their relevant experiences and thoughts. Each session lasts around 30 mins,  using tools like Miro and markers & pens. Co-design workshop helped us narrow down the key features of the application and make the application design speaks more about our target user group.

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Design Process

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Design System
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Takeaways & Next Steps

Challenge in user interviews

During our interview sessions, some users constantly gave us very positive feedback when we presented our potential feature idea and design. It almost felt like they told us things they thought we wanted to hear. It was a challenge for our team, to get honest feedback and thought from them. 

Challenge in defining project scope

We took a while to define the project scope. It was really helpful for me to layout the whole user journey (from user's current financial standing to where they want to be in the next 5-10 years) and see what would be the first step we can help them in the journey.

Future Improvement: a new product name

Our product name - "Finana" was inspired by one of our co-design workshops with one of our users. However, after the final presentation, we received feedback saying that it might not be appropriate to use a banana to symbolize a product directed towards the African American community. Therefore, even though it's unintentional, it's important not to cause any confusion or misunderstanding.



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