2021Design perspectives which gaze at “what lies ahead”
Kaie Murakami
Considering “Design created together with the next generation”

Kenichi Nagayoshi × Yoshiki Ishikawa | Design for everyone, which is achieved by “staying together”


The Good Design Award 2021, winners of which were announced in October 2021. In order to deepen discussions further, a special team (Focused Issues Directors) to reveal a tide of design from a different viewpoint of selecting Award winners has been organized. “Focused Issues” is preparing for presenting the issues and the future possibilities as “recommendation.”
The theme that Yoshiki Ishikawa, a Focused Issues Director and a public health researcher, works on is “Design created together with the next generation.” The theme was selected in order to focus on the production process “‘with whom’ it was designed,” and to explore the direction of design that is produced based on a new sense of value.
During the screening process, with this background in mind, there was an entry that particularly attracted his interest. It is Japan’s first digital bank, “Minna Bank,” targeting digital natives.
It was clear at a glance that the quality of this simple but mature design with many illustrations is very high. On the other hand, the mid- to long-term vision of Minna Bank leaves much room for exploration. Other judges highly appraised its UI with no objections as well, but there was a strong call for further improvement to the direction of its services.
What is Minna Bank striving to create together with digital natives?
Who does “Minna (everyone)” of Minna Bank mean?
To find answers for these questions, Ishikawa decided to interview Kenichi Nagayoshi, the Vice President of Minna Bank. He focused on the development process and thought behind the product.

Redefining “bank” from the perspective of digital natives

IshikawaDuring this year’s screening, I have been examining entries by setting a theme called “Design created together with the next generation.” From this perspective, I found “Minna Bank” outstanding.
During the screening discussion, judges were in almost unanimous agreement that “it has an outstanding UI.” However, there were also questions such as “What is it aiming at?” or “What is the difference from conventional internet banking services?” In this interview, I would like to ask you About this area in details.

NagayoshiFirst of all, let’s start with “what we are aiming at.” Even though the world is rapidly changing, “banks” haven’t changed for 150 years. Minna Bank was launched based on the concept that we revise the functions of banks once again and explore what future banks should be like. The parent organization of Minna Bank is the “Fukuoka Financial Group,” which operates regional banks such as the Bank of Fukuoka within the Kyushu Region. That means, it is a “bank made by a bank.”

Kenichi Nagayoshi, Vice President, Minna Bank, Ltd.

IshikawaDo you mean, the concept of banking itself is re-designed?

NagayoshiThat’s correct. While reconsidering the function of a bank by targeting generations that have a good command of digital technologies, we thought it may be able to evolve into a totally new form.

IshikawaThere is also compatibility with digitals, and beyond that, there is a major gap in the sense of value regarding money between generations. Especially, the generations older than us have this strange hesitation, “We shouldn’t talk About money too much.”

NagayoshiThere is this standard since old times, “Do not talk About money with others.” It is said that “a shift ‘from saving to investing’ cannot be accepted in Japan easily.” I think such a tendency is affected a lot by this unique feeling of “money earned without breaking your back is not money.”

Ishikawa The question of “What is it aiming at?” during the screening discussion may originally come from these negative impressions About money.
For example, Minna Bank has an original service called “Cover,” which allows interest-free loans up to 50,000 yen. There were many questions, such as “Why is there no interest charge?” or “Wouldn’t it make debts mount up?”

NagayoshiThe idea of “borrowing money is basically a bad thing” is firmly rooted in people’s minds. People buy a house or car with a loan, but they hesitate to borrow a little money for everyday expenses.
But buy-now-pay-later services like Paidy are really popular now. That is also a type of debt. So, who is using such buy-now-pay-later services? It is Generation Z, which is our target group.
The majority of this generation has little career experience and incomplete credit history. Normally, they can’t pass a screening for even a small loan. But as they accumulate payment records without delay, the amount approved for later payment will increase. Normally, the threshold value of a buy-now-pay-later service is set at 50,000 yen. Therefore, we decided to let users have up to 50,000 yen anytime if they pass a simple screening.

Generation Z and Millennials, a divided image of “bank”

Yoshiki Ishikawa, Public Health Researcher

IshikawaI see. After listening what you said, I think it is straightforward and reasonable considering the situation and sense of value of Generation Z.

NagayoshiThere is a significant gap between generations in the utilization rate of subscription services as well, such as Netflix and comic book apps. Digital natives don’t hesitate pay monthly charges if they feel it is worthwhile.
Therefore, we offer a subscription-type banking service for the first time in the banking industry. Users feel that “transaction fees are a waste of money” because they don’t find it worthwhile. We will provide services that are worth paying the 600 yen monthly fee, such as the previously mentioned “Cover,” or reward point rates and deposit rates higher than other banks.
This is exactly a challenge of the future bank for its future customers. This is how we grasp the sense of value of digital natives and reflect it in our services and design.

IshikawaHow are users reacting?

NagayoshiDigital natives include a wide range of ages, and they can be divided into Millennials, which is late 20s to 30s, and Generation Z, which is 24 years old and younger. To tell you the truth, these two generations showed totally different reactions.
Millennials are already working in society, receiving wages into their bank accounts, and using direct debit. Therefore, they already had a fixed idea, “This is how banking works,” in their mind. When we showed them the UI at a user interview, there were quite a few voices saying, “I don’t require a fancy appearance for banking.”

IshikawaTheir sense is rather similar to older generations. For better or worse, they are used to the conventional banking system.

NagayoshiOn the other hand, Generation Z reacted as “Finally, we have a banking service best for us!” Some of them have bank accounts, but just for saving a small amount of spending money or receiving direct deposits from part-time job earnings. They have no fixed idea About banking. For that reason, they can accept Minna Bank’s UI, which is similar to usual apps, without hesitation. This is a significant difference.
We do target both generations, but want to put more focus on “Generation Z” in “creating a future bank together.”

“Minna” is not limited to users

IshikawaWhat are you specifically indicating by “create future bank together”? Was there any special effort while “making” the product, such as the development process?

NagayoshiOne of the characteristics is complete self-manufacturing by using agile development in order to reflect user feedback immediately. Not just product development, we have an in-house marketing function, rather than outsourcing it to an advertising agency.
Then, members from all areas, such as planners, marketers, engineers, and designers, participate in reviewing user interviews or usability. They have many discussions until everyone comes to a consensus.

IshikawaA consensus from everyone? That must be very time-consuming.

NagayoshiThat’s true. We have exciting discussions every time, very uproarious.
For example, if you look carefully at Internet banking sites or apps, there are so many notes. They say such things as, “We accept no responsibility or liability in such cases” or “You are obliged to make your own investing decision.” As these notes are written in tiny letters, not many people would read through them, though we are required to state them somewhere by law.
Then, bank members who want to avert risks and Millennial designers who want to pursue simplicity and usability confronted each other on how to state such terms and conditions. I understood both opinions, so it was hard to settle the conflict.

IshikawaI see. To tell you the truth, I personally took notice of the word “Minna” at the beginning of the product name. I thought there must be some reason for using the word “Minna” in this time and age with such a diverse population. What you just told me is the right episode to describe how “Minna Bank” is.
All the members commit to the product development, thinking of “for whom we are making this” and forming a consensus. This takes a long time, but is essential to “create together with the next generation.

NagayoshiWhat “Minna” expresses is not just users. It includes all stakeholders such as employees and partners; then we will incorporate all opinions to blaze a trail. We complete all the production processes internally, and that is how we can make efforts with agility.

Listen to all “voices” and “stay together”

IshikawaPlease let me know About the viewpoint of “creating together with the next generation.” What opinions have you received from digital natives, which you set as a target?

NagayoshiIn addition to user interviews, we gather comments About Minna Bank on SNS by crawling websites.
Then, we analyze and summarize those tens of thousands of “voices” on reports. The reports are examined at a monthly meeting called “Minna no Koe Committee,” which our directors attend, to improve our services. That is the base of our service concept, “cast everyone’s ‘voice’ into shape.”

IshikawaThat’s impressive. You mean, managing directors review the reports every month.

Nagayoshi Yes. We also inform users of examples of functional improvements made based on users’ “voices,” or conduct a project called “Minna Bank Project Created by Everyone,” which provides opportunities to interact with users through talk events and workshops.
Recently, we held an internship event for new university graduates. We asked them to send videos to show how they would use the functions of Minna Bank, instead of sending application forms. We could gain many insights on how Generation Z thinks just by watching their videos.

IshikawaThat’s interesting. For me, “creating together” means the same as “staying together.” Having close contact with the next generation... which is digital natives for Minna Bank, and staying connected with them outside products and services. Stay with them for as long a time as possible. I find that you really value making those efforts and implement them carefully.

From financial intermediation to value intermediation: Expanding functions of bank

IshikawaMinna Bank was launched in May 2021, and is still under development. What are you aiming to achieve in the future?

NagayoshiOne thing we have articulated as a future goal is, “Connection worthwhile for everyone.”
Conventional banks have been making a living on financial intermediation. That is, banks receive Japanese yen, legal currency, from people who want to make deposits, then lend it to people who wish to borrow funds. However, now, there are so many categories of services emerging, including crypto-assets like Bitcoin and digital currency services like XX Pay. On Mercari and Yahoo! Auctions, items are distributed with value.
In such a world, how should future banks be? Thinking of an answer to this question, we decided to aim at a “platform that can mediate things truly ‘valuable’ for various communities including individuals and companies.” We are aiming to be a platform that can connect values in a simple way by using digital technology.

IshikawaThinking About it, banks were originally exchanging values by using things like gold or silver. Exchange of values, that is the function we need in society. In these times, there is no need to have money as a medium to exchange values.
As an example of value transfer or value exchange, something like “dad gives reward points or airline mileage points to his child” is easy to imagine. Is there any specific picture of services in the future?

Nagayoshi The thing is, we already implemented a similar function into “Wallet+,” which is provided by iBank Marketing, a fellow subsidiary of Minna Bank. With this service, users can collect reward points from campaigns or bank transactions such as direct payroll deposit. What is unique About this service is that points can be convert into cash, used for investment, and transferred to other reward points. As you mentioned earlier, users can send points to family or friends.
At the moment, we are seeking ways to adopt this view in Minna Bank.

IshikawaThis is exactly a platform for value exchange, which mediates exchange of various values.
Minna Bank started with the idea to “re-design and redefine the way banks are, which hasn’t changed for 150 years.” However, you are actually working on more significant and substantive question, which is “How should future value exchange be?,” and trying to create an answer together with the next generation. I expect that Minna Bank will be a totally new infrastructure; a bank, yet not a bank.

Editor:Masaki Koike Writer:Mariko Fujita Photographer:Kazuyuki Koyama

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