Servus Credit Union



Personas inform design of banking services

Using one-on-one interviews and an online survey, DFFRNT developed a comprehensive set of member banking personas to guide the development of Servus’ digital banking products.

The client

Alberta’s largest credit union, Servus, can trace its roots back to the Great Depression and the formation of the province’s first credit union. Eighty years later, it has more than 100 branches and nearly 380,000 owners or members. Servus was ranked #1 in Canada on Forbes’ list of the World’s Best Banks in 2022.

DFFRNT’s Shaun Illingworth says Servus is one of the most member-focused organizations he’s ever encountered – it was delightful to see so much focus on the member experience. As a natural extension of that user-centred philosophy, Servus called on DFFRNT to conduct user research to support future product and service design decisions, including an upgrade to their mobile and online banking tools.

The challenge

When it came time to make some strategic decisions and update some of the bank’s digital tech, Servus wanted to ensure they were meeting their customers’ needs. The bank worked with DFFRNT to pursue a richer understanding of members and how, when, where and why they interact with the bank. The two takeaways from this project would be:

  • Member data-based, actionable insights about users, their behaviours, and their preferences
  • A set of member personas to guide the direction for new service offerings and bank operations.

“When considering fintech, it’s important to assess the technological readiness of the intended users. Personas are particularly valuable because they don’t represent an “average” user; they illustrate the capabilities of several distinct user groups.”

Shaun Illingworth
Co-founder, DFFRNT

The solution

To develop the personas, DFFRNT followed its customary method. This begins with a discovery phase, ingesting the client’s past research to inform the next phase of research and avoid duplicated efforts.

For Servus, DFFRNT performed a series of one-on-one interviews with dozens of bank members. The sample group represented various ages, incomes and geographies. The purpose was to gather in-depth, open-ended input, to understand why and how members behave in specific ways in their interactions with the bank. The knowledge from these interviews guided the development of a survey that would help DFFRNT quantify the patterns observed in the one-on-one interviews.

The online survey included a mix of multiple choice, matrix, Likert scale, dropdown, behavioural and rating questions. More than 6000 members responded in just 14 days.

The survey responses provided simple descriptive statistics, such as what banking products members use, how long they have been with the bank and their level of satisfaction with the brand. DFFRNT also performed more advanced analyses, considering whether the findings cluster into segments.

The firm’s researchers and behavioural experts looked for relationships between the data sets. This analysis of the survey data and the one-on-one interviews revealed patterns and distinct user groups among the bank’s members. This evidence-based approach was leveraged to develop a comprehensive set of banking personas that characterize the goals, needs, tasks, behaviours, challenges and context of use for each audience.

For the finance sector, personas can be used to focus the consideration or ideation of new services or to qualify the impact of services. If a bank has 500,000 clients but only 200,000 downloads of the mobile banking application, is the app a failure? Not necessarily. It could be a massive success among its target audience. Among other user groups, mobile banking may not be the preferred tool.

The outcome

DFFRNT’s research increased Servus’ level of insight into their members. The credit union has previously invested in different kinds of analyses of their customers. Developing personas is essentially a segmentation process. But where market segments can suggest socio-economic characteristics, DFFRNT’s assessment provided more detail about members’ behaviours and their interactions with Servus.

  • How do they use the bank? Do they bank in person or remotely?
  • When they bank remotely, is it via a mobile app or a website?
  • What are their financial goals?
  • What banking features matter most?
  • Why do they bank where they do?

The results

Working with the survey data, DFFRNT identified several “dimensions” that would differentiate the personas. These included: domain knowledge, communication preferences, risk-taking, and mobile banking.

For example, a customer group represented by a “starter” persona might be characterized by low domain knowledge and a high value for in-person communications, whereas a “parents” persona may have less time for in-person communications and more domain knowledge, so services and staff responses to this persona would differ from those tailored to starters.

“For a persona to exist, they don’t have to be exclusively unique in every dimension. They can share similarities, but they also have incredibly meaningful differences. Developing personas rarely identifies completely isolated, unique groupings.”

Shaun Illingworth,
co-founder, DFFRNT

Having developed research-based personas which differed significantly across important identified dimensions, the Servus team can now use these personas to understand the kinds of services they need to offer and to whom they should be offered.

The final deliverable for this project was the personas. The bank’s design team had these tools available during the redesign of their mobile application and their website. The personas will also assist front-line staff in tailoring their responses to each group.

  • Behavioural research
  • Surveys and primary research
  • Strategic design
  • User experience expertise
  • Personas

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