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Home Fintechs Exclusive: Interview with Katral-Nada Hassan, YAP

Exclusive: Interview with Katral-Nada Hassan, YAP

Katral-Nada Hassan, YAP has provided Everly with an exclusive interview about UX challenges in the digital banking world

Katral-Nada Hassan joined YAP in 2018 to lead a team of designers building the region’s first independent digital banking application. She serves as the head of product experience and innovation, creating ease-of-access to banking tools for millions across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa and utilizing cutting-edge technology to enhance the user experience of the application.

Katral-Nada is a veteran product and design strategist with more than 15 years of experience developing optimal user experiences for products across web and mobile in all sectors. She specializes in the end-to-end design process and the convergence of design, business, technology and the user in that process to create products that are simple to use. At YAP, she oversees the product, design and user experience team and leads the charge on building the future of banking in the region. 

YAP is a fintech providing a digital banking platform in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. The company launched its first digital banking platform in the UAE in March 2021 and will be launching next in Pakistan and Ghana.  

Like most other digital banks, YAP does not offer traditional banking services like loans and mortgages. The fintech does offer modern features such as a 360-degree view of a consumer’s spending analytics, easy ways to transfer money and pay bills, and real-time notifications of purchases, withdrawals and transfers.  

“The fintech revolution has become very popular in other parts of the world and we saw a gap and unique need for this service in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa regions,” said YAP CEO and founder Marwan Hachem

YAP’s model is to partner with banks for IBAN and BIN sponsorship in the countries they work with, head of product Katral-Nada Hassan said, so far YAP has partnered with a bank in the UAE, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Ghana.

Katral-Nada Hassan has provided Everly with an exclusive interview where she talks about her work for YAP and elaborates on their plan to become a key fintech player and how the company is approaching UX challenges of the digital banking world.

According to your LinkedIn profile you have 15 years of experience in UX, what brought you to work in this position? Can you share any special experiences or few milestones?

I actually started my career off in Canada back when UX was called Information Architecture. I then ended up moving to the UAE for a short-term international experience and 11 years later I’m still there. In the first 5 months of being in the UAE, I realized that there was a great opportunity in the emerging market I was in, to bring user experience design the forefront of services and product design.

I ended up starting a consultancy with a like-minded partner and from there I began consulting with different companies from different industries across the region and offering my services as a UX consultant. Of course, a lot of what I did was educating businesses and clients on the value of UX and the impact it can have on the bottom line for their businesses. Nowadays it goes without saying that UX is integral to a business’s ability to compete and stand out in its market.

My experience in consulting allowed me the chance to dabble in so many different industries and businesses. In 2013 I got my first real experience working for financial services when I did a one-year project for a big bank in Turkey. I led the UX design on that project and learned so much about the intersection of design and technology for a financial institute. Throughout my time on that project, I realized that the world of banking and finances was only going to get more and more digital.

So did you use some tips and tricks from your past experience from other industries in the FinTech industry?

Any experience you gain from other projects in other industries will always be beneficial to future projects. The Fintech industry is not only about digitizing the banking experience, but we can also leave that for the banks to do in their digital transformation projects. Fintech is about bringing in all services that require some sort of payment/financial element together and allowing consumers to experience them in a more useful and accessible way. So, any experience from e-commerce, education, travel & leisure, healthcare, government services, and even niche markets can end up in a Fintech solution.

With my work on the YAP app, this is something we focused on with a marketplace approach. We built in a YAP Store to hold a space for financial products and services that will be offering via our app for specific target audiences.

In what ways is your concept different to other neobanks? Do you just copy-paste the model into a different region or is there something new?

We are focused on the Middle East, South Asia and Africa region. The countries in these regions differ a lot from each other. Subsequently, we have a built a core fintech product that we then localize for every country we go into. To localize this, we build teams in each country and conduct specific market research and user research in each of these countries. The market experience and the research that we do, help us understand from the beginning what is the best way to localize our product.

And as already mentioned, having the YAP store as part of our core offering, allows us the ability to introduce specific and unique products and services to each country/market we operate in. For example, in Africa we are working on building a financial product specific to unbanked farmers whereas in the UAE and Saudi Arabia we are more focused on building products for young people who are left unbanked until they reach a certain age.

What has helped us with localization is truly the user experience methodology which gives us as a business the opportunity to conduct user research, prototype, test and iterate to get our product offering right and fit for the market.

During panel discussion questions like,“who’s going to be the biggest bank“? Is it going to be some international challenger bank or is it going to be the local ones eventually? And a lot of the speakers said that it’s going to be the local ones, the really specific ones that are tailor-made for the needs of a particular target audience. What do you think about this?

I think any bank whether international or local can be a winner if they get their purpose and intent right from the start. Purpose-driven businesses are always the winners, and it’s usually easier for small and local banks to have a purpose, a specific audience and be more specialized in delivering on that purpose and to that specific audience. But if international banks are able to segment properly and actually use proper user experience design strategy and thinking in the segmentation of the product then they too can be purpose-driven for the individual markets and audiences their international bank targets.

Do you think people will use neobanks and challenger banks as their primary accounts for day-to-day banking?

I definitely think that people will use neobanks and challenger banks for their day-to-day banking. We are already seeing this move happening across Europe and it’s a matter of time for challengers to have that same impact internationally, especially with the enhanced data features and unique product and service offerings being created for specific audiences. People have always swayed towards convenience and if they can get their financial services and day-to-day payments in one place that also offers a great customer experience, then why not!

How do you measure success? Do you have some kind of APIs with the UX?

We measure success by ensuring that all our UX goals have some metric/KPI assigned to them. For example, our signup journey during onboarding, shouldn’t take a user more than 30 seconds. This is a metric we assign to sign up, so if our analytics tool shows that a user took more than 30 seconds to complete the sign-up, we are alerted to look into this journey deeper and try to see where the issue (if any) occurred. We do this against all the journeys we’ve designed across the app and they can be metrics regarding time to complete, referrals, engagement etc.

We also do a lot of qualitative testing through a platform called User Testing where we set up one-on-one interviews with our customers to test their experiences and ensure our KPI’s are being met.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish. What is user experience, what is customer experience and what is design, could you elaborate on this?

For us, UX design refers to the methodology we apply to designing the experiences in the products and services we offer. This methodology is based on user research, discovering user needs or problems, finding solutions to those needs/problems and prototyping them. Our prototypes include visual design, information design, interaction design as elements in designing solutions to a user’s problem/need. We then test the prototypes and iterate till we pass it into the product or decide to pass it.

Customer experience on the other hand is the full end to end journey a user goes through and the touch points they interact with during each experience. It encompasses elements of marketing, brand, loyalty and engagement and considering how to keep a user within the loop of engagement with our brand and product. 

And the last question – what is your biggest career mess-up?

I don’t believe in career mess-ups. I believe that every experience you go through in your career has a learning that helps shape you and teaches you to do better and be better. I never like dwelling on things that go wrong or not as I planned, because I believe that learnings are the greatest experiences we can have, so if something doesn’t go as planned, you take the good and you leave the bad and move on to the next journey ahead.

Jan Cerny
Jan is an innovation enthusiast and Fintech news reporter. He specializes in news distribution, social media, and content analysis.

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