Designing a "rainy day" insurance product

Despite an uptick in the economy in recent years, many people still live paycheck to paycheck.

In 2017, 40 percent of American adults reported that they wouldn’t be able to come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense, according to a report by the Federal Reserve. Many are just one lost paycheck away from serious financial pain.

CUNA Mutual Group is a mutual insurance company that provides financial services to cooperatives, credit unions, their members and other customers worldwide. They saw an opportunity to fill a need for working class people worried about the ability to pay their bills should they lose their job, get sick or injured. They also saw an opportunity to experiment with the Lean Startup approach to product development. So they created a startup within their company to work on developing a direct-to-consumer payment security product, which became SafetyNet.

Although they had deep knowledge of property loss, disability, death and unemployment, CUNA Mutual Group had little knowledge of how people manage day-to-day finances. The startup group came to us for help in understanding how people think about financial security and whether their concept resonated with consumers. They also engaged us to help them move through the Lean Startup process to commercialization and introduce design research principles and methods to the team.

We started by brainstorming different iterations of the core product – unemployment and disability insurance that is purchased online by individuals, not employers, with benefits paid out in a lump sum. We created storyboards to articulate the value proposition and process from the consumer’s point of view. With concept description in hand, we conducted over 100 individual interviews with consumers in three cities as the product evolved.

Based on the research, we provided recommendations on how to move forward, including messaging and positioning guidance and UX design strategy. We embedded with their Lean Startup team, helping plan experiments and research. We conducted a service design workshop to help their team make decisions and to build out a service design blueprint that became the basis for ongoing conversation about the customer experience. In addition to supporting the customer development process, we created tools and templates to help the client team hold more effective meetings and track each aspect of the project through a “build, measure, learn” loop. We installed a Vision/Mission wall to help the team remain empathetic to the target consumer.

Throughout, we continued interviewing consumers about the evolving product as the SafetyNet concept was refined through constant online testing.

SafetyNet launched in late 2016 in two states. Membership has grown 30 percent month over month since its launch and there are plans to expand into other states and offer new products. CUNA Mutual Group is considering applying the Lean Startup model with other new product development efforts.

“Among other things, working with Design Concepts helped deepen our knowledge about design thinking and prototyping the customer’s needs/preferences, which is paying high dividends in quickly building our customer base,” said Dan Kaiser, President, SafetyNet. “We learned to understand the customers subtle needs and unspoken needs, and then aligned our approach, website and solutions accordingly.”



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