Enterprise design & research at Amex 

American Express (Amex) has positioned itself as a leader of digital design innovation in the finance sector. Under the leadership of Evan English, the Enterprise Design & Research team has committed to improving digital design and customer satisfaction. 

This unit, now the largest within Amex with 150 dedicated professionals, was the result of the strategic consolidation of membership and acquisition design teams. This assembly of talent and resources came as a direct result of Amex’s focus on reshaping its digital design to meet evolving customer expectations and industry standards.

Digital design as a core pillar of customer experience

Amex recognized that effective digital design is more than simplistic aesthetic appeal, instead focusing its attention on the functional design aspects that allow users to intuitively navigate and understand their financial products without the need for direct interaction. 

This design overhaul was launched in an effort to streamline user experience and amplify customer satisfaction, with the ultimate goal of setting Amex apart as a customer-centric brand in a fiercely competitive digital space.

The company’s decision to pivot to placing customer satisfaction at the core of its digital roadmap is a big shift from previous practices. Amex now leverages customer satisfaction metrics as key benchmarks, guiding how its digital services are developed and refined. This shift points to a deeper understanding of the intrinsic value of customer satisfaction in fostering loyalty and driving business growth.

Banking industry’s digital experience shift

Insights from Benjamin Seesel at Gartner highlighted a broader industry shift, with the banking sector increasingly recognizing the limitations of viewing digital channels simply as tools for efficiency. Current trends emphasize understanding and addressing the complex needs of customers, signaling a move towards more nuanced and customer-centric digital strategies.

Formalizing design functions

Design functions have evolved within the financial services sector to reflect a growing acknowledgment of design’s strategic importance. Companies are now adopting more structured approaches to design, moving away from ad-hoc or loosely organized teams towards models that provide clear leadership, accountability, and influence within the organization. 

Formalization here spotlights an industry-wide recognition of the key role design plays in business success, prompting firms to invest in robust design capabilities to stay competitive and responsive to market demands.

Amex’s design evolution

As American Express has introduced new products like checking and savings accounts, a comprehensive redesign of digital elements becomes more important than ever. These redesigns covered language, layouts, and user interface elements to align with the expanding product portfolio. 

Strategic overhaul ensured that new offerings integrate smoothly into the digital ecosystem, maintaining a coherent and intuitive user experience across all Amex platforms.

Unified design initiatives

The American Express Rewards checking account launch was a major milestone, as it allowed customers to apply for an account, set up digital login credentials, and manage account preferences all in one session—a strong contrast to the previous fragmented processes. This holistic approach aimed to enhance user convenience and promote Amex’s dedication to creating a cohesive and integrated customer journey.

Central repository for design consistency

Amex’s establishment of a central repository for design components such as fonts, colors, and user experience patterns is a strategic move to standardize and elevate the digital experience across all its platforms. This repository made sure that all design teams had access to a unified set of tools and guidelines, driving for more consistency and coherence in Amex’s digital presence and reinforcing the brand’s identity across touchpoints.

Customer-centric design approach

Engaging customers in the design process

American Express has doubled its user research practice since 2018, an indication of its push to integrate customer feedback into its design process. Amex aimed to gather in-depth insights across the discovery and delivery phases, moving beyond traditional usability testing to include a broader spectrum of customer interactions. 

Design decisions are informed by real user needs and preferences, improving the relevance and effectiveness of Amex’s digital offerings.

Following the integration of its design teams under the Enterprise Design & Research umbrella, Amex has observed improvements in customer engagement and satisfaction. While specific metrics are confidential, the positive trend shows the impact of a unified and customer-focused design strategy on fostering deeper connections with users and improving their overall experience with the brand.

Visual representation challenges

One of the ongoing challenges Amex faces is the effective visual representation of diverse bank accounts on digital platforms. The aim is to develop an engaging and intuitive system, akin to the credit card image carousel, allowing customers to easily navigate and interact with their various accounts. 

Amex has openly stated their dedication to continuous innovation and improvement in its digital user experience, so that the company can stay responsive to user needs and preferences in a dynamic market landscape.

Tim Boesen

April 11, 2024

4 Min