This year’s Design for Service Innovation course will include a finance track for the very first time. This new focus on financial services is made possible through a gift from Citigroup. Representatives from Citi and other financial institutions will serve as advisors in selecting finance projects. The same institutions may serve as partners.
Just like in the health track, all finance project teams will work on real problems affecting actual consumers, as well as the financial service companies that seek their business.
Possible Student Projects
Students in the finance track will explore projects in one of six broad areas. Some teams will focus on “blue sky” opportunities that represent revolutionary new financial solutions; others will commit themselves to driving incremental improvements to important processes or services with the potential to become more consumer oriented.
Blue Sky Project Areas
- Insuring poorly covered risks: There are many significant risks facing consumers that are currently not well insured, such as volatility in gas prices and longevity risks for retirees who outlive their retirement funds. Teams will identify a risk they believe should be insured and then design an insurance product and a strategy for marketing it.
- Monetizing illiquid assets: Airbnb has shown how to turn empty rooms in someone’s home into a revenue stream; Innocentive helps people turn human capital and technical expertise into a revenue stream. Teams will identify untapped assets held by consumers and explore ways to monetize them by creating a marketplace that brings buyers and sellers together.
- Using the power of social media to improve financial service delivery: Social networks can turn impersonal, arms-length financial transactions into more personal relationships. This personalization may involve specific financial benefits (e.g. reducing the default rate on microfinance loans.) Teams will identify financial transactions in which social networks may play a role in improving the performance of existing products or creating new products.
Incremental Project Areas
Improving how financial services are purchased: Shopping for financial products can be a frustrating experience. Price and performance comparisons are often difficult to make, disclosures are unintuitive and perceived as meaningless, and the application process can be lengthy and intimidating (just ask anyone who has recently shopped for a mortgage!). Teams will work on improving the consumer experience in shopping for such products.
- Improving communications between financial service companies and their customers: Consider the last bank statement or credit card statement you received. Teams will work to identify how these communications can be made more useful, informative, and actionable.
- Improving financial literacy: Consumers increasingly need to make complex financial decisions with long term consequences (e.g., how much to save, where to invest). Financial literacy is critical for making achieving financial security, yet most middle class families remain financially illiterate. Teams will work on the development of services and tools to help consumers make better financial decisions.
The final portfolio of finance track projects will be announced in early November.
How Are Design Challenges Identified?
The projects chosen for the 2011-2012 Design for Service Innovation finance track stem from work performed in the Fall by two GSB current or ex-MBA students, Ilian Georgiev (MBA’11) and Lauren Chaparro (MBA’12). Throughout the quarter, Ilian and Lauren researched the financial services industry and conducted extensive interviews with representatives from the field to identify “pain points.” Now, these needs are being categorized, assessed, and filtered in conjunction with the teaching team to identify meaningful projects that can be effectively addressed by this year’s students.
In her role as one of one of two Design for Service Innovation Fellows at the Stanford GSB, Lauren will continue supporting the course this year as a mentor and coach to the student teams during Winter quarter. She will also assist teams that decide to pursue their solutions beyond the 10-week quarter. Lauren has an undergraduate degree in molecular biology from Princeton University. Prior to coming to the GSB, she worked at Google, as a management consultant for the Parthenon Group, and as an investor at Health Evolution Partners. Read more on the Our Team section.