Working with Potential Customers to Build a Challenger Bank: A Look at Brightside’s Insight Community

There are a lot of myths out there about disruption in the banking industry, but here’s a fact: disruption for the sake of disruption is a recurring technology failure story. Herein lies one of the most difficult balances ATB’s Transformation needs to achieve in order to disrupt banking and build remarkable, groundbreaking (yet human-centric) technologies. This means that in order to push forward and create meaningful change and innovation, we need to find ways to dream really big, imagine fringe opportunities, but be grounded in data.

So when we decided to launch a new kind of bank from within ATB, we understood that most people simply wanted visibility into their finances without added complexity. A fully digital, mobile banking option was defined, and Brightside was born. Then came the critical piece: going beyond the desire to create something new, and to become steadfast in our ability to understand what was needed to truly be disrupted. Let’s create technology for the people.

In the early days of Brightside, the core team hit the ground running by talking to everyday Albertans not only about their financial situation and their spending habits, but on a deeper level about how they felt about spending their money, and the emotions that they held around their finances in general. They set out to reach communities that might be currently underserved by existing financial institutions and understand why they were being underserved. The focus was not on how people interacted with existing product lines, but how they interacted with their money, how the banking experience affected their financial decision-making, and how that made them feel.

Disruption with Research as a Solid Foundation:
Brightside’s original team conducted hundreds of these interviews to get to the root of how people take control of their finances. Based on this early feedback, the team’s overarching insight was that people actually have irrational behaviours around their money, such as:

  • Feeling unsure about their ability to save, even though they have the means to
  • Being debt-averse in general, but using credit cards for purchases as if they were spending their own money, not incurring debt

Their sentiments around the challenge of saving were similar:
“Sometimes it feels hard to manage the money going out and I find myself spending more than I know I should.” 

“I try to save, but things are constantly coming up and then I’m living paycheque to paycheque. I wish I had the willpower to just hold off on things for a few weeks, but I need to keep living, you know?”

“I just finished paying off my car, and I’m so excited to have another $600 in my bank account at the end of the month. I’d like to just trick myself into saving it and not thinking about it.” 

The root cause of these irrational behaviours seemed to be tied to how they felt about dealing with financial institutions. In general, people feel frustrated when dealing with banks, because they feel that they lack control or flexibility with their finances, especially with everyday banking.

In the fall of 2018, the product and design teams within Brightside took these insights and developed  new banking products, presenting these ideas back to customers through qualitative methods such as 1-on-1 interviews and focus groups. These insights were used to shape the initial product vision, market positioning, and even the language and communications around  Brightside itself, as well as how we talk about financial products and services. 

Open Innovation: Building with the BHive.
Customer interviews and focus groups deliver critical feedback for any organization. And while Brightside’s product teams have been hard at work digesting and implementing feedback that we’ve learned thus far, truly agile development benefits from ongoing collaboration. This is where the BHive comes in. 

BHive (short for Brightside Hive) is an online community created to bring together potential Brightside customers with members of the Brightside team so that they can work together to build this new banking experience.

The community is currently made up of a small group of digitally savvy Albertans invited by the Brightside team onto an online platform where they participate in activities that provide valuable insight and feedback through constant touchpoints with Brightside team members.

While co-creating and engaging with a community certainly comes with complexities and careful considerations, we’ve noted five distinct benefits in having an online community for research:

  1. It’s always on. Online communities are 24/7. This enables community managers to provide activities that participants can complete at any time that is most convenient to them, as opposed to the short time we spend with interviewees or focus groups. Brightside is also able to gather and track feedback over time from the same group of participants.
  2. It’s private (or as private as you want it to be). At the moment, BHive has a small, screened group of participants so that Brightside can ensure that the community reflects their target audience.
  3. It’s social. Online community platform encourage social interaction among its members. It’s not just a research platform. Members are able to get to know one another, which fosters a sense of belonging.
  4. It’s two-way. Online communities are not just suggestion boxes or news boards for organizations. Participants are learning about Brightside and are able to submit feedback, and they are able to see where their feedback went and what comes out of it.
  5. It’s personal. For the BHive, members are encouraged to be open about their sentiments around their finances - and even community managers have shared their own experiences.

Keeping the Hive Engaged:
Getting the most out of Hive members (honest feedback, high levels of participation) means having top-notch community managers who keep participants engaged and in-the-know, but people are busy and time is valuable. Therefore as much as we appreciate that many BHive participants are involved because they want to help shape a new form of banking, we also recognize that incentives keep members happy and feeling rewarded. Currently, BHive participants receive monetary incentives for completing activities and challenges on the platform, in the form of gift certificates and donations to charities of their choice. 

As Brightside launches and the BHive is expanded, Brighside will deposit incentives directly into their accounts. BHive members also enjoy early access to events supported by Brightside. On a personal level, participants get to be on the receiving end of useful financial education from experts both at Brightside and at ATB. Most of all, they are able to influence product development and direction as Brightside gets closer to launch.

Gleaning insight from BHIve provides Brightside’s team with a deeper understanding of potential customers, including psychological and emotional ties to finances, how BHive members would prefer to manage their money, and what help and assistance they might benefit from in order to feel more financially secure. Beyond learning more about their money management, the BHive and Brightside teams also able to learn more about the people themselves, like where they might work and play in Alberta, so we can better tailor both the products and the communications and deliver them to the right people in the right places. 

But ultimately we’re are able to gather data that will enable Brightside to help Albertans to save money and brighten people’s banking experiences.

Implementing Insight: It’s Ongoing.
In just a few months, both Brightside and ATB have been able to gather valuable insights from the BHive and we’ve built internal methods to ensure we can act on research as it comes in. For example, challenger banks like Brightside can sometimes have to push through some reluctance because they are relative unknowns to the landscape. But we’ve learned that customers actually like that Brightside is backed by ATB because it gives them credibility and security.

At the moment, the Brightside team is continuously working with the BHive, as well as doing traditional research to learn more about how it can better position its product offerings. Brightside is focus testing new landing pages and fostering advocacy for the Brightside brand as we approach launch. The Brightside team will be slowly and steadily increasing recruitment for the BHive through Summer 2019. We will continue to share Brightside’s journey here on alphaBeta, but in the meantime, learn more about what the team is building at

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