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Chennai, India, December 22, 2016

When hackers stole $180 million dollars from Bangladesh’s Central Bank after breaking into the SWIFT network, the banking industry went into shock. Taking a serious note of such threats, banks like Axis are trying to develop blockchain as a robust alternative.

In their design lab, the bank looks to create not just serious financial alternatives, but also fun stuff for customers such as a fitness wearable that gives financial updates. Wearing it on your wrist, ensures it acts as pedometer, fitness guru and a health tracker, who rewards you with points on your debit card for staying on the narrow, straight road to health.

And this is one of many other such initiatives around design. At Hyderabad-based T - Hub, the largest incubator in the country, plans are afoot to create a Design-Hub by the Telangana government spearheaded by Bapu Kaladhar, cofounder of UXIndia, a community of designers.

With design thinking being the buzzword, corporates have been investing in design labs too. While companies like Cordys (Now OpenText) and Microsoft were first movers, others like BNY Mellon, Intellect Design Arena and Axis Bank have now set up high tech design or UX labs. Apart from products, the labs also help workflow. For instance at Intellect’s Fintech 8012 Design Center, there are seven labs based on the COPARIS framework where people work in teams of five or seven based on research by Harvard University. Customers can hire these labs and work with developers. The labs and conference rooms have mood lighting inspired by Edward de Bono’s six hats concept which can change colour depending on what the group is trying to achieve.

Over 250 Associates work in a lab spread over 30,000 sq ft at Intellect. The company develops digital-led technology their customers. Among their many applications is Digital FACE, which is an Omni-channel app based customer engagement platform for corporate and retail houses. “Apps can be built quickly. Functionality is driven by segmentation and canvases are aligned around personal preferences and productivity. With this they can network internet, mobile, smart branch and tablet banking,” said Anbu Rathinavel, chief design officer and head – FinTech 8012 Design Center.

Industry experts say that product companies are now beginning to focus on lean thinking or reducing the time incurred in the product development cycle. ”UX design is about understanding user painpoints and tweaking the product accordingly. Today, products are created by different teams which work in silos. Design is about looking at it from different touchpoints and integrating these silos,” said Bapu who was instrumental in setting up Microsoft’s UX Lab in 2007. America’s oldest bank BNY Mellon has over 6 UX labs across the globe with 2 in India, at Pune and Chennai. The lab, located in iNautix, the technology arm of the bank, has high tech equipment. While clients experiment with prototypes, UX specialists at BNY Mellon observe responses from across the lab, through a double sided glass. Testing is video recorded and timed and clients are asked to think aloud.

From facial expressions to hand movements, the team combines technology, feedback and psychology to improvise on the product. "Even though we are a 200-year-old bank, we are being agile like a startup. We co-create with customers to make sure they get exactly what they want," said Prakash Ramanathan, vice president - user experience iNautix.

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