Listen to the podcast interview here

Interview with Will Cookson

The Financial Marketeer recently had the opportunity to catch up with Will Cookson to discuss user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) in financial services.

Will, an experienced designer, is the founder of Fintech Battles, a site that sees the world’s top fintech firms go head to head. He is also Creative Director at the fintech startup, ANNA.

Fintech Battles

“Just imagine me sitting in your office ranting about customer experience and user experience of fintechs”, that’s Fintech Battles in Will’s own words; a website that pitches one fintech firm against another in a series of regular battles.

“I just wanted to write about the minutia of things the design and product teams are involved with”, says Will.

Will was inspired to create the site by his work in fintech with ANNA, where he is Creative Director. “There are loads of little pieces of customer experience that are really laboured over and I really wanted to showcase those pieces.

“Fintech Battles basically looks at very small pieces of the user experience and takes two fintechs to see how they achieve that.”

It’s an ingenious way to uncover the ‘gems’, as Will calls them, that go into creating the pleasing user and customer experiences many of us have come to love about fintech.

So, why is fintech such an alluring space? Will says “[financial services] used to be really boring, people didn’t want to work in banks. What’s happened is that these ‘neobanks’ have sprung up, they are run by young people with bright ideas and are away from the monotony of the old financial sector.

“They try and do things differently…as a designer and product person it’s just a great place to [be].”

Will also highlights the importance of fintech to all of our lives; “everyone needs a bank account and most people need these services.”

Little gems everywhere

Will clearly understands the value of taking care of the customer experience in finance and his battles have proven a great way of uncovering the reasons for this.

“Monese has this really pleasing slider you pull down to make a payment…if you just think of things functionally, they could be quite dull, but somebody has actually put the effort in there to make something that’s really charming and makes you feel like you’re actually making a payment.”

Good product design

I asked Will whether there’s a risk that some fintechs go too far and end up creating gimmicks. “I think your users will tell you if you’re being too gimmicky” says Will.

“The people who work in these fintechs are top of their game and they’re going out and testing new ideas all the time.” It’s this testing process that clearly leads the way in the industry and creates apps and products that are charming, useful and fit-for-purpose.


Will also told me about, a firm he co-founded, “ was a donation processing and fundraising solution for charities.

“I started when I was still working in agencies, it was bootstrapped for about a year, then myself and my co-founder got a little bit of funding and then we got a seed round so we could make it our full-time jobs. That was basically a catapult into startup life…it was brilliant.”

Creating the debit card that ‘meows’

Will now works at the fintech startup, ANNA which provides business current accounts. I asked Will what attracted him to the role; “I thought the brand they had was brilliant, it was beautiful”

Elaborating on his role at ANNA, Will said, “as a Creative Director I look after campaigns [and] marketing…when I first got there I established the product a little bit.

“The big campaign that we did to launch was the debit card that meows…every time you make a contactless transaction it meows. We were basically sat around saying ‘how can we launch ANNA?’…Monzo has got the fluorescent card, Starling has got the vertical card, we were like ‘what can our card do?'”

The meowing card campaign fits nicely with the brand that the team at ANNA has developed. “Business doesn’t need to be too serious, you can still have a bit of fun.”

Chat bot and support team

Customer experience formed a significant part of our conversation and this led Will to explain how the ANNA product and service works. “Everything is based around conversation design…it’s all done through a chat interface.

“If you ask something that the bot doesn’t understand, it hands over to a team in Cardiff (40 people)…they’re helping out when the AI gets a bit stuck and they’re picking up within 60 seconds, 24/7.”

It’s a smart way to introduce automation whilst backing it up with the effectiveness of a human team at the other end. Providing the backup of a human team is also an important way the firm carries out research that helps it to develop new features, “it means that we can improve our app based on all of those conversations…it really is an interesting feedback loop.”

Side projects

There are many things that stood out about Will’s experience throughout his career, but a recurring theme was his love of side projects. “I learned a lot of stuff by doing my own stuff…no matter what you do, you can always be learning based on your own side projects and experiments of your own.”

It’s sound advice for anyone embarking on a career in finance and marketing.