Daniel Heintzman

Manulife Financial Innovation Lab

Building personal fitness goals for health improvement


Attempting to disrupt an industry that needs disruption

During my second 4-month internship, I worked in Manulife/John Hancock’s innovation lab called the Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT). The lab was introduced in 2014 to bring about innovation in the company. It was a particularly fun term since all the teams within LOFT, that span across Boston, Toronto, and Singapore, work with thought leaders within the company to design and build innovative solutions for Manulife/John Hancock’s customers in efforts to build competitive advantages in the financial services industry; an industry that’s ripe for disruption. Within my team of 5 other full-time Innovation Fellows, we we’re tasked towards solving a company-wide risk of retiring clients moving their savings to their local bank within the near future.

The Problem

A risk of losing of $46 Billion

Within the next 10 years, 253 million people will be retiring in North America and Asia; 1 million of which are Manulife clients. So, my team set out to understand how Manulife/John Hancock can go about solving these clients’ biggest problems so that they continue being customers into retirement. With this many clients retiring, there is a possible risk that these customers may decide to withdraw their pensions from Manulife/John Hancock and deposit them at their local bank. This potential risk has been estimated to result in a loss of $46 billion in assets over the next 15 years within North America alone. We first started this process of understanding these clients’ by undergoing a discovery phase. In this phase, we interviewed people going into retirement to find common frustrations amongst future retirees. In the end, we discovered 2 major areas that people had trouble with and we had the capability to help with. First, future retirees don’t know how much income they will need in retirement and, second, they are afraid of their retirement savings running out earlier than planned. So, our team set out the challenge towards solving these 2 problems.

The Goal

Helping future retirees retire with confidence

In efforts towards solving these 2 major user problems our team set out to develop a new retirement investment product and wrap it in a retirement planning app that would focus on helping future retirees with understand how much income in retirement they will need in retirement and providing a means towards funding their desired lifestyle for the length of their retirement. With the recent acquisition of Standard Life, our LOFT team had access to pioneers within the financial industry who had developed a new kind of investment strategy that had previously only been available to large corporations. Using a user-centric approach towards solving these pressing user problems, our team worked with those from the Standard Life division towards providing their new investment capability towards our target market of future retirees.

My Role & Team

Working in a start-up within a large corporation

Joining my team Visiting Innovation Fellow, I took on the role of as a UI/UX design intern while working alongside 1 full time full-stack developer and 1 full time product manager. We partnered with Manulife Asset Management and Canada Retail Investments to build Strive using the lean agile software development methodology. As the UI/UX design intern on the team, I worked on crafting the end-to-end user experience of the product and helped with defining the direction of the product by speaking with potential end users and stakeholders within the company. The goal of the 4-month term was to create a working Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to present to internal executives which in turn would provide our team the funding to grow and build out a final product.

Business Goals

Ensuring current customers don't leave

Before beginning our journey towards solving problems of existing customers, we first solidified what business goals this project would provide to the company to gain buy-in from internal executives. Learning from others within the company we established that the Strive project would provide the potential for significant profit growth in 3 key areas:

  1. Grow Assets Under Management (AUM) by white labeling and licensing the Strive platform to pension sponsors.

  2. Retain Assets Under Management (AUM) by increasing retirement roll-over capture which will preserve investment fee revenue.

  3. Cost Reduction since the far majority of fund sales go through the financial advisor channel, by going direct to the consumers we can avoid paying commission to financial advisors.

User Research

Interviewing and testing with 26 potential users. Taking a user-centered approach throughout the entire process

Throughout the entire design process, I helped with organizing user interviews with 26 different individuals within our target demographic. In these interviews, I helped focus our team’s vision by asking specific questions that would help us understand how people within our target market thought and how they feel about retirement. Our team gained valuable insight into how future retirees are planning for retirement, what their current methods are for financial planning are, and understanding what they wanted out of a financial institution like Manulife/John Hancock. I captured these findings about these users and how they felt about our current progress in our prototype, depending on when the interview took place, in the format displayed below.

Market Research

Creating a separation from existing products in the market

After understanding what users were looking for in a potential investment product, we researched what products are currently available in the market to provide solution that was unique.

Product-Market Fit

Providing value in the areas customers need help most

Based on the needs and desires of potential users discovered in the user research phase as well as from assessing the offerings of other companies, 3 competitive advantages stood out to provide the most benefit to potential users:

  1. Gain access to the global leader in a new investment strategy that can secure a level, indexed, or custom income stream with confidence.

  2. Gain access to Manulife’s private assets that helps increase investment returns and reduce risks.

  3. An intuitive tool designed to help customer’s forecast expenses in retirement and determine how much income their savings will produce.

Unlike other investment products, we attempted to differentiate from the existing competition by focusing on building a simple and fully managed investment product that allows customers to turn their retirement savings into a secure income that is paid out to match their expenses with protection from market downturns. Furthermore, this product solves the problem of people not knowing how much income they can spend in retirement since every clients’ retirement savings will be turned into a predictable monthly income that will last all throughout retirement.

User Task Flow

Architecting a solution that is intuitive all the way through

Before diving into figuring out how the product would be designed, I try to stay as low-fidelity as possible. I find this important when starting any project so I can easily make on the fly and can make sure the overall architecture of the project integrates well with the rest of the project. After much iteration and user feedback in figuring out what the optimal workflow would be, I concluded that the below user task flow provided the most intuitive user experience.

Experience Mapping

Establishing how all tasks will be interconnected

Given the complexity of having to designing the end-to-end experience of teaching users about the what Manulife Strive is to getting down to the details of signing up, I decided to map out all the possible tasks that a user would need to perform linearly so that there was a defined beginning and end and to ensure all tasks were prioritized correctly. The photo below demonstrates how all the tasks that a user would need to complete was organized.

Final Design

Performing market validation & iterating towards a desired product

Following a lean agile approach, we then prototyped the investment product while in the meantime also testing with end-users to ensure what we were building at the time was valuable. The consistent user feedback received while building fed a continuous loop that led us with confidence towards creating a product that was desirable, intuitive to navigate, and made sense to even those who are not very financially literate. The most important result in the end was that potential users were asking to be notified when the final product would be released. This great feedback received from end-users led to our team receiving the necessary funds by internal stakeholders to fully scaling the prototype into a final product.