Finana X Citi Ventures

Finana helps low-income people of color build and improve their credit scores so that they can plan and make progress towards their long-term financial goals.


Leah How, Esther Lin, Ted Lee, Jessica Zhang


4 months | September 2021 - December 2021

Project Overview

My Role
  • Developed and executed user interviews and co-designed workshops to discover problem space and produce design principles.
  • Collaborated with the product design team and Citi Ventures racial and equity representatives to design a high-fidelity financial product that advocates for low-income people of color communities.
  • Implemented engaging ways to present research insights, solution implementation process, and financial projections to stakeholders and sponsors.
Our Challenge From Citi Ventures

How might we (Citi Ventures) develop an innovative fintech product that increases racial equity, expands financial inclusion, and empowers people of color?

Our Focus

How might we help low-income people of color build or improve their credit scores so that they can plan and make progress towards their long-term financial goals?

Our Solution

Finana helps low-income people of color build their credit scores and achieve financial sustainability through an accessible platform focused on user-centeredness, cultural competence, trust, and empowerment.

Finana Final Product Video
Our Research Approach

Trip to The Bronx

We decided to take a trip to the Bronx, located north of Manhattan, to understand and experience our target users' living environment. As we explored the neighborhood, we noticed more check-cashing services that are not as present in parts of Manhattan. These services allow individuals to cash their paycheck without a bank account in exchange for a high fee.

In-depth Interviews with users and stakeholders

After determining our target users, we conducted 7 interviews with our target users and 5 community expert interviews consisting of non-profit financial experts, credit specialists, and race & equity representatives. Our interview goals were to understand low-income individuals' financial challenges, goals, relationships with financial institutions, and ways they currently manage their finances.

Key Insights

Many low-income people of color use financial services that don't build their credit and cost them more money

Banking status in New York

We collected quantitative information to validate our findings by creating a survey that was posted on craigslist under the Bronx’s job-finding category.

Refers to individuals who have some type of bank account, but rely on cash and alternative financial services

Refers to individuals who do not have a bank account

The problem with Alternative Financial Services (AFS)

Many low-income people of color use financial services that don't build their credit and cost them more money. Black and Latinx households are two times more likely to have used these services as compared to White households.

Why don’t people of color use traditional banking services?
  • Lack of trust in banks
  • Negative financial habit
  • Language barriers
  • Had negative banking experience in their home country
  • Unable to meet minimum balance requirements
Why does it matter?

Based on our interviews, the majority of our users' long-term financial goals are to own a house, get a better car, or even start a business. All of these goals require a good credit score.

Design Principles

Accessibility, User-Centeredness & Cultural Competence, Trust & Empowerment, and Financial Sustainability

During the process of creating Finana, we were extremely honored to collaborate with our non-profit partner: Qualitas of Life. Qualitas of Life was founded in 2007, and has been providing financial education workshops to the Latinx community for 14 years. With their extensive knowledge and experience in the field, we co-created these four design principles that catered to the community’s pain points.

Final Designs


Finana supports multiple languages and has minimum identification requirements to accommodate our target users' different linguistic needs and financial backgrounds. The financial dictionary allows users to learn financial jargon in a more digestible way by providing easy-to-understand explanations and examples.

User-Centeredness & Cultural Competence

Through our research, we learned our users are active community members and they love to help their community even when they are in tough situations. Therefore, we designed an online community forum where people can share their financial experiences and receive professional advice.

Trust & Empowerment

We learned that our users have difficulty in forming trust with traditional financial institutions. Finana gives users access to online community forums and resources without entering personal & banking information. We also made sure our data collection policy is as transparent and upfront as possible.

Most importantly, we offer credible quick financial lessons and resources that help people of color low-income individuals improve financial confidence and achieve financial security.

Financial Sustainability

Finana helps users achieve long-term goals by creating a personalized plan that is unique to their needs. After users choose their top three goals and timeline, Finana creates a plan based on their financial habits, breaking down long-term goals into actionable steps.

Takeaways & Next Steps

Our product received positive feedback from our sponsors (Citi Ventures), target user group, and presentation panel. While there was much positive enforcement, our group encountered some challenges during interviews due to language barriers, mismatched communication tools, and technical difficulties.

While it was my first time developing and conducting a co-design workshop, the workshop allowed my group to take a deep dive into our users’ relationship with financial systems and perspective on credit-building tools. In the future, my group and I are looking forward to providing effective communication tools to our users by improving our interview and co-design techniques. Furthermore, for future iterations, my group would like to scope the impact of our product in the community through A/B testing to implement changes based on the test results.

All in all, collaborating with Citi Ventures’ racial and equity representatives and a team of multi-talented product designers not only made the design process so insightful and enjoyable but also fostered my passion for community building initiatives and sparked my interest in liberatory design. I look forward to utilizing the lessons I learned from this experience in my future endeavors.