#FPD: Navigating the Fintech Design Landscape with Vivian Htam, Lead Product Designer at Torpago
In this edition of #FintechProductDiaries, we chatted with Vivian Htam, Lead Product Designer at the Torpago — a financial services and spend management platform.
Vivian’s journey from advertising, public relations, and consulting to becoming a UX design maven in startup tech is truly inspiring. Her unique transition from a broad customer base to a focused approach showcases the special world of in-house fintech design.
Join us as we delve deeper into Vivian’s expertise, exploring opportunities beyond traditional product design.
Tell us a bit about your career journey so far. How did you end up in fintech product design?
Growing up, I was always known as the art and design kid. This played out by me attending a specialized art high school in New York City, Fiorello H. Laguardia High School, well known for A-list celebrities such as Jennifer Anniston, Nicki Minaj, and Timothee Chaletmee. After high school, I pursued my passion for art and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where I earned a BFA in Advertising Design and a minor in Creative Technology. My Advertising Design degree gave me the skills to develop creative concepts and strategies that resonate with audiences, while my Creative Technology minor taught me how to understand user behavior, design prototypes, and apply design thinking to product design.
I spent most of my early career in advertising, public relations, and consulting, working with Fortune 500 clients. But my passion for UI/UX design led me to take on more and more accounts with UX/UI needs. Over time, I built a portfolio of real-world client work that allowed me to transition to UX design roles at startup tech companies.
I ended up at Torpago and in fintech because I loved their mission of saving time and money for companies. I knew that my skills and experience could help them achieve that mission, and I was excited to join a team that was making a real difference.
How is designing for a fintech different than your previous design roles? What’s unique about fintech product design and UX?
Designing in-house for a fintech company is very different from working at an agency or consulting firm.
- Fewer clients: At Torpago, I’m laser-focused on designing for just one brand and product. In my previous jobs, I designed for 5-10 different clients and products each week.
- Closer collaboration: I now work closely with the internal development team throughout production to launch my designs. In my previous jobs, I often handed off my designs to many different account people or development teams.
Fintech product design is unique because of the complexity and innovation required to properly keep up with the market demands for useability, functionability, and solving complex financial concepts and data challenges that often come up.
What is your current role at Torpago all about? Can you walk us through a typical day of yours? Or share about any exciting projects you and your team are working on.
My current role at Torpago involves a lot more than product design. Since starting, I’ve led the rebranding two times now. Our latest rebranding was for Torpago’s PoweredBy white labeling service for banks and their customers. Because of the refresh of branding, my role involves creative direction and support for marketing strategy.
A typical day for me starts with checking my calendar, Slack messages, Asana, and emails. Then, I check on the status of development to see what has been built. If a previous sprint has been built, I QA it to see if the UI requirements have been met. In the afternoons I usually have a 1:1 meeting with my designer. She supports the marketing team with visual assets for Torpago’s website, social media, and marketing collateral. During our meetings, we do a design review and align on priorities, deadlines, art direction, and expectations.
I’m excited for us to launch our first white-labeled banking partnership. We’ve been working diligently on white labeling our web platform, mobile app, and credit cards for them. It’s been a very long process and throughout it, as a team we’ve learned a lot throughout this process. We are excited to see it launch as our very first white-labeled bank.
Do you face any challenges in your role? If yes, what are they and how do you tackle them?
We’re a rapidly scaling company and ensuring that the user experience is consistent and intuitive for all users is a continual concern. We’re tackling this by continuously making improvements on the user interface and user flow for all devices.
In a fast-paced fintech startup environment, effective collaboration with engineers and other team members is often a challenge. There are so many rapidly changing priorities, tight deadlines, and evolving user needs that need to be addressed. I’m tackling this by perpetually reaching out to team members to communicate my design rationale and accept feedback to deliver a faster and better product.
What’s the most important factor to create an effective fintech UX design and product in 2023?
The most important factor for effective fintech UX products in 2023 are efficient workflows. An effective workflow for Torpago is processing a payment. This workflow involves multiple steps, verification processes, and user regulations. By simplifying and guiding users through the process, complex financial user flows can be super efficient and feel less like a painful administrative work.
What advice would you give to anyone considering pursuing a product career in fintech?
My advice to people who are considering a product design career in fintech is that you don’t need a background in finance or fintech to start. What’s really important is to ask questions and to learn about the fintech product, services, and target audience.
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