Building excellent customer experiences – by design 

August 02, 2023

A Q&A with Caleb Schmidt, head of Experience Design 

Customers want things to be quick and easy when they bank online or on their mobile device, and design can be the secret sauce that makes the difference between an excellent digital banking experience and one that’s just okay.

Design is seen as a core piece of what makes U.S. Bank a leader in digital banking experiences, having the No. 1-ranked mobile app in the industry, as well as receiving top accolades for the best digital mortgage tools, mobile check deposit, user experience, digital accessibility and more.

To learn more about how the bank is driving excellent customer experiences through design, we turned to Caleb Schmidt, the new head of Experience Design.


Photo of Caleb Schmidt
Caleb Schmidt

First, congratulations on your new leadership role. Let’s start by asking…what exactly is experience design? 

Thank you. This is certainly an exciting time to be in the design space for digital banking. Experience design means that every product or service that touches a customer is created to anticipate and exceed their expectations for interacting with us as their bank. We want to meet customers where they are with experiences that are intuitive, easy and accessible. This in turn drives engagement, trust, loyalty and, ultimately, growth. 

I’d been on the design team at U.S. Bank for more than a year prior to taking on this new role – and I’ve seen firsthand how when we put our customers’ needs at the center of our design process, it leads to much higher customer satisfaction with our digital tools.


Tell us a little about your team members. What are they focused on? 

Our team of experience designers is responsible for creating digital experiences across all banking segments – consumer, business, corporate and commercial, platforms, innovation, and even banker and employee experiences. We have one of the most talented design teams in financial services – on par with or even better than much larger banks. 

We have a range of design skills well beyond the basics, including a world-class behavioral sciences team, content design, conversational voice design, and experts in accessibility and inclusive design – all focused on helping empower our customers. 


Why is the U.S. Bank design team highly regarded in financial services? 

U.S. Bank has been very forward-thinking by investing in our digital and design capabilities, along with innovation and technology advances as part of our core strategy. We’re not just designing and offering digital services as a commodity; we’re doing it to benefit customers and the experiences they have with us, and this is great differentiator.

I think a crucial aspect of what we get right is putting customers at the center of everything we design. In fact, we love to involve customers in our design process, looking at the experience from their point of view. How can we empower them? How can we make it easier for them at every turn? 

Another success factor is that our design team is involved from the start. Having a seat at the table, our designers can influence product vision and direction. They help define the problem, ask the right probing questions and uncover pain points. Then we create hypotheses that we can experiment with, test and validate.  

Another differentiator is our focus on reuse and scalability. We build platforms with a reusable infrastructure that can be scaled across the entire bank and used to benefit the customer experience across many segments. 


How does design drive an outstanding customer experience? 

Understanding the needs of our customers and aligning those to business objectives is at the very center of everything we do. If you want to create an impactful and industry-leading experience, it starts with how that experience is designed.  

Our designers are curious and inquisitive about why customers do certain things. In fact, we are one of the few banks that has a behavioral sciences team. We can help customers understand the science behind why some things get in the way of reaching their goals, and then we can provide them with insights to offer solutions that may meet their needs. 


What designs in use by U.S. Bank are most exciting to you? 

There are so many, it’s hard to pick just one. When we think about meeting customers where they are, one area that is interesting right now is localization and how we’re creating experiences that allow customers to communicate with us in their preferred language.  

U.S. Bank was the first financial institution in the United States to offer Spanish-speaking customers the ability to bank by voice via mobile app. While having products in a customer’s preferred language is great, we’re also thinking about cultural nuances and behaviors, to ensure a more inclusive design. 

Inclusive design is about being accessible for everyone, whatever the circumstance. For some, those might be permanent impairments and, for others, just temporary, like breaking an arm. Our goal is to make experiences accessible for all, whatever the situation.   


What trends do you have your eye on from an innovative design perspective?

One space that is evolving quickly is how our customers access their digital accounts and products. Our design team is currently researching customer behaviors and how to engage them in more secure and frictionless methods to log in to their accounts beyond passwords.  

While we already have biometrics (finger and face) for our mobile app, we’re looking to integrate similar technology into our desktop experiences as well. And soon, customers will be able to use their mobile device as a security handshake to access their accounts on personal computers.


What do you love about design? 

I think what I love the most is the ability to make lasting impressions and impacts on customers. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing we made someone’s life better and easier. We are empowering humans at the core of what we do in experience design. That’s exciting!

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