First Eagle Investment Management
SWBC was hired as a consultant by First Eagle Fund Management ("FEIM") to direct the education program for the participants in the company’s retirement plan. The plan’s participant population was comprised of highly educated, extremely sophisticated subject matter experts (SMEs) with encyclopedic financial knowledge, including C-level executives, mutual fund managers and directors, market specialists, research analysts, and actuaries. In conjunction with conducting a retirement-specific educational seminar, SWBC built a specialized tool to generate customized retirement projections for individual participants, dubbed "Participant Outcomes".
My role was to guide the UX process and to design all client-facing deliverables. This included working with the research & development team to build the tool to ensure seamless reporting, designing the tool to be easily understood and used by clients, and writing and designing the materials for the educational seminar component [click here to view methodology]. The user and market research was already in place, eliminating the need for project-specific needfinding or additional research.
This project highlights the importance of knowing and addressing the needs of users, specifically, the challenge of designing a product that works well for both SMEs and relative novices. Furthermore, it illustrates how a complex tool can be used by a variety of users and stakeholders with equal success.
FEIM's enthusiasm and support for Participant Outcomes led SWBC to roll the PO tool and education program out to all existing and prospective advisory clients as a standard service, representing nearly $7 billion in total assets under management at the time the service was implemented. User feedback emphasized the tremendous value it added for their retirement plan participants, encouraging participants to save more money earlier for retirement.
Furthermore, SWBC now offers this tool and accompanying educational component as a bespoke stand-alone service to companies who have not contracted advisory services with SWBC.
Phase II: Interaction Design
- The tool illustrates how varying rates of wealth accumulation over time translate to the distribution phase during retirement, and measures the impact of funds available for distribution under different market scenarios.
- Separate workflows were built for the accumulation (pre-retirement) and distribution (retirement) phases.
- Research indicated that our initial group of users (First Eagle) equated complexity with value; the challenge was to build a sophisticated tool that SMEs felt added value but that was still easy and fun for non-SME users to use.
- Each variable available in the tool received an in depth written explanation about the concept and methodology of each calculation, its importance in relation to other variables, and how it can be manipulated to gain different insights.
Build hi fi prototypes for new reports + internal testing by SWBC research team
- Prototypes were built in Excel to ensure the tool would easily integrate with existing data feeds, before being built into a web application to enable ease of use for both advisors and their clients.
- Due to the high number of variables that can be manipulated by the user, extensive internal testing was the most critical aspect of the UX design, using iterative rapid prototyping based on feedback from the research team.
- Developed a plan to test integration of new designs with existing data feeds.
- Comprehensive checks were performed to ensure that complex formulas and commands were maintained.
- Tool function was tested against the accompanying written methodology to ensure accuracy and clarity.
Phase III: Implementation
Final product design testing & approval
- The proposed final product was tested with a variety of non-SME clients that represented a range of financial literacy skills. The goal was to ensure the application was usable and useful for all skill and interest levels.
Collateral material created for educational seminars
- Materials for the full presentation included marketing materials, an in-depth description of the methodology and metrics used, and an in-depth presentation describing how Participant Outcomes can influence the retirement readiness of FEIM employees, focusing on its benefits within the context of their specific retirement plan.
Initial product launch
- SWBC investment advisors held individual meetings with First Eagle retirement plan participants to review their investment strategy, taking into account their retirement plan contributions, brokerage accounts, company stock options, etc.
- The advisors explained how the tool works and discussed the methodologies with participants before analyzing their current strategy and comparing the results based on tweaks to variables such as contribution increases or decreases, when contributions are made, estimated retirement age, and the estimated amount needed for retirement.