Brock Dubbels: Games Expert Turned UX Innovator in Finance

In Fintech, Game Changers 18 by Mary KurekLeave a Comment

Brock Dubbels currently works at Bank of America as a VP in the XD innovation lab in San Francisco, Ca. His expertise is in design research and learning psychology.

In 2017, Brock became Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Games and Computer-Mediated Simulations.  Published quarterly, the Journal is a peer-reviewed, international journal devoted to the theoretical and empirical understanding of electronic games and computer-mediated simulations.

Brock won the 2016 ORION Leadership Award (Innovation Category).  He founded VGalt Video Games as Learning Tools) in 2005 and continues working on training and simulation games specializing in omnichannel products and services in medtech, games for learning and training, and Online-to-Offline experience.

Brock’s games, research, and learning psychology background make a perfect mix for innovation in user experience that translates to any industry, but, the fast-moving fintech space is fertile ground for Brock’s kind of “play.”

Q & A with Brock Dubbels:

Q:  What is the Experience Design Innovation Lab at Bank of America?

A:  I joined the Lab to help our product teams development research methods and data to connect and understand our customers earlier in the development process.  Our team leaders have created playful workshops that engage across our lines of business with playful ideation, methods of imagination, and research insights that help us in learning about our customers. If there is a theme, it is our brand — we want to empower our people to understand and be better equipped to empower our customers. We want to democratize the development and design process. We want to connect with our customers for learning and co-design. If we can understand their values, beliefs, perceptions, and preferences early, we can reduce time and effort and increase impact in a fun and playful way. We achieve this by engaging the team, introducing a learning mindset and generating way more wonderful ideas — more models for testing, more conversations with users, and potential new products and services.  Most importantly, we are always learning and having fun. Learning can be fun and satisfying. Innovation should be fun. We want our teams and customers to have wonderful ideas with us. We want to understand their values, solve their problems and help them achieve their goals — and just provide a creative, playful, and fulfilling experience. 

Q:  Brock, you have an extensive background in the games industry.  How do you use that experience in the finance industry?

A:  It is all about creating a feeling of choice and a likelihood of success. . . . games and play provide that. You know with a game that there is a way to win, and it is probably going to be a fun, imaginative experience, where you are empowered through choice. We use this to create the feeling of opportunity for our customers- not just more choices, but desirable choices; that by banking with Bank of America, our customers will feel they increased their access to desirable choices, and that they have increased their likelihood for success in turning these desirable choices into desirable outcomes.

This approach assumes that there are no fixed or “right” answers – we don’t seek to validate and optimize singular solutions, but to test and synthesize from multiple approaches — the experience of this just feels more imaginative, satisfying, and threat-free: there are no wrong answers; just learning and getting better. Play is an open approach to learning. Some folks talk about growth mindset. Play is the original growth mindset. People are motivated to invest their focus and effort when they feel like they can create and succeed. People work hard at play and games!  By their very nature, play activities reduce fear and threat; play facilitates exploration and sharing and is the basis of imaginative play and innovation. Design and new ideas become easier when we can work together to learn through play because it is easy. Play is our natural approach to learning. In play, we Explore – Discover – Share. I wrote about the importance of designing for play for learning and engagement. Play is not only an imaginative activity for amusement i9t is the foundation of innovation. Play and games serve important roles in cognitive, social, and affective development, and is the key to motivation and engagement. By leveraging our inherent enjoyment of play, we can use game-like experiences to facilitate learning and insight. As an example, in past experience, myself and team members designed a game for training caregivers in a nursing home. The key is that games have important elements like story, good problems, and choice. Some of these ideas are shared here and described as methods of imagination for product and design research.

Q:  What innovation are you seeing that helps users understand new financial programs, like digital banking, etc.?

A:  It’s most important to continue using our platforms to learn from customers; not just deliver products. This keeps our customers happy, and our brand strong.  We want our customers to feel like we know them and are meeting their needs. We use design research for scalable/measurable programs for evaluation of experience across our product lines.  We are about empowerment. It is in our brand. What do you want your power to do today? We want to show the customer that being with us increases their likelihood of desirable choices.  For example, if we can help people achieve their financial goals, they will have more opportunities to put their money to work for them, i.e.,  “now I have more choices and opportunity through this Bank of America program.” We want our customers to see us as facilitators and attribute success and opportunity to our products and services.

Q:  What innovations in your space do you see coming ahead and the associated challenges?

A:  One of the key drivers is the mindset. Banking is no longer somewhere you go, but something you do. Experience is everything.  Innovation is a big word, and hard to measure, but we continue to seek and create understanding. Through this approach, we want to smooth the way for our customers and product teams. If we can identify and eliminate challenges, obstacles, and pain points, we can make our customers feel confident in their choices. Customers have shared that when they had a better understanding of their choices, they were more likely to embrace our products, services, and brand.  This is innovation. We are improving the lives of our customers with easy-to-use products that help them to achieve their goals. By understanding their goals, we can measure our impact. Information is powerful. Our goal is to help customers feel empowered.  

Brock’s Networking Interests: 

  • Product research and design folks in wealth management and medtech
  • Behavioral economics folks with an interest in engagement and retention
  • Data scientists with an eye for augmented services and product automation
  • Contextual computing designers
  • International finance and microservices leaders
  • People interested in Learning, Motivation, Gamification, and Play 
  • Marketing folks that specialize in attribution modeling
  • Experts in user experience relationships (banking/investments industries)
  • Global wealth management experts who work with private banks (functional vs relational & transformative)



Linkedin Group:

Meet-Up Group:

Brock’s Research/Writings:

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