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iShares

I designed a suite of financial investment tools for Barclays Global Investors that opened their stock management platform to a new group of users – novice shareholders. Supplying iShares with analytical features and an intuitive UX allowed beginner traders to learn and make more informed, conscious decisions.

Case Study Highlights

The suite of BGI tools I built afforded novice investors more informed decision making.

In designing an optimal user experience, I was able to empower users to build their knowledge base of the financial market.

In June of 2009, Barclays sold BGI to Blackrock for tens of billions of dollars.

Skills

  • Design

  • Mobile

  • Cloud/Web

Overview

Novice vs Pro

Today, all that is standing between an average Joe and purchasing market shares is the press of a button in one of the many stock-trading apps. Whether trading from the palm of the hand or the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, amateurs and professionals have the same access to the market. While the barrier to entry is low, the skill gap between novice investors and financial pros is incredibly high.

Planning & Consulting

The Investment Journey

Working as Product Manager of Investment Tools for Barclays, I quickly realized that finding new users to trade stocks in a jam-packed marketplace wasn’t the right opportunity to tackle. I shifted the company’s focus towards empathizing with less-experienced shareholders, helping them to work on their investor skills.

Financial professionals easily grasp the difference between iPath’s exchange traded notes (ETN) and iShares exchange traded funds (ETF) platforms. To make this distinction clear for less experienced users, I designed four tools – each one representing a stop along the path to deciding which stock to trade.

When managing assets, investors need to know answers to four essential questions:

  • How do I find the right investment?

  • How does it compare to my base portfolio of investments?

  • How does my portfolio compare against a market index?

  • How are specific stocks performing?

The Investment Journey diagram

Product Management

How Do I Find the Right Investment?

The sheer amount of data the financial market produces can be intimidating to someone who’s new to investing. The Fund Screener tool functioned as a guiding hand to introduce the user to the market and help them easily find well-suited stock.

It allowed users to filter their search and organized information into digestible bites. Users start at a high level, getting the macro sense of their search, and can get into details as they please. They work at their own pace, while getting in-depth information. This architecture gave users a much better sense of what they were looking for, and allowed them to make critical decisions based on that data.

desktop view iShares platform

High level view filters through general criteria like market sector, investment risk, geography. With one click, users can access details information such as year to date performance, management fees and more.

From the Fund Screener portal, users could rank investment opportunities by simply dragging and dropping one search result above another in a list format. The automated ranking process allowed users to keep track of stock performance without leaving the BGI tools suite.

Product Management

How Does It Compare to My Base Portfolio of Investments?

It is one thing to observe a stock going up and down in the market, but another to watch actual shares in an owned portfolio rise and fall. I engineered the Core Satellite Portfolio Builder to replicate the sense of personal ownership, letting users simulate holding stock without any risk. It allowed them to compare potential investments to their active portfolio as a benchmark and provided data to help make well-informed decisions.

iShares Core Builder desktop view

Example: Linda wanted to save for her son’s college fund. She put together a list of potential investments and compared it to her main portfolio – a retirement account. The CSPB laid out the differences in risk, management fees, and returns within an open market like S&P, Nasdaq, Dow Jones, or the NYSE.

Product Management

How Does My Portfolio Compare Against a Market Index?

Another advantage professional investors have over amateurs is using correlation scores to evaluate risk of an investment based on how it tracks against an open market. By empathizing with users, I built the Correlation Calculator, which offered an accessible formula, while educating novice users about stocks’ statistical relationships.

Correlation Index vs S&P graph

Example: Andrew used the Correlation Calculator to compare his portfolio with the S&P index. If it tracked exactly against the S&P, he would receive a correlation score of 1. If his portfolio was the opposite, his score would equal 0. What every pro-investor is looking for is a score above .08.

Product Management

How Are Specific Stocks Performing?

In the stock market, a fraction of a second can mean the difference between a profit and a loss. With the Quotes and Charts tool users had access to real-time data and market updates. They could easily browse for stock ticker prices and analyze performance using custom-generated graphs.


While the barrier to entry is low, the skill gap between novice investors and financial pros is incredibly high

Conclusion

From Novice to Educated Investor

When I was Product Manager of Investment Tools for Barclays, there were a myriad of competitors in the financial industry who were offering similar solutions. The key differentiator in Barclays' success was in creating a set of tools that intuitively guided users on their investment journey.

The iPath & iShares platform’s careful UX engineering coached amateur investors and enabled pro users to trade stocks and track data seamlessly. In doing so, we built a bridge for users to grow from a novice to an educated investor.

Our unique place in the financial tools market led to acquisition interest from numerous firms. In June of 2009, Barclays sold our suite of tools to Blackrock for tens of billions of dollars.

Ready to take the next step?

I’m always looking to collaborate on interesting projects with amazing people. Please feel free to get in touch with me to discuss your next venture.