Digital Design Re-Thinking for HSBC Indonesia

In 2021, amid the global pandemic, HSBC Indonesia felt the need to reconnect with its target audience in order to better understand how they could stay relevant and achieve growth. We helped the bank to achieve its objectives by harnessing design thinking, supercharged by an online community.

This article brings you the vision of Fransisca Kallista Arnan (Head of Customer Propositions & Marketing, Wealth & Personal Banking at HSBC Indonesia), Kurt Thompson (Managing Director Indonesia at InSites Consulting), and Scott Lee (Global Client Partner at InSites Consulting)

Background & business challenge

HSBC has a long history in Indonesia, a young emerging nation that is home to a diverse, tech-driven, rapidly urbanizing population. Its brand purpose, to ‘open up a world of opportunity for customers, and to help to create a better world’, mirrors the Indonesians’ optimism. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, people remain confident that the country will overcome its challenges to realize long-term opportunities.

HSBC’s objectives in Indonesia were to:

(1) develop relevant ways to position both its ‘Advance’ (serving the Emerging Affluent segment) and ‘Premier’ (serving the Affluent/Mass Affluent segment) solutions; and

(2) develop relevant new products and services for these segments.

Online insight community as backbone of design-thinking approach

HSBC wanted to go beyond demographics and perceptions to get to know its customers better. The brand needed to understand the reality of how seriously COVID-19 was impacting people in Indonesia, with regards to health and the economy.

We suggested a combined approach that allows HSBC Indonesia to harness a design-thinking approach (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test) supercharged by an online community. In fact, design thinking and online communities share synergies that differ from traditional research. The former tasks itself with giving people greater agency to shape the products or experiences in their lives, whilst the latter (especially in a branded context) aim to give people more say in how their ideas and feedback shape brands. Since 2018, we have been running an online community – Satukan Pandangan (Connecting Views) – for HSBC Indonesia with 1200 consumers, which allows the bank to keep a finger on the pulse.

The Satukan Pandangan community became the backbone of this project. The platform empowered iterative and agile research, from monthly tactical activities to more strategic programs. It is this agility that was paramount to conducting impactful and effective research during the pandemic, at a time when the global landscape was changing rapidly.

To get an in-depth understanding of both propositions, Advance and Premier, we used the same approach:

  • Profiling survey: determine the core target for each proposition
  • Qualitative activities via Satukan Pandangan: customers fitting the profile were invited into forum discussions and one-on-one virtual interviews

Connecting with the people behind the personas

We identified five personas for the Advance proposition and six for the Premier proposition, based on how proactive or reactive Indonesians were to managing their wealth, and the extent to which their finance needs focused on themselves or those around them. Based on the identified behavior, attitudes and values, HSBC was able to understand how the different personas were distributed among Indonesian general banking customers.

During digital workshops, the HSBC team connected with real people via Zoom calls, to truly bring the insights to life. These Consumer Connects helped internal stakeholders to connect and empathize with the needs of each persona. As a result, they were able to better understand consumers’ values, needs, attitudes, motivations, and to generate opportunities in the form of design-thinking ‘how might we’ statements.

In a next phase, we built further on these opportunities to guide ideation and proposition development, addressing the needs and tensions for each persona. The concepts developed were presented back to the community members via surveys to test both the creative and the benefits for each persona.


Using a design thinking framework helped to guide multiple stakeholders all the way from listening to customers’ needs, to crafting customer-centric propositions. Moreover, using an insight community alongside digital workshops helped to supercharge the design-thinking process, bringing exploration and validation together with agility. The persona project gave HSBC a whole new perspective on its customers and target audience. The team was able to see customers as real people and gain a deep understanding of their needs, pain points, and more importantly, how the bank should better position its Advance and Premier solutions to each persona. The bank also developed relevant new products and services for these segments. For example, the largest persona in the Advance category, the Builders, became the focus of a new positioning. These customers were anxious about protecting their family’s health and wealth, and as such HSBC needed to protect this segment from financial shocks, whilst helping grow family wealth. The new proposition offered a comprehensive financial solution for a strong future, with emphasis on building the family’s future through investments and insurance solutions.

The ‘Happy Queen’ persona was central to the HSBC Premier solution. The Happy Queen (sometimes a King) is responsible for managing the home finances and ensuring children get the best education. The education and wealth pillars are equally important for the Happy Queens. As such, the HSBC Premier proposition focused largely on this persona by following a theme of overseas support and education. Practically, this included providing Premier status for children away from home to access services and currencies all around the world.

Another direct result of the research is that HSBC restructured the way branch teams approach customers and prospects i.e., based on their personas. HSBC created a map of what the Premier proposition can bring to each of the personas to support this. As a result, the branch teams can pick and choose the most relevant features for each of the personas.

This project was the first time that HSBC engaged in persona work, and it resulted in an 8.5% growth in wealth penetration and a 6% increase in total brand awareness.

You can read the original article in Research World.

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