Money Talks: Don Relyea Takes User Experience to the Bank

Don Relyea — who Incorporated a 19-person core design team to BBVA Compass within a couple weeks — says that the addition of designers to global banking firm BBVA is introducing constructive problem-solving to operations across 35 countries.

Don Relyea, head of design at BBVA  [Photo: BBVA]

The Design With a Big ‘D’ series digs into the scope and depth of the Dallas-Fort Worth UX/UI industry as the region becomes a hot spot for design talent and companies. To follow the series and get the news on what’s now and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, sign up for Dallas Innovates Every Day.

Don Relyea, head of both U.S. design and the global patent office for BBVA, holds 144 U.S. patents, with many still pending. Relyea — who Incorporated a 19-person core design team to BBVA Compass within a couple weeks — says that the addition of designers to global banking firm BBVA is introducing constructive problem-solving to operations across 35 countries. The multi-talented Dallas native is also an artist, composer, and electronic musician.

He talked with Dave Moore about his work at BBVA.

// Before Don Relyea and his crew rolled in, opening an account at BBVA Compass was a relatively slow, complicated affair. Sometimes tellers had to open up numerous windows in the process, increasing the chances for mistakes and delays.

This called for an intervention — front-line bank tellers were called to meet with engineers and experts in design thinking to resolve the issue. This was fall 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama, at BBVA’s Brock Development Center offices. Relyea brought them together so they could talk through how the process worked and didn’t work. At the end of the day — literally — together, they mapped out a plan that would ultimately reduce the time for opening an account by nearly 83 percent.

Like many professionals in the user experience industry, Relyea worked in a variety of industries, from Verizon to Barclays, among other stops, before arriving at BBVA Compass. (“We would sketch out prototypes and make tech real,” he says, recalling his work at Verizon.) Yet, Relyea says he’s proudest of his work at BBVA: “I’m finding myself more challenged and rewarded by the cultural changes that occur in the groups I interact with,” he says. “There’s a group of folks (on the team) who aren’t used to design thinking, and they get excited about it. It’s very rewarding.”

Just as collaborative design thinking trimmed account set-up time by 83 percent, the practice can prevent companies from sinking fortunes into the execution of faulty products.

“We were doing work with Compass BBVA’s ATM group, and they had all the vendors present,” Relyea says. “We were sketching out these capabilities on a whiteboard,” he says, describing the design thinking workshop.

The team was just about to introduce an innovation to customers’ automated teller experience when suddenly, the lawyers present said the breakthrough would constitute a violation of regulations. They shut it down. Yet, the process impressed one of the executives in the room immediately.

“One of the ATM vendor CTO’s present said, ‘You just saved yourself a ton of money,'” Relyea recalls, adding that many company launches fail because they’re not properly vetted.

A version of this story was first published in Sept. 2018 in a Dallas Regional Chamber brochure: “Design With a Big ‘D'”.


The DFW Experience

Part one examines DFW as a UX hotspot. Today, four out of 10 Texas user-experience professionals work in Dallas-Fort Worth.

How the Big Design Conference Came to Be

Part two looks at the beginnings of the conference. Big Design co-founder Brian Sullivan shares its origin story.

Corporate by Design

Part three shares insights for how design pros help companies such as Walmart, Accenture, Bottle Rocket, Sabre, and more gain competitive advantage.

Leading by Design

Part four covers a few big thinkers who are leading by design at companies such as Capital One, BBVA, Intuit, and USAA. Whether it’s slaying piles of paper receipts at tax time or making shopping an adventure, these Dallas area thoughtleaders are making their marks in their respective industries. The common thread? Dogged persistence. 

Meet 6 UX/UI Experts Delivering Solutions

UX/UI designers and experts are integral parts of many company operations and span across almost every industry. The Dallas-Fort Worth region has no shortage of thought leaders who are helping create the solutions for some of today’s most popular products. Here are six you need to know.

#DesignThinking #UX/UI #DesignWithABigD

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Dave Moore has 30 years’ experience in writing, editing, reporting, and analysis. He’s traveled to Bosnia to observe efforts to boost the country’s post-Soviet economy, explored the causes of ho(...)