Building human-centered products is about designing products that put people first. They focus on customer needs and aim to solve their users’ problems. But often, there is a ton of red tape between your product and customer satisfaction. So, how do you build human-centered products in an industry full of restrictions? Fidelity Investments Director of Product Management Hannah Lippe shares insights on how to construct human-centered products in highly-regulated environments. 

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On the impact of highly-regulated environments

When you work in highly-regulated environments, there is red tape at every stage of product development. The impact can be felt everywhere. From user interviews and testing to writing human-friendly content. Utilizing third-party tools and software suddenly becomes extremely more complicated. And releasing new products and features can seem daunting at first. These are some of the ways working in highly-regulated environments can impact your product launch:

“The impact of LRC could be felt everywhere. Whether it was early in our opportunity identification process. When we simply wanted to interview customers about their experiences or write content to explain the concept of a financial service in a way that wasn’t entirely confusing. Every step along the way to launching and marketing the red tape could be felt everywhere.”

“We were working on incredibly important problems, like helping people deal with student loan debt, pay their health care expenses, save for retirement, or invest in line with their values. And I was trying to move as quickly as possible to learn about customer challenges, test new ideas with them, and make solutions available. And at every step along the way, I felt like I had to ask permission, get edited, and maybe even just get fully rejected.”

“I started to spend more time with our LRC partners and really started to listen more to their concerns and understand their process. I realized that, while I wanted to go fast. And they wanted to move more carefully. We really actually had the same goals at heart.”

On the common ground in highly-regulated environments 

So, what is the common ground between product managers and regulatory teams? The customers. The mission and vision are the same. We want to provide a great experience and product for our customers. In highly-regulated environments, the legal teams focus on protecting customers. And the product managers focus on solving their problems through innovation. Both are of equal importance. This is how highly-regulated environments are customer-centered:

“The heart of what we were trying to do from the product side, which was building new products that create value for customers, was really very aligned with what our legal and regulatory partners were trying to do, which was to protect our customers.”

‘I started to understand that the regulators were really not adversaries. But in fact, massive resources and benefits to our work. In our world, everyone has to deal with the same regulations. So, being able to deal with them excellently and efficiently, while also solving a really important customer problem, is actually a competitive advantage.”  

“So, in order to navigate the regulations and possible restrictions, we had to not dwell on the limitations. But instead really focused on working with the people who could help us understand and innovate within the boundaries. 

“Rather than seeing those people as barriers to what we wanted to do, we needed to work with them. And do a better job of bringing them into the conversation early and focusing on building a shared understanding and purpose.”

On a shared understanding of the purpose and goals

When the goals and the mission are aligned, and the legal teams are brought into the conversation early. Product managers are less likely to run into legal hurdles along the product journey. Building products in a highly-regulated environment isn’t about regulations. It’s about people and relationships. And building internal relationships is equally important and crucial to building customer relationships. Here are some reasons building products in highly-regulated environments is about people:

“First, bring LRC into the team with an understanding of their purpose and goals. Bring them in with the same empathy that you would apply to your customers.”

“The most important step is to bring the legal risk and compliance teams in early to your process and really as a part of your product team. You want to develop the product together and give them a view of the roadmap in advance. So that you can understand, well ahead of time, what some of the concerns may be.”

“So, we decided to set up a weekly preview meeting. We scheduled time to discuss anything that was in motion, whether it was like in the early stage or in the later stages. We also started sharing our six-month roadmap. So that we could talk about future ideas and discuss any potential concerns well in advance. We started interacting with them as part of the product team. They were involved in shaping the solution from the beginning, rather than as a barrier that we would face down the road.”

On finding an innovative advocate

Finding a champion within your legal or regulatory teams interested in innovation can help you navigate your industry. This is someone who can make your ideas more palatable and more understandable. Your advocate or ‘legal eagle’ will be able to translate your ideas to others who might be more resistant. A lot of legal and regulatory experts are concerned with innovation-related risk. Check out how Hannah’s legal eagle helped her product team:

“Within this network of people, I highly encourage you to find an advocate who is very excited to bring innovation to the business and to the customers. And who can help translate your ideas to others who might be more resistant.”

“We called him our legal Eagle and included him in much of our work and process. He was very excited to learn and experience this new way of working. And he shared some of the boundaries or concerns he might have.

He then went on to become legal for many more teams. He acted as an advocate for our innovation. And helped us make our ideas more understandable and palatable. He was able to wield an influence that we just simply couldn’t.”

About the speaker
Hannah Lippe Fidelity Investments, Director of Product Management Member

Hannah Lippe is the Director of Product Management at Fidelity Investments. She builds a software business that helps financial advisors develop their sustainable investing practice. Over the years, she led product and design strategy research for various challenges at Fidelity, including engaging women investors, simplifying healthcare and financial benefits, and making student loan debt manageable. Prior to working in fintech, Hannah facilitated state education and environmental policy negotiations. She teaches a master's course in design thinking at Tufts University. She has a bachelor's degree in biology from Brown University and a master's degree in education policy from Stanford University. Hannah is a rock climber, mountain biker, skier, and ultra-runner.

About the host
Elysse Chappell-Dolby Product Manager

Elysse is a talented and dedicated writing professional with 6 years of experience creating, editing, and coaching professional and creative writing. She is an expert at managing productivity and producing concise written works. And has extensive experience writing in both professional and narrative styles.

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