Meet…Julie Rodriguez

Eagle Investment Systems’ VP of User Experience discusses how advances in consumer technology will impact and shape how business users engage with financial technology

Q: You recently joined Eagle from Sapient, where you served as Creative Director. Can you talk about your past experience and what led you to this position as VP of User Experience?

A: Throughout my career, each role has positioned me to build on the experience I previously gained. I started in consulting designing a variety of platforms—from securities-lending institutions working with the world’s largest broker-dealers, to wealth management institutions integrating various technologies into one experience. I extended a lot of that knowledge into my role at Sapient, where I began to learn about the business side of asset management. There, I had a unique perspective to see what the best firms were doing to improve their user experience while also leveraging process engineering strategies to improve UX for others.

Across the board, the takeaway was that organizations needed to streamline their applications in order for users to do their jobs well. In turn, this informed my research around data visualization to help figure out new and interesting ways to present data. I also co-authored a book on this topic that rethinks conventional standards around performance reporting, accounting practices and presenting information through vehicles such as annual reports. It’s still early days, but I have seen organizations apply some of the concepts from the book, and that has been really rewarding.

All of this really sets me up well for working within the Eagle platform, and provides me with a breadth of knowledge and depth of capabilities that I can bring to bear for Eagle’s clients.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about user-centric design and your approach to helping create solutions that are intuitive even for users who may not come from a technology background?

A: I’ve seen so many instances where there is a disconnect between what people think of as user-centric design and what it actually means. To me, it’s about discovering the unstated needs. I often start by looking at the behavior of people—what they actually do versus what they say or think they do, or the workarounds they’ve created to meet their needs. It demands that we tease apart their true needs and go beyond just being an order-taker for their specific requirements.

When we do user research, we generate new ideas based on both user interviews and direct observation, which may take form as job shadowing, looking at job artifacts or analyzing the output of what users create. As we evaluate the output, we start to see the differences between what users say they do and what they actually do. They may like the look and feel of something but when they go to use it, we may discover that navigation of the application isn’t as clear as we thought.

It’s interesting because there are so many small details that may go against conventional wisdom but become apparent as we analyze how people use a given interface. For instance, a relatively high percentage of the population is color blind or color deficient when it comes to identifying reds and greens—around 8% of males. For a trader who is making decisions in which every minute and second counts, a simple tweak to using red and blue instead of the typical red and green combination in an application can make a significant difference.

Ultimately, we need to understand the user and understand that there are different archetypes of users. This means that we need to deliver the right product experience to each unique user role and try to accommodate the different ways each type of user employs our platform.

Q: Are you seeing any user experience trends within investment technology or cloud-based systems?

A: Yes! There are so many emerging trends, particularly when looking at consumer technology and how the “internet of things” is affecting user experience.

A great example is the advent and ongoing development of the smartphone—work became so much easier, but it also created lots of expectations. There are so many quick solutions—a swipe here, a swipe there and things get done. We can ask Alexa to order groceries through Amazon or tell us the weather to plan our day. When looking at an app, we don’t even need to enter a password anymore—our fingerprint will open it for us. The new generation in the work force has grown up with these types of digital expectations that are embedded in the fabric of everyday life and we are embracing these digital expectations as points of efficiency.

These are the types of trends and expectations that we see in our day-to-day world that will impact business. We need to be ready for that and determine how we can incorporate these practices into our solution set to make them analogous for our users’ experiences.

Q: What is your view of Eagle now, and vision for where it might be 5 years from now?

A: Eagle has really built its reputation around providing an extremely powerful set of tools for data management, accounting and performance measurement and attribution. When people think of data centricity and the value of having a centralized repository of data, they think of Eagle. I see my role as helping clients leverage these tools by enhancing the usability so business users can better navigate all of the data and functionality that is at their disposal. This is not necessarily a journey with a defined end—it’s about continual improvement and it evolves as usage patterns change.

Right now, for instance, a client can look at a report and gain a high-level, enterprise-wide view of performance. Yet, there is an opportunity to reveal more of the underlying detail that informs the report so that there is a greater understanding of the aggregate values. The prospect of being able to leverage emerging technology such as machine learning or AI to mine that data and extract the type of information that provides new insights presents a real opportunity for us. As an example, by leveraging these types of technologies through dashboard displays, we could remove the need for clients to review each report line item and instead bubble up nuanced yet important information that might otherwise go unnoticed.

So as user expectations change and the technology available to us advances, I think we’re positioned well to help clients embrace this coming inflection point. User-centric design is going to be critically important going forward, and our ability to co-create alongside our clients and our parent company BNY Mellon will be a tremendous resource for us.

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