Financial Client Portal

This financial company's first foray into creating a personalized space for its institutional clients and financial advisor community


A leading fixed income asset manager for both retail and institutional clients approached Pivotal Labs in 2018 to help it take the first steps toward a more personalized digital experience. The desired application—a client portal—would be the first of many iterations intended to serve both types of clients (and their respective account managers) in increasingly valuable ways.

At our Kickoff we articulated several specific business and product goals, including a desire to keep clients longer, increase employee effectiveness, differentiate the organization as a leader in digital innovation, and facilitate basic servicing for institutional clients.

The team was comprised of 2 Product Managers (1 client & 1 Pivotal); 1 Product Designer at first (me; eventually a newly-hired client designer joined the project); 4 Developers (2 client & 2 Pivotal); and 1 subject matter expert (SME). My role spanned everything from research and UX to visual design.

Problem Space

To begin, we spent time reading through existing documentation provided by our SME to get a sense of what we already knew. To better understand the day-to-day workflows of Institutional and Retail Account Managers (AM)—the users we prioritized for research during our Kickoff—we created journey maps for each, calling out any assumptions we had about their processes or problems.

Over the course of several days, we interviewed and/or observed six external retail AMs, six internal retail AMs, four institutional AMs, two advisors, and one institutional client.

Note: An external AM is one who spends the bulk of their time visiting clients in the field. In contrast, an internal AM does not travel and instead supports the external AM from the main office.

A person points to a list of users to interview written on a whiteboard
Two people review a wall covered in sticky notes that contain research notes. One person is writing something on one sticky note.

We compiled our 500+ interview data points onto a data wall and used them to identify 16 problems and 56 insights. Knowing we could not address all problems or act on all insights, we conducted an exercise to filter them down to high frequency / high pain problems and high opportunity insights.


Using the top problems and insights, we identified two key areas of opportunity:

1. Make an existing internal portfolio analysis tool self-service

2. Streamline access to institutional account information and data


We knew going into a key check-in that our top opportunity was the least technically ready, but it was clear from our research that it could be the most valuable. Our stakeholder agreed with us that it was the most valuable but stopped short of agreeing with our direction. Instead, she urged us to consider shifting focus to what she termed "account basics"—namely, finding a way to reach an MVP quicker by focusing on the most baseline data and information required to start the digital experience down a path toward personalization. We also shifted our focus to retail clients, otherwise known as Financial Advisors (FAs).

With help from our SME, who herself was once an AM, we identified the key questions retail advisors need to answer about their funds as well as what data might answer those questions. We then wrote a scenario to outline how we envisioned an advisor using what we had started calling "Investments Overview" and individually sketched how we thought the solution might look.

A picture of a whiteboard with lots of key research learnings written on it
A group of six people looks at a whiteboard wall covered in design sketches. One person points to their sketch and explains what they drew to the group.

To determine whether our initial design resonated with users, we held our first concept test with five FAs wherein they reacted to two versions of the Investments Overview. We learned that our data visualizations needed tweaking and that some aspects—like including the FA's firm's logo—weren't actually that valuable. We iterated the design.

We wanted to make sure we weren’t focusing too heavily on FAs, so we met with two Institutional AMs to better understand what Institutional Clients (ICs) needed to know. This conversation helped us understand the significant overlap between FA and IC information, making that business distinction less meaningful to our solution—a huge push toward a unified solution.

Three people discuss a printed design mock up taped to a whiteboard
Two printed design mock ups covered with feedback written on sticky notes
A list of key institutional client questions written on a whiteboard

After iterating further on the design, we held our second concept test with three FAs and learned that some of our included data points weren't valuable, the charts needed better labeling, and there was a strong desire to see overall market value of a portfolio.

Solution, at last!

With the validation our two rounds of research provided, we felt confident that we could move forward with a personalized Investment Overview portal that would allow both FAs and ICs to:

This grew from a set of low fidelity sketches into higher fidelity designs (including accessibility considerations) as the team set about making it a reality. Below are a few example screens.

Client Portal login screen
Client Portal dashboard with user's list of financial products
Client Portal financial product detail page's loading state
Client Portal selected financial product confirmation pop-up screen
Client Portal financial product detail page
Client Portal institutional client dashboard with its holdings
Client Portal institutional client's account detail page


The project ran for approximately 8 months, with some time spent at the client’s Austin office helping the development team get settled. In the months after disengagement in late July 2019, the product launched with a small pilot; it had its full public launch in December 2019 alongside its sister product, the self-service portfolio analysis tool alluded to in the "Problem Space" section above. Both are still under active development.