The BUddy Post – HKBU Alumni Affairs Office

April 2022
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People・Discovery

HKBU has nurtured over 140,000 graduates since its inception in 1956 and numerous alumni have in the past made notable achievements in diverse areas and professions. In this connection, we are pleased to introduce alumni from different professions and invite them to share their knowledge discovery with us.

A Sharing by Alumnus Gary Kwok on UX Writing and Virtual Banking

Alumnus Gary Kwok

After graduating from HKBU, alumnus Gary Kwok (Communication – Journalism), one of the HKBU Class Representatives 2011-2012, started his career in the media industry as a reporter, working for leading media companies like Television Broadcasts Limited and South China Morning Post. In 2017, Gary joined Brightwire, a fast-growing news and technology company that gave him exposure to the banking and finance industry. While at Brightwire, he discovered his passion in fintech and saw the rapidly-growing demand for User Experience (UX) writing. Consequently, Gary decided to utilise his writing expertise in the banking and finance industry and joined HSBC Hong Kong as a Digital Copywriter. Just in a year’s time, he became the Lead UX Writer of the bank. He is currently the UX Writing Lead of Mox Bank, a virtual bank backed by Standard Chartered Group.

1. What is UX writing? Please share with us what the role an UX writer is.

User Experience (UX) writing is a form of copywriting that focuses on digital products. For example, any text that appears in a mobile app is within the remit of UX writing. In a more technical definition, it refers to the construction of copy on User Interface (UI) screens. It’s called UX writing because the copy, alongside the screen layout and illustrations, impacts how users interact with the product and affects the overall user experience.

A few years back, there was no such thing as UX writing. As smart phones become an integral part of our lives, mobile apps have become an essential platform for companies to engage with their customers. Riding on that demand, UX writing bursts into the scene, helping brands create their own voice and digital personality as if they were speaking to their customers face-to-face. The biggest part of being a UX writer is to simplify complex ideas into concise and clear language so that people with different technological savviness can navigate the app and complete their desired actions, such as making a transfer online or checking their account balances on their own. Good UX writing makes it easy to use an app and sometimes even turns a frown upside down. Below is an example by Disney we often use to showcase good UX writing that flips a boring 404 error message into something memorable and on-brand.

Good UX writing reinforces brand image and turns around negative emotions.

2. What is the relationship between UX writing and UX design? Please state 1-2 important knowledge and skill sets that are essential for UX writing.

UX writing and UX design go hand in hand. In fact, a lot of companies are now assigning both roles to the same team, whereas copywriting is used to attach to the marketing teams more. A good UX writer should have a design mindset and be able to challenge and influence design, and also be receptive to the feedback of designers on UX copy. The most exciting part in UX writing for me is when designers and I brainstorm together and, through healthy exchanges, we maximise our creativity to produce ideal solutions for customers. To be a successful UX writer, you need to:

i. Understand the entire customer journey before writing. You need to know what happens when customers tap on a call-to-action button on any screen and which selection will bring customers to which page. This requires the ability to holistically visualise the flow even before designers finish mocking up the screens, as well as the ability to anticipate what customers may encounter when they use the app.

UX writers need to understand end-to-end customer flow via wireframing.

ii. Know how to conduct effective usability research and testing. You should be able to empathise with customers and understand their thought process when they are trying to complete a certain action. Asking the right questions during research sessions would help you achieve that – and the journalistic skills acquired in my studies at HKBU and my reporter days definitely play a big part in helping me grasp and utilise the above skill sets!

Gary and his team give a presentation on “UX writing and why it matters” at HSBC.

3. Virtual bank is an emerging banking experience in Hong Kong. Please tell us more about this type of banking.

As informed by its name, virtual banks (VBs) only exist virtually and have no brick-and-mortar branches. They provide retail banking services through the internet or other digital channels; and customer support is all conducted online or by phone. Currently there are 8 VBs in Hong Kong and they are all licensed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

Most VBs in Hong Kong are backed by traditional banks or big financial institutions. For customers, VBs usually mean lower entry thresholds and easier access to bank services. They can open an account at home within a few minutes and immediately start using the features without having to go into a bank branch to fill out application forms and wait for background checks, which can take weeks, before the account could be set up. For this reason, VBs easily attract people like expats who need quick access to their money when they are still new to the city. In general, VBs have lower operational costs as they do not have to pay rent or hire as many frontline staff as traditional banks do. This allows them to charge lower handling fees and pay higher interest rates or cashback to customers.

Virtual banks utilise vibrant colours and eye-catching copy to attract and retain customers.

4. As you have worked in both traditional and virtual banks, how do you compare the two types of banking?

Working in a VB puts you in a start-up environment. It is way more quick-paced than traditional banks, usually with shorter release cycles. The team size is substantially smaller than those of traditional banks, meaning that you need to hop quickly between projects, through which, however, you can quickly gain exposure to all aspects of banking within a short time. With limited resources at VBs, you need to think out of the box and utilise your creativity to overcome challenges, be it a new proposition from internal product owners, or the feedback that a customer has indicated having difficulty navigating through the pages. VBs are also more aware of its brand uniqueness. As a UX team member in a VB, you are expected to deliver the best-in-class experience. A distinct difference between VBs and traditional banks is that VBs utilise the concept of gamification heavily to enhance the fun experience in banking. So, you see a lot more features like lucky draws and scratch cards in VB as an added offer/ on top of their flat cashback.

Moreover, VBs are more open to pushing the boundaries in exploring and adopting new products such as cryptocurrency, NFT wallets, metaverse and other trending products and technologies. As such, working in a VB will make you stay on top of the fintech landscape and cutting-edge designs. With that being said, there are many exciting projects happening in the VB landscape these couple of years. So, stay tuned and, if you haven’t yet, it’s time to open an account in any VB to start experiencing it!