Background: Digital technology has opened up financial services to new entrants that fall outside of the traditional banking sector, and the regulated environment and technical infrastructure that the banks operate within. Peer-to-peer financial intermediaries (or ‘digital intermediaries’) are organisations that allow citizens to exchange ‘e-money’ in transactions that bypass the banks, and which offer different business opportunities to their proprietors that open up different ways that their users can benefit from them.

Problem Setting: Underlying the ways that financial transactions are carried out by these new digital intermediaries are computer and networking technologies, and these form the digital infrastructures that shape both the economic models that these organisations are able to deploy as well as the ways that their users are able to access them. These infrastructural technologies include secure networks, mobile and web based information delivery, peer-to-peer communication, and interfaces back to other financial markets and the banking sector, amongst others.

Technology Innovation: The impact of the new economic models presented by user-facing digital intermediaries is yet to be fully determined, but they have huge potential as disruptive innovations, with a potentially transformative effect on the way that financial services are offered to consumers. Little is understood about how technical infrastructures impact on the ways that users make sense of the financial services that they use, or on how these might be designed more effectively. 3DaRoC will explore this design space through a user-centred design process, working with our digital intermediary partners and end users. Drawing from empirical studies of users and business needs, we will prototype and evaluate new online, mobile, ubiquitous and tangible technologies, and explore how these services might be extended to new business areas.

Project Aim: to evaluate the role of infrastructural designs and its effects on the patterns of use of financial services provided by digital intermediaries. 3DaRoC will examine the socio-digital systems that underlie these new and emerging intermediary services. We will explore how service presentation (comprising of the business model, information content and structure, and interaction design and data representation to users) impacts on value, use and interpretation, and offer insights into the design of current and novel infrastructures and technology for digital intermediaries that are grounded in applied examples of use.

Impact: The value of this research lies in drawing from different models of interaction to support new forms of financial service. In this respect, we will work with the partners to help them understand their users better, to identify problems and other issues faced in their service provision, and consider how their technical infrastructures might be supported or improved. It also offers insights that could be applied to different modes of digital service.