Diverse Participant Recruitment: Financial Services Case Study

April 28, 2020

Connected’s mission to Build Better Products is driven by a human-centered design approach informed by a deep understanding of a product’s users. Our research practice understands that the data we collect is only as useful as the selection of participants we choose to engage with. Recruiting appropriate research participants  with a focus on diversity and inclusivity is important to us, not only because it is ethical and responsible, but also because we know that it drives the greatest product impact.

One of Connected’s Research Values

A person’s life experiences, daily behaviours, and ways of interacting with products are shaped by their individual context. When thinking about your product’s users, you need to consider how varying identities and backgrounds affect their needs. An individual’s needs could be shaped by their upbringing; impacted by their cultural, racial, religious, or socioeconomic backgrounds; and may shift over the course of their life as individual or collective circumstances change. 

Inclusive design means that, even if there is a target market in mind, produ cts should be designed for, and accessible by, everyone. Designing for as large of an audience as ‘everyone’ is a challenge that requires creative solutioning within ever-changing constraints that may only be undercovered through research. By engaging with a diverse set of perspectives, you can apply a more inclusive design approach that positions your product for success with a larger audience.

Why Diversity in Financial Services Matter

On a recent engagement to evolve a personal banking digital product, we knew that diverse perspectives were going to be key to the product’s success. After all, money is a sensitive topic riddled with stigma and unspoken beliefs, and financial behaviours are deeply personal. 

Financial Psychologist Dr. Bradley Klontz coined the term ‘money scripts’ to explain how individuals have core beliefs about money that drive financial behaviours; “money scripts are typically unconscious, developed in childhood, passed down from generation to generation within families and cultures, contextually bound, and often only partial truths.” Therefore, in order to evaluate how people with different money scripts wanted to engage with our product, we needed to collect feedback from participants across a diversity of ages, cultural backgrounds, gender identities, level of education, and income brackets.

It was important for us to partner with a recruitment agency who shares our values and was willing to work with us to strategically recruit the appropriate sample of participants. We selected one of our recent go-to partners, the Toronto-based GRIT (Gathering Residents to Improve Technology). This nonprofit service from Code for Canada facilitates inclusive and accessible usability testing with a diverse sample of users. Senior Design Researcher, Katie Hill, and Product Designer, Lisanne Binhammer have previously shared their thoughts on how GRIT demonstrated an alignment with our human-centred approach, by “ensuring our recruitment criteria would remove, rather than create, barriers for potential research participants.” Personally, I would go as far as saying that GRIT pushed us to be more inclusive and accommodating while partnering with them on this engagement. The benefits of working with GRIT to ensure diversity in our research extend beyond fulfilling our values, and into actionable insights that drive product impact.

The Product Impact of Diverse Perspectives

Given our goal was to evolve an existing product with new features, we had a wealth of usage data combined with a wide array of product ideas from stakeholders. As such, we took a hypothesis-driven approach to first build up a foundational understanding of the current experience, followed by a rapid development and evaluation of key feature concepts. Engaging a diverse audience of participants through mixed research methods enabled us to enrich our findings and product with unique learnings.

Here are three benefits we uncovered through conducting research with a diverse participant pool:

1. Unspoken drivers of daily behaviour:

Working in the tech sector in Toronto means that professionally, we are largely interacting with others who also work in the space. As such, if we didn’t go out of our way to research with folx from other walks of life, we would miss the opportunity to hear how their differing life experiences affect everyday considerations and behaviours. In this case, we might not have learned about the hidden ways in which individuals advocate for fairer tips for those working in the restaurant sector. 

Learning about these unspoken drivers helps understand the ways in which users want to feel in control of their day-to-day decisions.

2. Varied constraints on individuals:

It didn’t come as a surprise when we learned that people have strong feelings associated with debts between friends or family. Resolving these debts is a complicated dance filled with unspoken awkwardness and guilt. However, a person’s expectations adapt based on their past experiences with an individual or a silent assessment of their circumstances. 

Learning about varied constraints on individuals helps us identify when we are crossing boundaries into sensitive product decisions and how to navigate them.

3. Norms in other cultures:

As a white-passing research pair working in lean circumstances, our primary source of cultural context was our own lived experiences. As such, opening up research to recruit from a diverse participant pool, as well as involving the broader engineering team in research, opened up our eyes to different methods of communal money management. 

Learning about other cultural norms helps us expand our understanding of user behaviours in new ways, opening up the potential to unlock new opportunities.


At Connected, we have seen the impact of like-minded recruitment partnerships and developing relationships based on shared values. As our research practice continues to evolve, we have developed a greater appreciation for the correlation between quality recruitment and quality research outputs. It is important to us that our participant recruitment is led with great attention to diversity and inclusivity by someone who truly understands their importance and benefits. 

Our practice follows a set of recruitment values and guidelines to ensure that participant recruitment is streamlined, responsible, and impact-driven. We feel fortunate to have found a partner like GRIT, who embodies our values and is equally invested in evaluating and improving how we work together.

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