ABN AMRO is one of the largest banks in The Netherlands. The bank for tomorrow asks for a digital mindset. To support ABN AMRO in their mission ‘banking for better, for generations to come’, they asked me to join their Design Team to facilitate and support the Personal Finance team (Mortgages and Investments) as a UX Lead.


UX Lead (Freelance)

Building a team

Based on trust, openness and ownership

It’s not easy to come into a new place and start building a team. Before I came in, the designers already had other experiences with another lead. It was my job to make sure that everyone in the team was aligned. This was quite challenging since half of the team worked on Investments and the other half on Mortgages.

During the first UX Weekly – a meeting once a week where we would have time to spend together as a team – I asked everyone what they expected. They all said that they were going to share what they were working on, just like they did with their previous lead. But I had something else in mind: I wanted the team to come up with ideas to make the UX Weekly valuable for them. What do they want to get out of it? And what is needed to get the results they want? By giving the team the ownership to design their own weekly, I managed to gain their trust right from the start.

UX Weekly formats

Based on the output from the first weekly, I created a few formats that we could apply to a UX Weekly. The formats covered every aspect the team needed from the UX Weekly: fun, creativity, energy and the feeling of being a part of a team.


Sharing is Caring

By sharing more about who you are and what inspires you, we get to know eachother better


Group Dynamics

Doing a group dynamics exercise to strengthen the feeling of being a team

Creative Doping

Energy, fun and creativity are at the core of this format. A creative break from your daily job!


How might we…?

Together we will solve a problem. One you are working on right now, or just one you experience on a daily basis. Anything works!


Take the stage

Present what you are working on right now (2×20 min.) and ask for feedback if you like. This way, we support each other and keep everyone up to date.


Learning Development

We teach each other skills and knowledge, or let someone else do it. Here at the office, or somewhere else.

Collaborate and reflect

Bringing the groups dynamic to the next level

Working together as a team and reflecting on this process can give great insights into your role as a team member. By applying the formats the team came up with, I managed to use a couple of group dynamics exercises, such as the Crocodile River and the Marshmallow Challenge.

During these assignments, I forced the team to work together, trust each other and think about their role in the team. The assignments were always fun and energetic, to make sure everything would feel comfortable.

Before starting the group dynamic exercises, we would always begin the weekly with a check-in. The check-in invites each member in a group to be present, seen, and heard. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus, and group commitment. After the weekly, we would use the check-out. Checking-out emphasizes reflection and closure.

The Marshmallow Challenge

After each assignment I would ask the team to reflect: What happened? How did we work as a team? How did that make me feel? How did I act? What did I learn about myself? Reflection is a key tool to gain understanding in your own behaviour and thoughts. The insights the team gained from these experencies could then be taken back to their own scrum team.

Simon is a driven and energetic design lead. An inspiration on many aspects. He has build the Personal Finance Team within ABN AMRO in an integral, people-oriented manner. Because of this, he gave not only the team but also every team member the chance to develop and grow.

Edwin Lieftink — Team member Personal Finance

Design Team Manifesto

Vision, motivation and inspiration

Besides supporting the Personal Finance team to learn and grow, I have also developed a Design Team Manifesto together with the other UX Leads. The Design Team Manifesto was initiated by me because I noticed a lack of coherence. The designers in our teams weren’t really aware of how we assess their development, so there needed to be one single point of departure that would apply for the whole Design Team.

During the development of the manifesto, we looked at a couple of things:

  • What is the mission of our design team, why do we exist?
  • What do we believe in, what are our core values?
  • How are we organized within the bank, to make sure everyone understands the organizational sensitivity they are in?
  • How does the current journey of a designer at ABN AMRO look like?
  • Which ways of working do we currently apply, and how might we unify them?
  • Which knowledge and skills do we find important for our designers to have?


By defining the competences, we enabled our designers to gain more insight on how they could improve and become a better designer. The competences are a description of the corresponding profession-specific and generic knowledge and skills of a designer at ABN AMRO.

Mortgages Service Blueprint

Strategic outline

As a UX Lead it was also my task to support the Mortgages and Investment teams with any strategic opportunities. Together with some people from the Mortgages team, we created a Service Blueprint. A visualization of all channels (frontstage and backstage) from the perspective of the customer, in relation to their interest-only mortgage. This blueprint was a great way to show the pain points in the whole process, and a great enabler to define solutions.

Simon is a very skilled designer and a very good coach and team builder. He soon became the conscience of the design leadership team, always remembering us to connect even better on a human level. I will make sure to replace him with someone who also brings what I started calling ‘the Simon factor’.

Jennie Huijboom — Head of UX, ABN AMRO

Design Thinking Workshop

1 workshop, 40 minutes, 60 participants

One of the big challenges within ABN AMRO is thinking from a human perspective. For the CDX Event I was asked to give a Design Thinking workshop, to let people from ABN AMRO get more familiar with thinking from a human perspective.

For this workshop I came up with an exercise to really get people involved with the Design Thinking process. All participants were asked to design a wallet for one of their team members. During this process, they had to apply the Design Thinking methodology: gaining empathy, reframing the problem, ideation, gather feedback, build and test.

The workshop was one big success. Even though we didn’t have that much time to walk through every single step in detail, all participants were involved and really loved the hands-on way of working. There has been an internal survey to ask feedback about all workshops. The Design Thinking Workshop was rated as one of the highest with an average of 7.8!

Providing closure for the team

Saying goodbye

Before leaving ABN AMRO, we had one final UX Weekly where we created a History Map. The main purpose of this activity is to remind and reflect on what our team has been through and to create a collective experience and shared story. Every individual will gain a shared idea of what the group has been through together. It is a way to reinforce learnings, celebrate highlights and create closure.

Special thanks to these amazing people

Femke van Drooge

Lan Dinh

Marjolein Fennis

Folkert Paulides

Edwin Lieftink

Remko Bor

Jennie Huijboom

Jasper Scheffel

Koen Post

Tibor Sisarica

Jasper Heemskerk

Niels Sipkema

Stephan de Ruiter

Xander Roozen

Anne-Marie Marree

Rik de Vries

Jan-Hendrik van Dalen