Xbox visionary joins Varo, bringing an inclusion-first philosophy to product design
SAN FRANCISCO – August 13, 2019 – Mobile banking company Varo Money, Inc. today announced the hire of August de los Reyes, an Xbox design legend and pioneer in the space of Inclusive Design. His arrival at Varo underscores the company’s mission to improve the financial health of Americans through better services and mobile-centric design. As Chief Design Officer, de los Reyes will lead Varo’s product design, brand design and research teams.
“We are thrilled to add August’s vision to our executive team,” said Colin Walsh, CEO and co-founder of Varo. “This is a watershed moment for Varo and its customers. The future of banking is not just about innovation in money services, but about a fundamental rethink about the way people interact with their money on a daily basis to build trust and connection.”
Varo has already started with financial inclusion features such as its automated savings tools Save Your Change and Save Your Pay. They allow a seamless one-touch opt-in to help people save money in high-yield savings accounts that have no minimum balance, no matter their income level. While the tools are designed for small-dollar savers who are building a financial foundation, they actually help all savers and are used for nearly 20% of the funds deposited into Varo Savings Accounts.
De los Reyes’ expertise will expand these types of design features and tools at Varo.
“Varo’s mission resonates with me because it fosters financial inclusion,” de los Reyes said. “It is the perfect problem space to apply inclusive design principles beyond physical or cognitive differences. Socio-economic exclusion affects millions of Americans. Varo’s potential impact could improve financial well-being at a national scale.”
Between 2013 and 2016, de los Reyes led design for Microsoft Xbox, where he helped the company radically shift its design view to one that put inclusion and empathy at the center of a product experience. He’s credited with helping to make the Xbox gaming platform more accessible for all types of people.
He pushed his career and thought leadership in the direction of inclusive design after an accident left him bound to a wheelchair in 2013. Inclusive design is the field of design that studies how a product experience can be retooled to include a wider population of people who have circumstances that are overlooked by conventional design standards. Often these innovations — for example, adding curb cuts for wheelchairs on sidewalks — improve outcomes for everyone.
Prior to joining Varo, de los Reyes was a Director at Google for the Search, Assistant, and News Ecosystem; from 2016 to 2018, he led product design and research at Pinterest. He spent more than a decade at Microsoft; early in his career he lived in the Netherlands, where he led interaction design efforts for Philips Design. He also helped lead design for internationalization of Kodak’s web presence. He holds an MDesS with distinction from Harvard University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the chair of San Francisco Design Week.
“There’s a three-step framework for applying inclusive design. You identify who is being excluded by ability or by other situation (e.g. income and credit); you solve for that specific person or form of exclusion, and once you have solved for that person, you start to scale up,” de los Reyes said. “We assume that resolving exclusion for one person or group will benefit everyone. That’s what we’re doing at Varo. We are designing for people who feel excluded from big banks, and we’re solving for that, but then what we end up producing will create value for everyone.”
Varo is working to become the first mobile-centric national bank in U.S. history, and believes banking should be fee-free, easy, and accessible to everyone through a smartphone. In August 2018, Varo was granted preliminary approval for a national bank charter by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Operating as a national bank would allow Varo to offer customers an expanded range of banking products and solutions with the continued highest standards of consumer protection.
Varo was founded in 2015 and has raised $179M in funding with Warburg Pincus and The Rise Fund, a global impact fund led by private equity firm TPG as lead investors.
About Varo Money
Varo Money, Inc. (“Varo”) is on a mission to redefine banking so it’s easy for everyone to make smart choices with their money. In one mobile app, Varo offers customers no-cost¹ premium bank accounts and high-interest savings accounts offered through The Bancorp Bank, and tech-first features to help people manage their money more easily. As a fintech leader, Varo has been granted preliminary approval for a de novo national bank charter by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and is working to become the first mobile-centric national bank in U.S. history. Based in San Francisco and Utah and privately held, Varo has raised $179M to date, led by Warburg Pincus. Varo Personal Loans are offered by Varo Money, Inc., under state licenses, subject to application approval. For more information, visit www.varomoney.com, like Varo on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @varomoney.
¹Varo charges no fees for banking services. While Varo does not charge fees for ATM withdrawals, some third-party ATM operators may charge a fee. To avoid ATM fees altogether, customers can use an Allpoint® Network ATM. There are more than 55,000 Allpoint locations worldwide.
Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.