TD Smart Stacks

2012 Rotman Design Challenge Winner

Challenge— Many students rely on loans as a way to make ends meet, without truly understanding the economic consequences of their actions. The average US graduate finishes school owing $27,000 in student loans* and no real way to pay it off aside from the typical monthly payment with interest model. How might TD Bank create a new service to help students develop enduring financial skills and habits once they graduate?

Insights— There’s a mismatch between the way TD Bank thinks about money and the way students think about it. TD’s financial products are geared towards helping customers with long-term, milestone goals like buying a house or having a baby. In contrast, students are thinking much shorter-term and dealing with a lot of fluctuation in their lives– not working during the school year, moving to a new city for summer internships, etc.

Students engage in mental accounting practices to try moderating their spending, but these methods lack safeguards and precision. TD may not be able to help students save for the future when they aren’t currently earning an income; however, it can help students develop enduring financial skills and habits to get them ready for life after graduation.

Solution— TD Smart Stacks is highlighted by the Stacks debit card which features a built-in tracker that visualizes how much of the user’s budget is left after each transaction. The Stacks debit card is complemented by an online interface that represents each budget (for everyday spending, bills, or saving goals) as a different stack, making it easier for users to segment their finances into sections reflective of their existing mental accounts. Download an abbreviated version of our slide deck here (4.3 MB).

Credits— My responsibilities included ethnographic interviewing, secondary research, communication design, and business model development. This was a winning collaboration with Jorge Angarita, Lauren Braun, John Shin, and Helen Wills!


* Touryalai, Halah. “More evidence on the student debt crisis: average grad’s loan jumps to $27,000.” Forbes. Jan 29, 2013.

The Rotman Design Challenge is an annual competition that pushes teams to develop concepts that blend design methodologies with business acumen. Our team took top honours over 21 other competitors from the Darden School of Business, MIT, NYU Stern, California College of the Arts, OCAD University, and the Rotman School of Management. Watch a short video about the event here.