avatar for Natasha Barrientos

Natasha Barrientos

John Hancock
Director of Research & Development
At John Hancock, Natasha's role as the Director of Research & Development is to support the company’s mission of helping customers realize their financial goals by providing a line of visibility into minimally understood areas of new technology, user segments, and business models- ensuring that their energy and speed are invested in the right direction. Through the lens of human-centered design, her team conducts a blend of both classic and applied research to explore ambiguous problem spaces and apply insights they’ve uncovered to iteratively prototype and test new concepts.

Natasha is driven to create intentional experiences for our customers that drive equitable economic growth and promote financial inclusion. Natasha holds true that all actors in our ecosystem have a shared responsibility to continuously strive to elevate the standard of living across groups and geographies, and believe cross-sector collaboration will be a key driver in progressing us as a society.

What else is Natasha passionate about? She enjoys learning and experiencing new things- be it cuisines, coffee, cultures, countries, or corner cafés; alliteration intended. Natasha is a lover of dry humor, talking to people, travel, dancing, and all things involving fitness + nutrition.

What do you enjoy about the work you are doing in finance?
                I like that we have the opportunity to address pain-points in relation to one of the biggest underlying causes of stress that individuals face: money!  From saving to growing, to just managing day-to-day responsibilities, it permeates every facet of our lives.  I believe there’s a big opportunity to make the resources and solutions that make this easier for people to do more inclusive; across both geographies and socio-economic levels.
What gets you most fired up in terms of a technology, tool, trend, or advancement?
                The trend toward having a real social impact in the products and services companies create is something that really excites me!  It’s so important for large organizations to realize they have the responsibility to think about how their business affects local, state-level, and national economies.  Considering how they can act in the best interest of those constituents, as well as for the greater society as a whole, will ensure we start to see the development of more equitable, truly human-centered solutions.  In this regard, I think we will see a considerable uptick in the incorporation of concepts from the behavioral sciences to leverage what we already know and are learning about why people think and do what they do, and how to influence a lasting behavior change.
What do you think the future of financial experience will hold?
                As the lines between private and public sectors blur and the role of the government in stifling vs. encouraging innovation becomes clearer, I believe we will see more work being done across and between sectors.  This collaboration has the potential to drive real change on a systemic level.  I believe we will continue to see the development of AI solutions through digital mediums in order to increase access of financial services and products, and drive financial education programs that empower people to make these decisions.
What is the biggest obstacle you face in building a culture of design and innovation or putting a focus on wellbeing? How might the industry solve it?
                The biggest obstacle I’ve seen is the need to elevate the role of design, and to truly commit to adopting an approach to product development that is human-centered.  It’s simply not enough to talk-the-talk about “putting customers first.” Such a simple, yet powerful step in the right direction is for companies to start talking (and listening!) to their customers and users; they need to truly care…and for that to happen, the value system on what motivates them to want to change and adapt must be closely re-examined.
What would you tell your younger self?
To remain insatiably curious and not take any “hurry up and figure it out” advice to heart. The world is dynamic - that’s what it means to be alive and human! And that should be deeply embraced.