Valuable Lessons to learn from $900 million bad UX mistake by Citibank


Yes, you read it right, it’s a Nine hundred million dollar mistake. Just ask Citibank, where a user error led to more than $500 million company loss.

Flexcube bad user interface
Flexcube bad user interface

Before talking about user experience mistakes, let’s talk about the fault that was made and also the impact of it to see why bad UX can harm the business very much. On a Wednesday morning in August 2020, the New York Citibank transferred $900 million to several hedge funds on behalf of Revlon Inc. — repaying the entirety of the debt the American cosmetics firm owed to its lenders, wired the full loan amount (interest and principal) to the creditors: $7.8 million in interest and $894 million in principal — for a total of roughly $900 million.

To approve the transaction, Citi uses the “six eyes” process in its Flexcube software which means three Citi employees reviewed the transfer screen for approval. That explanation, however, ignores the bigger picture: If three experienced employees agree on what the software should do, but it does something different, this suggests a poor user experience and an unattractive user interface.

It probably has a team dedicated to employee-facing software, as most large firms do, as well as dedicated professionals on Citi’s mobile app and its website, which are both far better designed than that screen in Flexcube. Although, it is likely that the team wishes to have had the chance to improve this interaction.

What seems to be a simple interaction design problem turns out to be much more complicated. In my opinion, Flexcube’s ‘clunky’ UI appears straight out of the 90’s and was clearly not designed with proper UX considerations.

Why should you design and build a design software for people, not machines?

Thinking of a program as a machine is a common mistake many software engineers make when building it. The worst thing you can do when building an application is to use this approach.

Software as well as any other design needs to take human factors into account. Involving and putting the end-user first in the software development world is known as User-centered design or human-centered design.

A company should not create tools just for the sake of creating them. People who are going to use them must be considered when they are building them. The failure to do so will undoubtedly lead to poorly designed products with lots of usability problems.

Nearly every design heuristic is violated by the Flexcube UI. An ‘are you sure you want to make a $900 million transaction?’ could have prevented Citibank from losing over $500 million in an arduous legal battle.

Why is Good UX much more than adding elements randomly?

User experience is usually considered by companies who build software as just functional elements. To put it another way, as long as the user can perform all the actions, it’s “good enough”. That is particularly obvious when the system has been built according to an “inspection”.

Even if the software is specified as usable, it can be difficult to measure how usable it is, since the quality of the user experience is subjective.

Understanding how the user will use the software and what the user already knows (or doesn’t know) is essential to user experience design. Also, it should make sure the user has a clear understanding of what’s going to happen in high-stakes situations.

Why is UI Design important in FinTech?

It is their user-friendly User Interfaces that make some of the best software tools in the world unique. Financial services companies should use FinTech tools designed and developed by experts, since making a good UX is a necessity, not a luxury. Using outdated tools can lead to costly mistakes just ask Citibank about it.

Why does a well-designed product get more attention?

The company will continue to benefit from using modern design principles for its transactional systems and evolving along with customer-facing interfaces. These systems’ users engage in countless digital tools and systems outside of work each day and will feel tension created by difficult, outdated internal systems that don’t prioritize good design.

You may be setting yourself up for mistakes by not focusing on modern UX/UI principles, and those may be more costly than regular design efforts and maintenance.

So how much is good UX worth?

A good user experience can’t be measured, but You can lose a lot of money by having bad UX. There’s no doubt it’s worth well over $900 million in the CitiBank case. Improving your UI/UX, while requiring effort and expertise sure pays off.

These are some tips on making a delightful user experience:

  • Understand users and their needs.
  • Take the time to think through what needs to be built before it is built, putting drafts on hold if necessary.
  • Document the design intent in a comprehensive manner.
  • You’ll want to check in with actual users about what they’re planning, so you’ll know what they need.
  • Iterate based on the feedback from your users.

You must know that delight isn’t about your product, it’s about your user. it’s not about a feature, it’s about emotion. Make your solutions enjoyable to use by connecting feelings with features. At the end of the day, we just try to brighten our user’s day!


UX isn’t about just completing the feature; it’s about building a product that consistently adds value to its buyers and users. Insightful user experience is a prerequisite for a product to do so. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot either. Better UX could have saved Citibank $500 million.

Usability testing on Flexcube’s user interface could have prevented Citi Bank’s multimillion-dollar loss.

My last suggestion, you either learn the easy way by learning from others' mistakes and don’t repeat them or the hard way by doing the exact same thing and expecting different results. So you need to choose which one.

Thank you for reading until the end, I really appreciate it so much. Feel free to clap, share and comment. What did you learn from the Citibank user experience?