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Getting started

UK Export Finance (UKEF) owns the Digital Trade Finance Service that enables banks to request support from the UK government in order to provide financial support to UK-based exporters.

The service was in public beta but had not undergone any service assessments or been developed in line with the Government Service Standard.


The Digital Trade Finance Service (DTFS) is a transactional service that combines digital and offline channels to enable banks to submit Export Working Capital and Bond Support transactions to UK Export Finance (UKEF). This is coupled with an internal service for managing the processing of new and existing deals.


The service had come under scrutiny from GDS since it hadn’t been taken through the service assessment gateways that ensure compliance with the Government Service Standard.


So, a blended team made up of civil servants, GDS advisors and Cogworx specialists all co-located, creating “one team” and began work dissecting the problem space and understanding what users need from the DTFS.

Workshopping, interviewing and shadowing

Research got underway to get under the skin of the service, the users, their needs and their pain points. We worked with the existing team to understand what insight already existed, whilst being mindful that the service needed fresh eyes across it.


We workshopped with business stakeholders before rapidly extending these to users. We discussed the process, whilst using the opportunity to hear about their experiences with different service touchpoints and key milestones.


Shadowing (pre-COVID) with UKEF staff we saw first hand the challenges they had, as well as the self-designed workarounds that had emerged as a direct response to these challenges. Spreadsheets, Post-It notes, additional meetings, data duplication or extraction all made regular appearances.


We used our learnings from these sessions to drive in-depth interviews with users, taking the opportunity to not only discuss the problem space but also their thoughts on how these might be solved or improved.

Unearthing insights through workshopping

Workshopping and co-designing sessions helped us understand where the banks were facing their biggest challenges, as well as exploring possible solutions.

Bringing ideas to life and taking stakeholders along with us

As findings emerged and thinking progressed, we discussed options openly and made decisions collectively, ensuring we took the organisation with us as we started to come to conclusions.


We visualised our thinking in process maps, journey or experience maps as well as personas and product roadmaps.


Heading towards the close of discovery and preparing for alpha, we produced a comprehensive report detailing:


  • Key user groups identified and their needs

  • Main challenges within the existing service design

  • A prioritised user story backlog driven by user needs

  • Technology options with one clear recommendation

  • Route to compliance with the incoming accessibility legislation ensuring the service was compliant to WCAG 2.1AA

  • Clear, focused scope for development in Alpha demonstrating a value (money, user & business) concept


Managing key stakeholders, adhering to UKEF internal governance and ensuring GDS approval of our ways of working was key to this engagement. We ran show & tells, 1:1’s with members of the Executive Committee and engaged with governance forums such as Project Board and Change Board.


By working openly in these forums, we gathered trust and faith in the approach we were taking and ultimately won approval to continue developing the service into Alpha.

Regular show & tells gained engagement and buy-in

We worked in the open, and talked to anyone who was interested about our process, our wins and our failures every sprint. The team’s candid approach helped win hearts & minds as we progressed.

Testing ideas, technologies and approaches

During Alpha, the service team tried and tested two technologies - Salesforce & Open-source - to surface which provided the superior user experience, technology futureproofing and business value.


Through prototyping journeys, testing with users and iterating our work, we gained a rich understanding of what users needed from the product that underpinned the service as well as where we could gain improvements & efficiencies through the clever use of technology or data.


Our interaction and content design of both the bank-facing and staff-facing products allowed us to create seamless journeys that supported business processes and user needs in a far more superior way, attracting praise from users as they started to see the improvements they’d been hoping for.


We implemented the GDS Design System (supported by case management components from the MoJ Design System) and demonstrated the value of integrating with a system so well tested for usability and accessibility.

Supporting the handover to UKEF

Towards the end of Alpha, after a successful Service Assessment, we started the process of handing over the service design & development to civil servants within the newly created DDaT function.


Our team ran alongside the growing internal team assigned to the Digital Trade Finance Service, peer matching and starting a slow handover so that eventually the team could take the service on themselves.


Throughout this engagement, we were able to rapidly onboard team members or to handover to others because we had created the material, structure and the history needed to do so.


Once UKEF appointed a permanent Service Design Lead, the handover began with them joining general project meetings, show & tells etc. to build context. This progressed towards some structured practical sessions with the outgoing Cogworx service designer to run through design files, process maps and decision rationale.


The internal team have now fully assumed control of DTFS and have been able to continue to develop it at a steady cadence towards a release into Private Beta scheduled for March 2022.


Service Design
UX Design
Content Design

User Research

Accessibility Testing

Performance Management


Central Government



UK Export Finance


TPX Impact

Transforming a service that supports UK exporters

Ensuring banks are able to easily support businesses who wish to export their product or service

The Challenge

UK Export Finance had a digital service that had been developed outside of the Government Service Standard framework and had come under GDS scrutiny. UKEF required remedial activity on the existing service as well as further development to take the service to Public Beta.

The Outcome

The Digital Trade Finance Service is in Public Beta, having achieved a ‘Met’ at both Alpha & Beta service assessments. Senior Cogworx consultants supported the creation of a new DDaT function and the team have since handed the service to internal teams to continue to develop.

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