Human-Centered Design at Northern Trust, With Scott Dille – [CB3]

Episode Overview

northern-trust-logoIn this episode, Scott Dille of Northern Trust discussed his unusually broad Customer Executive Leadership role, and his path for leading an experience transformation.  Scott is senior vice president of both partner (employee) and client experience.  In this podcast, you will hear about the advanced human-centered design techniques Northern Trust is employing to improve both the client and partner experience.  You will hear how they engaged and united the leadership team with the “human voice” of the client, how they built a lab dedicated to the practice of human-centered and emotions based study,  and how they used that lab to tap into unique opportunities to deliver value to customers and partners.

About Scott Dille

Scott Dille on human-centered designScott is Senior Vice President of Customer and Partner Experience at Northern Trust, based out of Chicago. He’s been with Northern Trust since 2007; prior to that, he was a Senior Vice President at JPMorgan. Scott leads a team at Northern Trust which focuses on designing and supporting the delivery of extraordinary client experience — but because of his dual title, that experience also involves the integration of Northern Trust’s employees.


He focuses extensively on Voice of the Client work and The Northern Lab, a human-centered design experience that works with a wide variety of stakeholders to design differentiated experiences for both customers and employees. Scott was also featured in my book Chief Customer Officer 2.0 talking about the diverse nature of his work (pages 119-120 in the hard copy).

Connect with Scott

Key takeaways

My conversation with Scott covered these key categories:

  • Engaging the leadership team
  • Improving the partner and customer experience
  • Driving change in a healthy organization
  • Establishing a human centered design competency and lab
  • The selection and development of his team

Gaining Traction With the “Human Voice of the Client”

Upon accepting his role, Scott began working to bring the “human voice of the client” to the executive leadership team. Focusing on one segment of their emerging client base, he brought in direct customer videos so that leaders and the Board of Directors could together watch and understand customer emotions and priorities.   Scott and his team created opportunities to deliver the voice of the client with as little added editorial filtering – through the videos, customer verbatim comments  and other qualitative content.  

A key point that Scott shared was, “the more purely you can deliver the client’s voice – the more people are going to trust it.”

Advancing Solutions with Human-Centered Design

Scott and his team then extended that voice of the client orientation with the help of an external team to embed human-centered design to redesign both client and partner experiences. He shares how they built what they call the “Northern Lab” which employs both ethnographic research and design and co-creation approaches to reimagine experiences grounded in customer emotions and needs. Scott explains how they successfully used this approach to begin to advance a burning platform in the wealth management business with new generations of clients and illuminates what they desire more of.

Northern Trust’s CPX Studio

How Scott Designed His Team  

Scott shared that he was very careful to find team members who had expertise but were also wired around being humble and not needing to make it about them, or “us” as a team. He went on to say that they need to also be optimistic, and collaborative. And that the personality and mindset of the people who do this work are crucial to the outcome. This work is not the usual silo-based work, and people who thrive in customer experience teams such as Scott’s are those who take joy in “checking their ego at the door” – doing work that enable other teams to make achievements.

Scott additionally shared how he sourced skill for the human centered design lab.  He explains how he initially powered the lab, first employing external resources with deep expertise in ethnographic research,  interaction and visual design and writers, and shares how the lab now runs inside Northern Trust.

“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then”  

We end every podcast show asking what I call the “pay it forward” question:  a piece of advice these seasoned leaders can share to help others also walking in their shoes.  Scott had two key pieces of wisdom to pass along:

  1. Scott stressed the importance of creating value with the partner and client experience team. And to ensure that the value created is in direct alignment with the strategy of your firm. These teams must be careful that they not become just the delivery mechanism for data, or a communication channel.  They must enable the company to embed new skills and help it to achieve greater value – for the team and the work to be valued.  For example the human-centered design lab enables the development of differentiated experiences that move the needle.  
  2. Create a space that shows that something different is going on.  Scott elaborated that the power of unique collaboration and engagement spaces, such as their Lab rooms (which we have pictures of below) or a customer room signals that something different is happening – and give people permission to think very differently.  


In summary, Scott Dille has provided great value for those seeking to expand their human-centered design practice, build a robust team around this competency, and build the link between customer and employee experience success.


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