Shedding some light on product management in FinTech, Strands’ Albert Morales illustrates what product management entails at Strands. Albert joined the company in 2015, right when the company was poised to establish themselves as a FinTech firm that is here to stay in the international space.
Albert began his career at a startup, Kantox, which merged tech and finance before the FinTech concept existed. Through his work, Albert recognized that he enjoys collaborating rather than competing with banks, as it has a greater impact on the users of banking solutions. He was drawn to Strands, where his starting point in partnerships concentrated on sales and marketing work. With this position, he gained a thorough understanding of our customers before building products for them.
His valuable experience with both the needs of the paying customer and the end-user propelled him to his current role as VP of Product Management. Strands inhabits a unique space, taking on the role of a long-standing firm that operates in a startup manner, so product management in such an environment is bound to be distinctive.
Join as we dig deep into product management at Strands, and the route Albert and the team take to attain project milestones.
What is notable about product management in the finTech Space?
The good thing is that FinTech is one of the fastest-changing industries, and it's amazing to me that it evolves at such a speed. Both consumer behaviors and technology transform continually, allowing us to do things that were not even possible in the past. Such an industry requires skills to anticipate - quicker than anyone else - the direction the product and demand will flow. It takes a certain willingness to inhabit this space, which I believe the product team possesses and drives our work.
How is the product team organized at strands?
No one wants to waste time - and that’s why the product team’s organization lends itself to development and innovation.
Our arrangement is in squads, where each unit operates independently and contains a product leader, UX, and technical representatives. But what’s most crucial is that the entire team moves at the same pace to avoid potential problems. We’ve established an open channel that keeps everyone aware of their counterparts’ progress. Teams can work faster or slower, but maintaining the same speed as a whole is important.
Agile practices are not forced upon teams, but adopted naturally, so everything progresses smoother. Each team member believes in the product that we are building, and our formation makes it an overall efficient and seamless product-building process.
what does creating and managing products look like?
We constantly consume information from the industry, scan media coverage, and attend events. It’s vital to stay in constant communication with customers to see how existing solutions can improve and test the market’s waters.
There’s a tradeoff between value and effort for an idea to come into fruition. Companies need to be sensitive to customer and market desires. For example, Apple did not invent a new product - it introduced its technology when consumers were equipped to take on that innovation.
“It's not a matter of being the first to develop something; it's not the sooner the better. At the end of the day, you have to make sure the market is ready for the idea.“ -Albert Morales
How does the team incorporate customer feedback into the product roadmap?
The advantage of having a company that operates with the flexibility of a startup gives us the ability to test our solutions directly with end-users. Since 2012, we have grown our user base by millions; this feat would have been impossible without banks distributing our solutions. We have such a remarkable opportunity to build a solution that feeds off the responses from our bank partners in various regions.
Meeting the expectations of both internal and external stakeholders will always be a challenge in product management, but it drives us to take all the input and bring it together into a solution. Strands does something special - we sift through reviews of challengers' innovative products in the App or Play stores. Although this information is tedious to look through, it is publicly available and familiarizes us with consumer behavior.
Are there any principles you believe successful products have in common?
There is no successful product when there is no value created. Something we care about a lot is not only having beautiful and easy to use solutions, but also those that perform. We live in a real-time environment, where people want a notification instantly when the problem occurs. Building a product that can withstand such a volume of transactions and high-performance demand is necessary. When a product does not perform for one customer, it creates a barrier to adoption by others.
How do you envision the strands product roadmap going forward?
A part of our product roadmap depends on our discretion and where we believe our solutions should go. That’s the creative portion of it. Also, we set aside space for factors that may not be visible to the end-user, but are relevant, such as performance, security, and existing technology improvements. We might, for example, have to migrate to new technology to keep up-to-date.
We strive to be flexible in our roadmap, as the industry changes so fast that you need to be brave and take an unexpected turn when needed.
“A roadmap is just a guideline - when ideas don’t pan out as planned, don’t be anxious about modifications. Instead, keep the essence of where you are headed unchanged.” -Albert Morales
For Strands, the company vision is our essence: empowering consumers to make better financial consumption decisions. In SME banking solutions, our product endeavors to be the best business advisor for any small or medium-sized company.
These objectives are non-negotiable.