Product management is a core function in any fintech, requiring a savvy understanding of how ideas, opportunities, and people all come together to form products that users love. There are many factors that contribute to successful product management and parsing what’s important and what isn’t can be tricky. Product managers need to be able to navigate the needs of users and business objectives in order to develop and prioritize features that resonate with a product’s users.
But the approach to how product management is done greatly depends on the stage a fintech is in, according to Rohini Pandhi, this week’s guest on Fintech Growth Talk. Rohini has had a long career developing and managing products at both startups and established firms and has spent the past five years as a product lead at fintech superstar Square.
For “zero to one” startups, says Rohini, product management is more like product development, where you’re building something new. This empowers fintechs to experiment more, taking a product from concept to launch and beyond. For a product manager at an early-stage fintech, it’s about finding the audience-market fit and the distribution channels that are going to work best. It involves testing and reflecting on the business model, putting all the variables together in different ways to try to achieve something that is scalable.
For more mature products, though product management is far more complicated, despite having an established user base. Rohini calls this a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the product benefits from having a large user base that frequently uses the product, providing a lot of data and insight into what works. At the same time, the more mature the product is, the more difficult it is to change it or introduce new features precisely because the user base relies on the product to operate. With fintech, this challenge is even more pronounced, given a product’s role in its users’ financials, be they consumers or businesses.
Thus, the startup credo of “move fast and break things” doesn’t always work in the fintech world. That’s why Rohini says it’s essential to truly think through the implications of product changes and the downstream effects. “Measure three times before cutting once,” advises Rohini.
All that said, there is a danger with product management that takes too conservative an approach. Rohini believes it’s essential for product managers working on mature products to carve out space for innovation. This requires a level of advanced thinking, where product managers must “plant the seeds for innovation and give them room to breathe and space to grow.” Without investing in ongoing innovation, firms risk stagnation, disruption, or even obsolescence.
Interestingly, a good product manager also has to constantly have to invest in themselves by staying uncomfortable by not getting complacent, says Rohini. They need to try new things, make mistakes, and pick themselves up afterward. Good product managers need to push their own boundaries in much the same way they need to push the boundaries of the products they manage. By doing so, they force themselves to experience personal growth, which in turn informs their entire product management approach.
About Rohini Pandhi
Rohini is currently a product lead at Square. Her previous experiences include building new products for startups, developing existing product lines for growth-stage companies, and creating new innovation strategies for larger corporations. In her free time, Rohini also advises and invests in tech startups.
Listen to our full interview with Rohini Pandhi here.