In the increasingly competitive banking landscape, there lies an often overlooked yet vital role that directly impacts the success of every product and service a financial institution (FI) offers – the product manager. Lack of ownership, indecisiveness, poor communication, reactive mentality, and ineffective technology management can be common in the financial services industry, leading to underwhelming products and dwindling customer loyalty.
We can’t overstate the significance of the product manager role in FIs; it is the foundation upon which successful banking technology products and services are built. This blog post will delve into the reasons why banks and credit unions must place premium importance on their product management approach, focusing on five key aspects:
1. Sculpting Market-Ready Products: The Product Manager’s Artistry
In many FIs, product management has been confined to the realm of product development, with insufficient attention given to the crucial ‘go-to-market’ strategy. However, an adept product manager deeply understands customers’ needs, crafts compelling value propositions, and effectively communicates these to the market. It is the touch of an expert product manager that shapes a product into a market-ready offering.
One of our long-time brand advocates, a visionary in the credit union space, successfully illustrated this profile by implementing a novel approach to provide new knowledge bases by utilizing ChatGPT. Their foresight and effective communication of this compelling value proposition ensured the CU’s market readiness and enhanced its operational efficiency and customer experience.
2. Advocating for the Customer: The Product Manager’s Responsibility
A customer-centric approach is often lacking in an FI’s product plans. This is where the product manager steps in, acting as the customers’ advocate within the institution. They are responsible for crafting a comprehensive product plan that enhances the customer experience with every decision and aligns product development with the organization’s strategic objectives. By defining the product vision, setting strategic goals, and outlining a roadmap that considers customer needs and market trends, the product manager ensures that the FI’s offerings meet customer expectations and remain relevant and competitive.
A customer at a smaller FI who implemented the PortX platform and led various integration projects was primarily motivated to elevate their online and offline customer experience. Their strategic planning and relentless pursuit of customer-centric enhancements led to a comprehensive product plan that improved the quality of customer interactions and aligned product development with the institution’s broader strategic objectives. This initiative demonstrated the essential role of a product manager in ensuring that the institution’s offerings remain competitive and relevant, regardless of its size.
3. Navigating the Organizational Maze: The Product Manager’s Expertise
Navigating the intricate and layered structures of FIs often poses significant challenges for product development and deployment. Amidst these complexities, the product manager assumes a role akin to the CEO of their product. They take full ownership and responsibility for the entire product lifecycle, from ideation to post-launch management. Working cross-functionally and making informed decisions based on their understanding of the market, competition, and customer needs, they guide the product through the organizational maze. In ensuring successful product launch and lifecycle management, the product manager embodies the intersection of business strategy, market understanding, and resource optimization, thereby driving the product’s success within the larger organization.
Consider the case of one of our customers who developed a joint product offering between their community FI and a multinational financial services corporation. This customer navigated the complex organizational structure of their FI and their partner. They ensured a successful product launch by taking full ownership of the product lifecycle, making informed decisions, and skillfully guiding the product through the intertwined organizational mazes.
4. The Shift from Reactive to Proactive: The Product Manager’s Vision
FIs traditionally adopt a reactive model, continually refining their products based on customer feedback. However, taking cues from the pivotal insights of Ben Horowitz’s timeless article, “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager,” it becomes clear that a shift towards proactivity, embodied in ‘productization,’ is essential1. Under the leadership of a visionary product manager, FIs can transition towards this proactive approach, which involves the anticipatory identification of customer needs, prediction of market trends, and preemptive development of solutions. A good product manager does not merely react to developments; they predict, strategize, and act, ensuring that customer needs are met before they arise. This approach boosts customer satisfaction and equips the FI with a distinctive competitive edge.
One of our customers set a compelling vision for their future IT landscape to foster innovation at a rapidly expanding regional FI. They proactively identified future needs, predicted technological trends, and pre-emptively developed IT solutions. The customer’s proactive stance drove the organization towards this vision, enabling them to stay ahead of the curve, boost customer satisfaction, and maintain their advantage in a rapidly evolving financial environment.
5. Leadership and Communication: The Product Manager’s Power Tools
Strong leadership and clear communication are desirable traits and indispensable skills for a successful product manager. Leaders inspire and coordinate different teams, guiding them toward a shared vision. As communicators, they articulate the product vision, plans, and progress effectively, ensuring every stakeholder is aligned with the product’s roadmap. These skills drive product success and contribute significantly to the FI’s growth. By leading with influence and communicating persuasively, product managers foster a synergistic environment across functions, thereby amplifying the potential for successful outcomes in the ever-competitive financial industry.
The customer from the aforementioned regional bank also exemplifies the power of strong leadership and communication skills. By articulating their strategic vision and plans for the future IT landscape clearly and persuasively, they successfully aligned every stakeholder with the product roadmap. Through this influential leadership, they inspired and coordinated diverse teams towards this shared vision, fostering an environment that not only drove product success but also contributed to the overall growth of the FI.
Ready to take your FI’s product management to the next level?
While often overlooked, the role of a product manager in banking is essential in shaping the success of financial products and services. Through their ability to develop market-ready products, champion customer needs, navigate organizational complexities, steer the shift from reactive to proactive approaches, and demonstrate strong leadership and effective communication, product managers embody the nucleus of competitive strategy in banking. With their influence, FIs can navigate the competitive landscape, create superior value propositions, and bolster customer loyalty and overall growth.
Our team is happy to provide guidance toward creating outstanding financial products and services that resonate with customers and stand tall amidst competition. It’s not just about filling a position; it’s about finding the key person to drive your product roadmap to success. Need help? Start a conversation with our team today.