How we do product management in the financial difficulties space

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👋🏻 Hey everyone! We’re James (better known as Jimbo) and Carla, Product Managers (PMs) for Financial Health (FinHealth) in what we call the ‘Borrowing Collective’. This is the part of Monzo that enables our customer to borrow to achieve goals like buying a car, paying for a course, or improving their home. If you want to read about we go around doing this, check out our Borrowing Principles.

In Financial Health, we’re responsible for making sure we build the right tools and experiences to help our customers through thick and thin if they experience financial difficulties, while also helping Monzo grow its Borrowing products.

Across the industry, you might have heard of the general term Collections & Recoveries, which is the handling of processes that look to manage and minimise the risk of borrowers defaulting on their credit agreements. However, we approach the space a bit differently, which is why we’re a Financial Health group instead of a traditional Collections & Recoveries group.

We essentially focus on providing customers with effective tools and support to maintain financial health and rehabilitate customers if they experience difficulties.

The role we play in Borrowing and at Monzo

As Shnay calls out in his A week in the life of a Product Manager at Monzo, a PM is a well-trusted role in our organisation. As FinHealth PMs, we strive to build the very best experiences to support customers if they fall into financial difficulties at any point in their Borrowing journey.

At Monzo, we understand that life is unpredictable and anyone can fall into financial difficulties, so it’s crucial for us in FinHealth to be ready to support during the whole lifecycle of any of our Borrowing products.

For us, this looks like:

  • Keeping close relationship with the Overdraft, Loans and Flex teams to have an understanding of the ins and outs of all the products we offer, and how changes in other areas could impact our processes, experiences and strategies in FinHealth.

  • Understanding customer needs and pain points via user research and monitoring

  • Working closely with Compliance and Legal to keep up to speed with regulation and legislation to ensure we are compliant with our strategies and support.

Luckily for us, we’ve got a team of amazing individuals from very diverse backgrounds and years of experience to support our decision making. Along with ourselves, our squads each have five predominantly backend engineers, a data lead and an operations lead. There’s also a designer who works with both teams.

Everyone in the FinHealth group is moved by a common passion to help people struggling with their finances and we all care deeply for what we do. From design to delivery, we really aim for the best we can do to really make money work for everyone.

What’s our focus?

Attitudes towards staffing a FinHealth team seem to vary a lot in the industry. It is an area that can see much lower investment compared to other areas at a company. FinHealth risks can often be seen as a function purely set up to keep credit losses down, or even worse, as just an inconvenient tax that is necessary when you start lending money. Many firms choose to outsource at least some of their strategy or tech stack (or both).

At Monzo we think being great at FinHealth is critical to being great at Borrowing, and looking after customers when they are in need of financial support can be a competitive advantage as well as a moral obligation for any lender.

As such we build our strategy and technology ourselves, and continue to invest in bespoke tools to help customers who are in difficulty. Building everything in house has meant we’ve spent a long time building the basics, but we’re now in a great position to innovate using the foundations we’ve built.

Some of those foundations include:

  • systems to handle our outbound messaging for each of our products

  • internal tooling to set up solutions for our customers, like repayment plans

  • affordability assessments to make sure solutions are sustainable

How do we decide what to work on?

The minimum bar for success in a FinHealth team is understandably high. As soon as you start lending money you need to be ready to handle the full breadth of customer scenarios which you need to support, from customers having cashflow issues and being late with one payment to a global pandemic putting people in tremendous financial hardship.

This often means leaning heavily on our Customer Support team (COps) to handle all queries initially before working out which journeys can be replicated in an automated way, such as via a workflow in the app. An example of this which we’re shipping soon is a repayment plan tool to help customers pay down their overdraft balance:

A screenshot of the Monzo app titled ‘Your repayment plan’. On this screen customers are presented with all the key information about their plan.

The information presented is how much the overdraft balance reduces each month, what the current balance is, how long it’ll take customers to pay everything off, the dates of the first, last and next balance reduction dates.

There are also buttons to either start chatting with Monzo COps, or to give feedback on how the customer found the process

This looks quite different to typical product management elsewhere at Monzo where you’d tend to build a journey in the app first, using COp support as a fallback for any edge cases you might come across. We have found it best to invest in internal tooling first to give FinHealth customers the right level of service in the early stages of a Borrowing product.

What’s next for FinHealth at Monzo?

The rising cost of living has shaken everyone in the UK. We’re constantly working to improve the support we offer so expect some changes to make things a bit easier.

We’ve been very busy in the last few months bridging gaps we had but we’re starting to focus on self-serve journeys and personalised strategies to re-engage with customers who’ve fallen behind their borrowing for a while. This might include running some re-engagement campaigns and making changes to how our customers interact with their borrowing in the app.

It’s an exciting time for us in FinHealth as there’s plenty to do from all types of fronts:

  • Growing pains and ensure we help our customers more efficiently:

    • Automating repetitive tasks

  • Providing more tailored support for our customers:

    • Showing specific journeys depending on the customer’s specific situation

  • Consumer duty regulation changes

    • Making sure any emails or in-app messages we send meet new regulations designed to ensure we are not causing any harm to our customers

That’s all for now, folks! We hope you found this helpful in understanding what we do here at Monzo as FinHealth PMs, and if you want to join our amazing PM community, check out our careers page.