5 Minutes With Nathan Behrens, General Manager of Product Development, ME Bank

Toby Tester from Brainmates caught up with Nathan in Melbourne recently to learn more about Product Management and Product Development at a bank.

Nathan Behrens is the General Manager of Product Development at ME Bank.

With a distinguished background in accounting, audit and risk across a range of businesses locally and overseas, Nathan has entered the brave new world of Product Management.

Working at ME Bank he’s become a crusader fighting the injustices of the major banks so that to provide genuinely fairer banking!

Here’s what Nathan had to say.

So Nathan…

How did you come into Product Management?

My original background is in Chartered Accounting. Later on I moved into Audit and Risk. I think those two skill sets fit quite well into Product Management.

For example, every product needs a solid business case so the Chartered Accounting helps!  Audit and Risk also lets you get into a company, dissect it, have talks with a huge range of people, understand processes and business models.

What are your key thoughts on how a company can be more customer centric?

We have made customer experience a focus and a key differentiator.  We aim to ‘walk the talk’ and have completed research that covers the majority of our customer base that identifies key customer segments, their financial needs and wants and identifies key products they are interested in.

These customer segments are re-enforced to staff by being in every room, on every floor, available on our intranet site, used in all business cases and the focus of discussions and debrief.

We have a dedicated customer experience team and they interact and drive the programs. Every new initiative has a customer experience point of view. It’s a great thing as we get to think about how the customer will interact with the product early on, rather than just getting it out the door and thinking about it later. We are mapping every customer experience interaction with the organisation and leveraging Pega BPM system to improve the experience.

What are thoughts about bringing innovation thinking into an organisation?

Innovation is a culture change – it’s the way you think and how ideas are put up. A lot of innovation is not just product but process and interaction. As an example our new core banking system allows call centre staff to scenario test different products and services with customers.

One of the things we are looking at is how we merge banking, super, people and the products they interact with. For example, when a consumer receives a co-branded card, all the touch points are being reinforced and we are exploring credit card cash back options to put the money into your superfund as an additional contribution.

It’s a differentiator and an example on how we drive our thinking.

How do you make sure your team is energised and motivated?

We are a fairly small team. The feedback I get is that team like to be involved in a wide range of activities rather than specialise – you have to learn how people learn and get motivated, as everyone is different.

I like to have my team members see how others operate and debrief regularly on what views they have and what they learned. A lot of my team are driven by learning and seeing their ideas and hard work executed.

What are the biggest challenges in Product Development?

We have moved across to Agile, but still require interactions with the rest of the business who are unfamiliar with the way Agile works. It can cause conflict, so there needs to be education around roles and responsibilities, what Agile means and the way decisions get made.

Also, in Financial Services you can’t have a fully Agile change program as quality is paramount and you can’t launch products that are not 100% right – and then make changes afterwards. You can’t compromise quality. You need to have the right model for your own business.

What are your key tips for a person who would like to join the Product Management profession?

Have a curious mind and be able to ask the 6 ‘whys’ until you get to the root cause. Ask the important questions even if they seem silly. You need to be the type of person who will test theories against people, the business and the real world. Feelings and hunches don’t get you far.

What are the key Product Management challenges in the banking sector?  

A major challenge will be the real time payment and settlements system.

A second challenge will be about who owns the Customer. Is it the mobile device owner, the interchange partner or the bank?

Integrating Superannuation and Banking will be the key. The big banks are still figuring how to cross-sell and the customer experience can be poor. This will continue to be a key challenge at the major banks.

Finally, having a digital bank requires having an organisational change to provide a digital bank support structure. This will see a large shift in the skills sets required within banks.

Final points.

I’m excited about being in this industry and the opportunities. Everyone is running on old systems but the digital age is here and the traditional banking model is dead.

So if you don’t change your organisational framework, and become a digital bank in the digital age, then you are going to be left behind.