Revolut launched in 2015 and started out as a platform to make transfers and exchange various currencies solely in the UK. They quickly expanded to a global market after a funding round of $800 million, becoming a full fledged unicorn. After years of being categorised as an e-bank, in 2022 they became a full-fledged bank, launching in even more countries and partnering with thousands of businesses around the world to provide faster, simpler options to people in a market that seemed impenetrable only years before. Pierre takes us inside this organisation and explains how he keeps their business product competitive and unmatchable.
Who's our guest
In our fifth episode we get to hear what goes into making Revolut for businesses from their Head of Product, Pierre Cahuzac. After starting out as a business intelligence and financial analyst for companies like 123Venture and Criteo, he pivoted to focus on product and now leads the Revolut for Business team, taking care of more than 200,000 customers and collaborating with the team behind one of the biggest market disruptors ever.
Max: Pierre, thank you so much for giving us your time. I know you're a very, very busy man, so I really, really do appreciate it. Revolut are doing lots of really interesting things and I think a lot of people want to hear about what goes on on the product side of things. So I would love to ask you a few questions just to get in your head a little bit.
Pierre: Sure. Sounds good.
Max: Okay, so as the head of product at Revolut, you're obviously really integral to the user experience in general for people who use Revolut. I use Revolut, I have Revolut guide in my pocket right now. It's a very popular product, and when it comes to banking, reputations can be built up and put down quite quickly. People are very sensitive about their banking. How frustrating is that experience for you when you are building the product and you're building features and you're building the user experience to understand how sensitive some customers might be when it comes to their money?
Pierre: Absolutely. This is integral to how we work at Revolute. Obviously, being a financial institution, we're regulated by a number of institutions as well, and we also go the extra mile with this. My first team when I joined Revolute was customer experience for fin ? crime. So essentially, if you want to open a business bank account with a high-street bank, it's gonna take you days and weeks, whereas with Revolute Business, it's gonna take you minutes. The reason why we do this is we only ask you the questions we really need to ask you, and for everything else, we rely on algorithms and being smarter. Obviously that means sometimes we'll have to ask questions once you're onboarded and once you're live with our product. My goal when I had that team was to make sure we were profitable. So this was as uncostly as possible for Revolut, but most importantly that the customer experience was great, all the while remaining compliant. These were the three things we played with. It was very interesting. I can tell you more about it later if you want, but that was the first one, and obviously it's been central and close to my heart ever since with all of the other teams I've worked on.
Max: That's very interesting. Yeah I forgot about the compliance section. I forget the legality of working in your sector must be something you have to consider with every single update, every single release. You said you work in the B2B section. Could you tell me a little bit more about what that's like compared to the B2C version that everyone knows?
Pierre: Sure. We're like the younger, less popular brother, but with a very promising future where Revolut as a whole was started seven years ago and we're just two years behind. So just about five years ago. We already have over 200,000 active businesses worldwide where in many different countries, and for sure we're benefiting from the rep of the B2C product. A lot of the inroads in terms of payment corridors have been done by our retail friends and we are just one company. So we do work together, but we do piggyback a lot on that. A fair chunk of our businesses are also retail users and it's great acquisition channel for us.
Max: Okay, interesting. So when you're in the B2B space, how does that work then in terms of building relationships? Are you working as a payment service or are you working more like an internal bank within the company, like a company's bank?
We're a full fledged banking solution. It's basically an all-in-one solution to set up and run a business. So we started initially streamlined international payments with multicurrency accounts and low FX fees, and now we can fully, and all in one place, control your finances and your admin. So we've got obviously accounts with over 30 currencies now, close to 30 currencies. We can invest in crypto even. We have the ability to be insured to accept payments. You get your whole team onboarded very easily and you can manage the access rights and this carries on for everything you do. So imagine instead of going to Expensify ?, then linking that to your bank account, into your accounting software. All of this happens in one place automatically, and you've got your corporate card as well to your name that you can use for all of your expenses.
Max: Has this been the model since you launched in you say 2017, when the B2B side was...
Pierre: So initially it was just a quick and easy account set. That was a big USP and the streamline international payments with multicurrency accounts and low FX fees. And now we're really entering the spend management space. We're enabling expenses, we're in the UK you can use our payroll software as well, integrated within your bank. Your bank account can accept payment online and offline. So it's pretty broad.
Max: Okay. That's very interesting because I wanted to ask you at some point in this interview, but I may as well do it now then, about the change - which was just over a year ago, I think - when you moved from an e-money institution - I've seen it be referred to as - to a full-fledged bank. Was this something that affected you just as much in the B2B space?
Pierre: Yeah, so we are a full-fledged bank in some geographies, not all of them. And this is still an ongoing exercise. We're gonna get more and more banking licenses as part of the long-term gain. On the B2B side, yes, for sure. I think it gives a stamp of approval from the man, and I think this is reassuring for our customers, gives them some form of deposit guaranteed scheme as well, where your money is protected. And concretely, it means we need to make sure we comply with a new set of regulations that sometimes differ from an e-money institution to a full-fledged bank. So we need to remediate our customers and we need to do that in a very smooth...
Max: Wait, I'd love to hear more about that because I feel like when banks like Revolut and Monzo and 26 turned up as disruptors to the banking sector, to now be almost be referred to as a bank, but also not marketing yourself as like the other banks. Is that something that's ever hard to find the balance between?
Pierre: I think we don't have to try too hard to distinguish ourselves from the traditional banks. We've got a very different approach to things. We're very quick. I think just our product speaks for itself in that sense. We don't have brick and mortar offices or branches and that makes a big difference obviously. Everything is quick and easy, I think. It's not the banks that people are where you're at, it's the traditional ones and the slowness and the heavy admin. We just ditched all of this by being very smart and leveraging technology to do that in a smart way.
Max: It sounds like you really have a clear idea of the pain points that people have with regular banks. It's quite interesting to hear you go through what's wrong with regular banking and how a bank like Revolut fixes that and tackles the unnecessary parts and does them for you. Are there any particular values like this that you lean on? That maybe help drive your growth the most? Are there any particular themes or any particular values or any particular methodologies and approaches to this product and banking that you say, okay, that's how this product grew so much...?
Pierre: I think it's just keeping an ear to the ground and being reactive and quick to everything we listen to. And you're right the pain points with traditional banks is they are clear and we don't only tackle the pain points from the banks, but also how these banks need to integrate with other ecosystems. I think our secret is that we give a lot of ownership to our product owners. I think that's what makes us unique, really. That's why we call them product owners rather than product managers as well. When you're a product owner at Revolute, your development team reports to you and you're essentially a startup within the scale up. You own your own roadmap. You've got access to data, you can benefit from all of the great infrastructures we have, but you are truly driving change yourself. So each product owner will have full responsibility and accountability over the scope. They're not trying to solve a product problem. They're really trying to solve a problem full stop and product is one of the answers to the solution. That's been how we've managed to be so quick. I think we ship two or three times faster than the rest of the industry and this is really thanks to this agility that comes from independent product teams with full ownership to the POs.
Max: So that is something I wanted to ask you about definitely, becaue I was so curious how a company that's over 2000 people still manages to.... it feels like as a customer that you're constantly launching new things and every time I open the app, there's some new button to press and there's some new partnership that I can make the most of. So I was very curious how you distributed your product department. You don't just work as one product department, you split off into different projects?
Pierre: Yes so we've got the two main departments that people would understand are retail and business. And within the business department we've got - depending on when we listen to this, but between 10 and 15 teams essentially - and they're all independent and they've got KPIs. That's how we define the scope really. They've got KPIs that the metrics need to influence. Obviously there's also mapping to the parts of the code that they can't influence immediately. But we also have services, a bunch of things that people can do to impact their KPIs and and then it's fair game. It's their turn to make the magic happen.
Max: How do you design the roadmap? I imagine there's so many people working on different things and a lot of decisions to be made. For example, putting crypto on the platform is a huge decision to make because it's not just a one time campaign. It requires constant upkeep and every single day something needs to be done. How do you decide in the roadmap what's within your bandwidth and what's gonna pay off the most?
Pierre: Yeah, that's a great question. I think for... Actually, let me bundle that with something else.
Pierre: I said the peers were very agile and very autonomous in how they work and what they do. This is thanks to a very streamlined design process that we've worked on and improved. It's a work in progress and we're in a good place now, but it can always get better. That allows product owners to be at the front, on the attacking side and be the ones truly defining what they want to do, and maintain some degree of control. So we've found the right balance between agility and control, speed and control, through this design process. Similarly, our road mapping exercise comes from the product owners, but gets validated by typically the head of product or the general manager. So we defined a framework where we keep some bandwidths for unforeseen events. Before that, we would just plan as if there were no unforeseen events and we'd end up being late in our deliveries. Now we budget that in. We have a big focus on quality as well. This is factored in as well in how we build our roadmaps and we need to mitigate dependencies with other teams and other departments for some of the big projects we have. This has been a big piece of work that I focused on recently to make sure we align the planning schedules and deadlines and methodologies across all of the different teams.
Max: Okay and is this something you maintain between the B2B and B2C side as well then? Let's say for example when you launched the option to buy gold, for example. Is that something you're like, okay, well let's make sure we give this to everyone at the same time.
Pierre: We do work very closely together between business and retail. We've got the same UI kits. So we have the same components everywhere. We're using what we call shared modules now. The concept of a list, or our components are the same, and it just goes all the way up to what a page looks like or what the hub looks like how it's structured. It's also because we're building a lot of products that are deemed section between the two ecosystems. We believe that's how we truly gonna win. We have a product where you can get your salary in advance, and you'd get it with your employer being on regular business and the employee being on the retail app. We have a lot of things like that that also mean we really want the user experience to be the same across both apps, and all of the learnings from one app can be applied elsewhere. We don't necessarily release the same features in both ecosystems at the same time where sometimes we stay put. We wait until we've learned a bit from one of the app and then we adjust in one direction or the next.
Max: That's very interesting. I like the idea of creating a business customer. To then turn that into retail customers by them telling their employees, hey, if you have Revolut Bank, it might be easier, much more simpler to get paid.
Pierre: Yeah, they get paid faster as well with instant payments with the through apparel system. So that's good.
Max: That's a good tactic. Are these the kind of tactics you guys have just built yourself or is there any way you look in the industry for inspiration? Do you look outside of banking? Do you look in the SaaS world? Because you know, technically Revolut could even be referred to as a SaaS product in some ways, at least on the retail side.
Pierre: All of our product owners are passionate about the product, so for sure the keeping it to the ground quite naturally, and I think this will transpire into how they work and the type of products and interfaces they want to build. I wouldn't say there's one particular product that we are especially inspired by. I think Apple in a way, through the slickness of the UI, has been an inspiration for us and how we can simplify, always simplify what the interface looks like. That has been one of the inspirations that came back a lot. It informed to a degree our design system, but apart from that, I think we've got creative people who are obviously keeping it to the ground. I think that's the recipe that's very useful.
Max: And I imagine you might be one of those people as well, so I'd love to ask you personally, what's your favourite part about working? What's your favourite project you've worked on at Revolut, or favourite part about working on the product?
Pierre: I think what I like most about Revolut. That degree of ownership that I've mentioned. It's very intense, but there hasn't been a single Friday since I've started almost four years ago, not a single Friday, where I haven't looked back on the week thinking I'm proud of what I've achieved and I've learned something every single Friday. I think that's rare, and pretty unbelievable. That's what I like most about Revolut and what I think is really unique about this.
Max: Wow! That's really, really interesting.
Pierre: And if your question related more to a product ownership as a whole, I think seeing the impact very quickly about what it is you want to do and the just seeing how what seems like a huge problem or something that's impossible to build when you break it down with structure, becomes a bunch of small individual tasks that put together, make a huge difference. So the idea of taking a big problem and becoming an epic, then stories, then tasks, and each of these things is very much feasible. But it's just a breaking down side of things that made it all possible. This is very empowering.
Max: That's very interesting. I'm always curious what it's like, because I've never worked on a product that has thousands upon thousands upon thousands of users, and it's such a popular product. Have you ever worked on something like that before? You were at Cryptio ? before. Have you ever worked on a product where you're launching something and you're immediately getting loads of feedback and hearing from your customers quite fast?
Pierre: So when I was at Cryptio ? I was there in the data side of things, business intelligence/data science. Bit less product-centric, obviously, but we still built our dashboards and our analysis with our products.To a degree it works, but at Revolute, we do get a wealth of feedback all the time. We've got automated NPS service that are sent out to our customers, and this is gold for us. It's leveraged on a daily basis by every single product owner. I go through every single piece of feedback that's given in the app, never miss one of them. We do cause analysis on all of them. And this together with our sales department. We grew a sales department from like three people a year ago to 1000 today.
Pierre: And it's possible. That's Revolut. They're also a great, great source of inspiration and feedback for us to inform our roadmap. That together with data, all of our POS are very data-driven. They're each right sequel, no matter how junior or senior, we write our queries to find information and this is how we know what to focus on.
Max: Wow. And I would love to ask you a little bit more about how you communicate with each other, because you're all located across many different countries. I mean, where are you located?
Pierre: I'm London based. I recently spent a bit of time in Paris where I had my second child. In general, we're quite open to locations. We are remote first, and even if the product owners are mostly in London, Berlin, and New York, we've got some in other locations, and our engineers are definitely spread across many, many locations. PS are in India as well, so the time difference. And we are opening the Australia office now. Maybe I'll start this one again so you don't have so many breaks, but yeah.
We've got product owners spread across the globe where we've got our general manager and a couple of product owners in New York. We've got quite a few in London, some in Berlin as well in Krakow. Some are in India. We're opening Australia now for business. So the time zones are wild and it's not always easy to get everyone.
Max: Yes so this is something I think everyone struggles with and it's something I've definitely dealt with, especially when I've worked across from America to Europe. Have you got any communication tools or rules in place to help you guys make sure that you're not being slowed down to by time zones in just one message a day?
Pierre: Yeah. We are pretty ruthless about the number of recurring meetings we have in the calendar. Every six months we do a ruthless prioritization where we remove recurring meetings we shouldn't have. So we keep the calendar as lean as possible, so we only have the ADOC, very important ones that are live. And we also realized that a lot of the meetings we had did not need to be synchronous, so we're using Claap. Typically we managed to chop off 15 to 20% of our recurring meetings. Some of the use cases that we have, the business review. Every week, each product owner gives an update about our KPIs, about the talent, who's coming, who's going about the roadmap update, and all of this is now done as a Claap that needs to be shared before a certain time, and everyone has access. They can look at it as and when they want to, in double speed if they must. You can comment and it also has traceability and accountability. You can leave links in there, so it's actually a lot more efficient, both for the people giving the update and for the people receiving the updates. That's been a great improvement of product demos as well. We have a number of teams, as you said, we have so many features, so many products, and not everyone is interested in all of them. Yet we had this fortnightly, two hours long meeting with the entire department where we'd go through sometimes of dates on bugs on a very specific product that our sales guys were not necessarily fascinated by, or some tech debt that was suddenly resolved. We decided to split this and to make all of the demos go through Claap and be consumed by whoever wanted to, when they wanted to keep an easy trace for it. Only the really key, big launches we have live. So people can ask questions, we can keep them really engaged. We're also using Claap sometimes for demos for our customers and for design reviews more and more so as well.
Pierre: Wow, well I'll say publicly, I didn't ask Pierre to say any of that. That was all just very, very kind, wonderful feedback. So this is why I asked this question, because I love to hear it because I know not every company uses a tool like Claap or uses video collaboration or even goes for something asynchronous over meetings a lot of the time. So it's nice to hear that you guys, such a big team and such a globally distributed company, that it can work in that environment. And there are still people you work with that are in the office, correct? Not everyone is working from home...
Pierre: Yeah, absolutely. It's not getting in the way of in-person collaboration, it's just an add-on and yeah.So I hear more and more in calls or on Slack people saying it like "maybe you just Slacked this or you just Clapped this one.
Max: That's amazing. That's exactly that. We had meetings not longer where we were like, we want people to be using it as a verb
Pierre: Yeah, and we are doing it!
Max: Yeah! "Why don't you just Clap this one". Good, that's great news. That was a year or two plan, so that's good to know that internally that's just happening naturally. Oh, I really appreciate that. I think it was two years ago/three years ago, and then over the past year it got confirmed that Revolut wasn't a remote company right? It then became a remote first company. And I was just curious how those conversations happened internally, if you were involved in any of them, what you heard about them and how much the company listened to the employees in terms of making that...
Pierre: It hasn't been a drastic change, to be fair, at least not in our ways of working, because we were always geographically very distributed. And when I say we're remote first, you still need to... I don't actually know exactly what our policy is. It changes all the time.
Pierre: So I wouldn't put that on that. But yeah, maybe just saying we've always been geographically distributed and now it's something we accept and we know to be a fact and a constraint we need to play around with.
Max: Okay that's really good to know. Because I was doing a bit of Googling and researching ideas for every company. You know, it's something we do all the time. At Claap, we want to know what the remote work policy is of various companies and what people are doing and how people are tackling the remote work revolution, because it's still relatively fresh. No company's doing it perfectly, so it's always interesting. So I would love to know - a kind of finishing up here- ff we look to the future, we look at the future of product companies or product teams specifically, is there any approach to product or any products trend that you're aware of, that you think, this is gonna survive the test of time in five years. We'll still be doing this, we'll still be doing Agile, whatever it may be. Or adversely if there's something that you think, this needs to die now. This way of working can't work anymore. I dunno if you have any strong feelings about anything.
Pierre: It's a very tricky question. I don't have strong feelings about ways of working with different teams. In my time at Revolute, I've worked on I don't even know how many teams, but quite a few, like maybe 10 or something like that, and sometimes at the same time. And what I realized was that the same recipe definitely does not work for every single team. You really have to be empathetic and adjust your way of working to the people in the team. What the talent in the team can and want to do. Based on that, like it creates roadmaps that are both product-centric, trying to ship to features as quickly as possible, but also engineer-centric to make sure they reach their personal goals as well. This empathy and trying to adjust the people in your team, I believe will stand the test of time and will become more and more important as people become more mature and more confident in their product skills will look less and less to textbook methodologies. We'll do a mix of a lot of things that exist out here. I'm a former consultant, so structure and committing to deadlines is something that's dear to my heart. I can tell it's not always flying well with engineers. I can see how in five years time the way we build product is a lot less Agile and a lot more CanBan, if that's the way to protect a lot more. We just deal with the most priority things first, no matter how long they take. And it's okay if we don't commit to timeline to our stakeholders. It terrifies me just thinking about it.
Max: I like that. I also agree with the hybrid method, and that seems to be what companies are doing now and just kind of cherry-picking their favourite bits from their experience. I think that's what's kind of so exciting is I feel less, less and less people refer to, oh I only work in Scrum where I only work in Agile. What's exciting is people are doing different things now. So thank you! That's everything we have for today. Thank you so much for your time. I really, really appreciate hearing about this. And this is so eye-opening for someone like me who I'm a content and marketing person. So hearing about the inner workings of a product department for something that's dealing with millions and millions of customers, it's really interesting. So thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Pierre: Yeah, pleasure! I hope this was useful. Pleasure talking to you.