A day in the life of... Product Director at Klarna

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Klarna works with retailers such as Topshop, handling customer payments and providing 'pay over time' and 'pay after delivery' services.

We caught up with Product Director Mat Perkins to find out more about his role.

(If you're after a new role yourself, check out the Econsultancy jobs board)

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I work as Product Director at Klarna, one of Europe’s leading payment providers. We partner with retailers to help improve the payment process and make it as smooth and frictionless as possible for their customers.

Klarna was born out of Sweden in 2005, and we now have almost 1,500 employees worldwide. I manage a team of talented product managers based in London and Amsterdam.

Much of my job relies on making sure our products meet the needs of our merchants and consumers, so staying on top of our competition and local regulations is crucial. The UK is one of Klarna’s newest markets, and we’ve been in “start-up mode” building out the product suite and getting more merchants on board.

It’s a really exciting time to be working in the company, as it combines the exciting mix of a start-up in our newer markets such as the UK and the US, with the gravitas that comes from a well-established operation in other countries across the Nordics and in Germany.

Mat [square]

Mat Perkins

Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

I report into Klarna’s Chief Product Officer, David Fock, who is based in our Stockholm headquarters. I’m part of the global product leadership team. Our product organisation is fairly large, with around 60 product managers who work in partnership with our 400-strong engineering group. I also work with the local UK and Dutch leadership teams.

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

Obviously technical, product and ecommerce expertise are essential, but the skills I’ve actually needed to use time and time again have been softer, more interpersonal skills.

Working within such a big organisation that’s constantly growing means there’s an enormous list of things the company wants to do. My primary responsibility is to make sure the UK and Dutch businesses gets the product development and support they need to be successful, so I spend a lot of time lobbying for those areas.

Tell us about a typical working day…

I’m currently splitting my time between London, Stockholm and Amsterdam, which means a lot of early morning flights!

Assuming it’s a normal day in the London office, I spend a huge amount of time with our merchants who use Klarna on their sites. We’ll either work through new product ideas from our side, gather feedback on improvements, or review recent performance.

We also spend a lot of time with prospective clients. We’re there to listen to what merchants who don’t already use Klarna want. We’ll demo our product and showcase how it will benefit their types of customer and we’ll talk about relevant upcoming product releases.

All this interaction and feedback is processed and summarised, and then goes into product and feature requests for development. This then feeds into our wider work which looks at exactly how a consumer or merchant problem can be solved and what needs to be built.

Given the highly regulated environment we work in, it can be really complex to balance beautiful UX with all the correct legal and compliance control. We work closely with our colleagues in Stockholm on the process, and benefit from the world-class product design and engineering talent we have there.

Klarna

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

I love launching new products and features, and getting great feedback from the merchants and consumers who use them.

A challenging part of the job at the moment is balancing the need to travel frequently with home life. I’ve got three kids who are five, four and three months old, so I try and maximise my time away without spending too many nights apart from my family. That means I often fly out on the first flight out and get the last one back, which can be really exhausting. The Nordics is one of the leading regions in Europe promoting flexible working for parents and I’m lucky the culture filters across into the UK side of the business too.

What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

The company’s main priority is ensuring our merchants are satisfied, and that our products make a difference to them and their customers. Within the product team, we tend to look at lower level metrics that help us fine-tune our products’ performance. A key one is conversion rate – so how many people place an order via our checkout compared to how many people started the checkout process in the first place.

The business as a whole tends to look at volume and revenue. This includes how much payment volume we’re processing for our merchants and then how much money is left after we take away losses, interchange and a number of other overheads.

Within that figure there a number of levers that can be pulled, including fraud policy rules, risk algorithms, UX design, system performance… the list goes on!

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

The global nature of our business means we’re all big users of collaborative tools at Klarna. Unsurprisingly, Slack tends to be the communication channel of choice.

We also use the Google Apps suite all the time - the ability for multiple people to simultaneously edit in real time is key to us being able to pool knowledge and make decisions on complex issues quickly when teams are working from two or more different geographic locations.

Our engineering teams work independently and are aligned to various product domains with different timelines and milestones, so we rely on software development software Jira to manage this complexity. In terms of mock-ups and user testing, we use Sketch for the design work, Invision to construct the prototypes and Lookback to record and archive user testing sessions.

How did you get started in the digital payment industry, and where might you go from here?

Klarna’s an exceptional company and we’re only just getting started on our journey in the UK. I’ve still got a lot to achieve here – ultimately, I want to see us becoming a leading POS credit provider and the leading alternative payment method.

I came to the digital payments world without a financial services background, which I think can be a real advantage in the world of fintech. Often people from more traditional banking backgrounds can struggle to think creatively and find solutions without being influenced by legacy issues.

My background immediately before joining Klarna was in ecommerce and digital marketing at eBay. Prior to that, I spent time in online market research and as a developer.

Which brands do you think are doing UX and payment well?

Not that anyone would believe it’s an unbiased view, but in the online credit and payment space, there’s no one who comes close to where Klarna is. I truly believe we’re a leader in consumer experience in the checkout and in the simplicity, clarity and smoothness of our credit application process.

In the wider fintech space, I’ve recently started using Monzo, one of the new challenger banks. The app’s UX and how tightly everything works with their beautiful fluorescent coral coloured card is really slick.

Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the fintech industry or digital more broadly?

Don’t be put off by a lack of traditional financial services experience. Klarna has people with deep credit risk, fraud and compliance expertise where needed, but they balance it with employees from other backgrounds outside of the financial services world. That breeds a melting pot of experience where our beautiful customer-centric products are created.

It’s a shameless plug, but we’re actively recruiting for our tech integration teams – so if you want to come and work for a really exciting major player in the payments space, then please do get in touch!

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