In this edition of #FintechProductDiaries, we chatted with Aaron Rosenzweig, Product Manager at the global payments giant American Express (AMEX). With a history dating back to 1850, AMEX is one of the world’s leading providers of reward credit cards, payment processing and travel-related financial services. Over the past couple of decades, AMEX has successfully built upon its core strengths as a leader in customer experience and payment processing and transitioned into digital financial products and solutions.
Aaron joined AMEX in June after spending around nine months at Kapital — a fast-growing Mexican neobank for SMBs in LATAM. Earlier this month, Kapital announced it has completed a $30mln funding round with Tenacity Venture Capital, an investment fund founded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Narasin.
With a great passion for entrepreneurship and for making the world a better place, Aaron’s journey into fintech actually started at the end of 2019 when he and one of his colleagues stumbled upon a number of reports on the potential of fintech in enabling financial inclusion and decided to create Monfin — a neo banking app for individual and business clients with financial inclusion and transparency at its core.
Why did Monfin fail to launch? And what’s it like to be a product manager in a multinational corporation like AMEX? Learn the answers to these questions and more, in Aaron’s complete story below.
“I see the role of a product manager as a mini-CEO of the product”. - Aaron Rosenzweig, Product Manager at AMEX
Ever since graduating high school, Aaron has had the vision to become an entrepreneur and help make the world a better place. So, he moved to San Francisco with the goal to go to college and eventually join Silicon Valley’s startup world. But a change of plans due to some personal health problems made Aaron move to Mexico where he attended one of Mexico’s most renowned universities, Tecnológico de Monterrey.
After a couple of failed entrepreneurial projects whilst at university, Aaron joined a boutique consultancy where he had the opportunity to work with financial services organisations and learn about the emerging fintech industry in Mexico.
But it wasn’t until a couple of years later that he met one of his partners and they decided to take the leap of finally launching their own fintech business.
“Both, my partner and I have a passion for entrepreneurship. And more importantly, we have a huge passion for helping other people and making the world and our country a better place. So, after stumbling upon a few reports on the potential societal opportunities of fintech, we decided to launch our own fintech product and startup with financial inclusion at its heart. Thus, in a matter of a couple of months, we started to work towards launching Monfin — a new generation banking offering for individual and business customers”.
According to Aaron, the main reason for Monfin’s ultimate failure was that they failed to keep up with the competition and got caught up into a never-ending “pivoting” cycle.
“2019 Mexico was a very busy year for the Mexican fintech sector — more and more fintechs were launching across the whole spectrum, specifically within digital wallets. And we kind of lost footing because we had to pivot and change our product multiple times. Thus, we ended up in a never-ending product pivoting cycle, trying to differentiate ourselves whilst building the ultimate value for the customer. So, unfortunately, shortly after that and after consulting with various business mentors and coaches, we made the difficult decision to cease the product and go back to working for other financial services providers to learn more about their business models, about the ins and outs of running a financial institution”.
Following the closure of Monfin and in pursuit of learning from the best, Aaron joined one of Mexico’s fastest-growing fintech neobank, Kapital as a Product Manager and took full ownership of the company’s digital product pipeline.
“A few months later, I found a job in Kapital, an emerging fintech based in Mexico City with a team of a little over 75 and around 75,000 users including both commercial and private clients. There, I was tasked with their digital platforms, meaning both their commercial / SMBs banking and personal banking.”
Fast forward to 2022, Aaron is now a product manager at the global payments giant, American Express, where he’s working on the modernisation of the accounts receivable product. Below, Aaron has shared what a typical day looks like for him in his current role at AMEX.
“Depending on the type of product I`m working on, my day usually starts with a daily meeting with a project manager and throughout the day I also collaborate a lot with the product designer and the tech lead. Those are the two most important people I communicate with on a daily basis to make sure the product does exactly what it’s supposed to do”.
“In terms of work, there are two key areas I focus on. The first one is the product itself — defining the product and looking for new growth opportunities whilst navigating the product management responsibilities and tasks. The second key area for me is the consumer. I aim to meet with a product marketer, members of the executive team and senior management, finance and customer success on a weekly basis to stay up to date with any changes in consumer behaviour and all their pain points. My ultimate goal here is to truly understand how the product is being used, what the most popular features are, how much time users usually spend using the product, etc. That’s why I see the role of a product manager as a mini-CEO of the product”.
For Aaron, the most important value a product manager should possess is empathy.
“In my opinion, the core value a product manager should have is empathy, or being able to understand the customer to a full extent. Being able to prioritise and focus is also key. By prioritising, the product manager will be able to uncover and sift out all important insights and patterns”.
“There are four main questions I keep in mind at all time and I work towards answering: Does the product solve the customer problem? Is the product viable? Is it feasible? And last but not least, is the product usable?”
When comparing the Mexican fintech sector to the one in the US, Aaron identified a few key differences. Generally, because of the history of the country, the market is more closed — it’s more controlled by the government. Another key difference is that in Mexico the level of financial literacy is much lower.
“For example, in the US, the majority of the population use some sort of a financial service or product, while in Mexico, most people don’t even have a bank account. And they still live with cash under their bed to put it in a perspective. This means that the opportunities for fintech companies in the country are huge, but the financial education element will be key for their success”.