People at the center of the strategy: the first step to innovation

The key role of customer-centricity in creating continuous improvement cycles and mechanisms to inspect metrics, processes, and incidents, thus engaging tech teams

The earth seen from the outer space in a Nubank's purple sky and with a hand about to touch it.

Disrupting the financial market, liberating millions of people from complexity by offering products that are easy to use, fairly priced, and that make their lives uncomplicated has always been – and will continue to be – part of Nubank’s mission, no matter the company’s circumstances. All teams across Nubank have these ambitions embedded in the way they operate, and I must say it is quite inspirational to be part of this dynamic.

Over the last 25 years, immersed in tech companies in different countries, I witnessed the meaning of “innovation” evolve and adapt to different realities. But during this period, there has been one constant – the single most important ingredient for successful innovation has remained the same: customer-centricity.

Putting customers at the center of the business and tech strategy provides a deeper understanding of their main pain points – and that understanding is a critical enabler of innovation. But not only that: the client interface is a welcome reminder that you are dealing with matters that can significantly impact people and transform their lives.

When it comes to tech strategy, it is no different. A good example would be when Nubank took the decision to migrate the entire credit card architecture to a new credit card platform. One of the main drivers of this ambitious shift was known customer pain. Providing credit consistency and transparency on calculation logic across credit operations for our entire portfolio would help our customers better understand charges on their bills and unlock more product opportunities.

Innovation-Friendly Environment

But you are probably wondering how to foster this innovation and customer-centric mindset on a daily basis. At Nubank, diverse and cross-functional teams share a workplace that boosts imagination and creativity,  in an environment forged by two apparently simple values: trust and ownership.

It may seem an effortless concept, but building judgment-free and blameless environments where we learn from our mistakes –so we won’t repeat them–  and where each team member feels engaged and uncensored when creating is a mission that must be reinforced and carried out every day. 

Post-mortem rituals and Operation Reviews, for instance, are excellent mechanisms to examine and openly speak about incidents and metrics. As an outcome of these processes, we have clear guidelines, assertive action plans, improved communication around pain points, learnings, and best practices – and sometimes a new set of goals that will keep bringing more inputs so the mechanism can evolve in order to have more robust outputs.

Since speed matters when it comes to innovation, it is also crucial that engineers have enough autonomy to make decisions. Unlike other companies, at Nubank, engineers have an active voice when our teams are designing products. This entrepreneurial culture keeps alive something like in-house startups, a key component of many successful tech companies.

People Are Key

One of the things that attracted me to Nubank, as I am sure attracts plenty of other people too, was the teams. At the core of Nubank are people, and a fundamental part of the tech leader’s role here is to develop, retain, and attract talent.

But besides a technical skillset, which traits and behaviors are we looking for? 

  • Curiosity is on my top 5 list. It means that we all must be constantly unsatisfied, looking to change the status quo, seeking improvement and new and smart ways to do things. 
  • Being a simplifier is also critical: the world is already full of complexity, we constantly need people who can understand ambiguities and break them down –the less bureaucracy, the better. 
  • And, last but not least, teamworkers who want to see the company thrive are always a must. 

I usually say that necessity is the mother of invention. And, since there is always a new problem or a new path to be explored, we constantly need to keep inventing. Gladly, my legacy will be the impact on people’s lives through innovation — what will be yours?

About Matt Swann

Matt Swann is responsible for overseeing the development and execution of Nubank’s global technology strategy and roadmap and leading our engineering teams. Matt has a degree in Computer and Information Sciences. Before joining Nubank in 2021, he was the head of technology and product teams at hyper-growth companies like Amazon and Booking, with a unique experience that blends technology and financial services. Matt lives in Seattle with his wife but travels to Brazil frequently. They have three kids who live in the USA and two dogs that often bomb in during zoom calls.

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