N26’s Cooke: A global presence is fueling the brand’s expansion

To digital banking brand N26, which operates in 26 markets and boasts 3.5 million customers, a global footprint lets it benefit from a wealth of expertise on product development.

Ryan Cooke

The company recently began offering products to U.S. customers, supported by an ad campaign that focuses on pain points in banking. While adding new markets adds complexity, the company’s global brain trust gives it a leg up over competitors, according to Ryan Cooke, head of technology at N26 U.S.

N26’s U.S. team has 70 staff members, and the company can draw on the skills of an international team of more than 1,000 employees, including 300 employees focused on product development and technology at the company’s tech hub in Barcelona and at its Berlin headquarters. At Bank Innovation Build on Wednesday, Cooke offered his reflections on N26’s product journey. His comments, which have been edited for clarity, are summarized below.

See also: N26 pursues US market with ads that speak to customer pain points

What are the challenges associated with N26’s operations in multiple markets?
There’s a lot of complexity with how we build our systems. Do we borrow what’s being used in other European markets, [or] do we build something specific to the US market? That goes all the way from infrastructure to products. What is the parity of the [product] features of five across all of our markets? There’s a lot of data privacy concerns, especially when you’re looking at EU jurisdictions, and we need to be able to operate in a way that maintains our compliance with GDPR but also lets us leverage some of the scale across our global operations.

How has your global presence helped your U.S. expansion efforts?
The biggest opportunity we had was to leverage a lot of the stuff that we had built already. 

We benefit from the domain expertise in the organization around card systems, payments and payment schemes. We are also able to benefit from a slightly more modern service provider here in the U.S. [And] when it came to integrating with third parties, we weren’t necessarily forced to do things with a batch file based method, which is how a lot of businesses function.

Is meeting open banking regulations across markets a challenge?
Transparency and security are important, [including] giving people over control their data, and that’s very core to our product offering. We benefit everywhere globally around technical implementation, [including] secure authentication or two-factor authentication.  We’re excited about seeing this entire ecosystem mature because being able to seamlessly link and move money [and] give extreme transparency is something I think all of our customers really want.

How do you approach product development?
When comes to developing a feature for our customers, it’s really important that we can validate as early as possible. We don’t want to just push product out there without really seeing it validated in customer research and surveys, panels, and really trying to understand what problem we’re solving for our customers.

What are your thoughts on product testing?
We do internal testing, so we have the ability for employees to opt into early versions of products. We are trying to get better at a/b testing. That’s not something we’ve done a lot historically, but a signup flow [for example] lends itself very well to a/b testing, where you have a sequence and you’re collecting information at different times.

How do you release products to customers?
We want to be able to deliver things quickly. Agile methodologies are great for software delivery, but don’t necessarily scale in all parts of our business. So it’s really about how we make sure that we can be set up to deliver things on a timeline. The feature that we may deliver might be still be a minimum viable product, because we might still be testing [user] behavior in our application, the actual user experience or the user interface. Maybe we want to see early signs of engagement before we expand partnerships.