Culture

Meet Maxim Ivanov, Product Director at BVNK

In this edition of Life at BVNK, Maxim talks about the importance of speed and why forming a 360 perspective makes you a better product leader.

Tell us about your role. 

I look after the fiat part of our payments platform. BVNK is authorised as an Electronic Money Institution in the UK and Europe, so our customers can send, store, convert and receive payments in fiat currencies like Euro and GBP. It’s my job to build, maintain and grow those services. For example, building integrations with schemes like Swift, Sepa and Faster Payments so that our customers can make business payments.

What’s a typical day for you?

It’s a constant balancing act between smaller tactical tasks and important, but less urgent, strategic work. On the tactical side, I work with engineers and other colleagues to build and deploy value-added features for our customers. I'm also there to resolve any incident and make sure issues are fixed. 

On the strategy side, I spend as much time as I can talking to customers to understand what they need, and talking to banking partners to see what they can provide. Developing payments products is a bit like a pipeline with schemes and banking partners on one side, and customers on the other. It’s my job to connect the dots, keeping in mind what the inputs are, and what the outputs should be for customers. Then, I turn that into long-term product roadmaps.

Why did you decide to join BVNK?

Before BVNK, I looked after alternative payment methods at Checkout.com. I considered setting up a new startup with some business partners, but my conversations with Jesse, BVNK’s co-founder, swayed me. 

I believe that stablecoins and blockchain technology will shape the future of payments, but I’m also pragmatic and don’t think they’re right for every use case and context. So I see the huge role that a company like BVNK can play in bringing together banks and blockchains into a single platform, taking away a lot of the complexity around how you access and use those rails.

I was also attracted to the global nature of the business. Our customers come from many different regions and have very different requirements when it comes to the currencies and payment schemes. We also operate across multiple licences and entities globally. This creates complexity, but is also incredibly interesting.

What keeps you here?

There’s always a challenge! In my first year, I took live our first EMI entity in the UK, and recently our European EMI too – both really valuable experiences. Secondly, we have a strong team of talented people, and lastly, I appreciate the flexibility that BVNK gives us to work remotely. I’m usually based in Berlin for example, but I spend the winters in warmer Valencia.

“In each interaction with a colleague, partner or customer, you can find new pieces of data, or micro-learnings that feed into your long-term plans.”
Maxim Ivanov
Product Director, Core Banking

Any advice for someone pursuing a career in payments products?

Like any complex topic, it’s important to look at payments from different perspectives and don't be afraid to go above and beyond to reach that perspective. Make sure you understand every angle: technical, compliance, regulatory, user experience, commercial. Think of a mug – if you look at it from the front it looks different to if you look at it from the side.

If you want to be considered a leader, it’s important to build that comprehensive understanding. One way to do that is to talk to as many industry professionals as you can. In each interaction with a colleague, partner or customer, you can find new pieces of data, or micro-learnings that feed into your long-term plans.

Finally, speed is also important. You can build very good products, but if you do it too slowly, you might lose the market opportunity. So, you need to do the right things, and you need to do them quickly.

What keeps you motivated?

If you want to be motivated, you have to look after yourself. Sleep well, think about your mental health and apply the right practices. Otherwise working hard is not sustainable in the long term.

I’m motivated by what’s coming up At BVNK. We’re continuing to grow our capabilities for fiat payments, for example we're looking at embedded payments. Then there’s global expansion. We recently began building our team and banking partners in the US, and we’re now looking into becoming a regulated business there.

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

Travelling. I love to explore different countries. I’ve visited 46 different countries so far, and I’m off to China and Hong Kong in a few months.

Any books or resources you’d recommend to product managers?

I interview a lot of product managers – 40 candidates in Q4 last year alone! One book that has great practical advice, which I often recommend is Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology.

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