What is a finance product manager?
Like a product manager in any other industry, a finance product manager is responsible for the success of a product or portfolio of products. There are some unique aspects of financial industry products, however, that requires a specialized skill set to succeed as a product manager.
Let’s be clear about how we define a finance product manager. For this discussion, we’re defining a finance product manager as someone who manages financial products themselves – loans, mutual funds, checking accounts, etc. Those responsibilities could fall on the same person or same product organization. Generally, though, because of the differences in skill sets required, a distinction is drawn between the person who manages a financial product itself and the person who manages a digital platform through which the product may be distributed.
Before getting into the differences, it’s helpful to remember the common responsibilities of any product manager role. However, the degree to which a single product manager is involved in these areas will vary by company.
Market analysis and product strategy
- Definition of the product positioning, features, and roadmap based on an understanding of the market landscape, customer needs, and alternatives
- In collaboration with others, enhancement of existing products and creation of new offerings designed to capture demand or fill a niche that is not being met either by the current portfolio or competitors
- Articulation of the value proposition, key selling points, and competitive differentiation for those responsible for selling the product
- Working with customer care and other operational teams necessary to deliver and support the product
In addition to the core responsibilities that finance product managers share with their peers in other industries, a few aspects of managing financial products require greater attention than is typical in non-financial industries. These areas include:
- Financial data analysis
- Regulatory compliance and risk management
- Liaising with vendors, distributors, analysts, and clients
These are areas where finance product managers spend a disproportionate amount of time relative to other product managers.
Financial data analysis
Finance products depend on data analysis. Consider the case of a mutual fund. The product’s success depends on an initial and ongoing analysis of market data to make stock and bond buy and sell decisions necessary to meet the risk profile of the fund and achieve the returns investors expect. Finance product managers have a deep understanding of financial data analysis.
Regulatory compliance and risk management
Finance products abide by government regulations. These regulations govern how a finance product is created, marketed, sold, operated, and sunsetted. In addition, these regulations can vary widely across political boundaries – not just internationally but also across state boundaries in the U.S., such as insurance products. Failure to comply carries potentially serious consequences for organizations and individuals, so an in-depth knowledge of these laws and collaboration with legal and compliance experts is obligatory.
Liaising with vendors, distributors, analysts, and clients
Like any product not sold exclusively direct by the company that created it, finance products often depend on a distribution network of banks, credit unions, and other lenders or brokers. A finance product manager defines the terms of distribution and sales agreements. They also help these partners create distribution plans.
Similarly, a finance product manager often connects directly with market analysts and, depending on the product type, key existing and potential clients. These individuals require a direct line to a managing authority to understand the benefits the product offers and the risks and liabilities it entails.
The differences in the role of a finance product manager compared to product managers in other industries are few but profound. Industry expertise is always important. In some cases, finance product managers acquire it by working with stakeholders and other domain experts. In the case of finance products, however, industry knowledge remains a prerequisite. For this reason, transitioning from another industry into a finance product manager role is rare. Moreover, someone with the industry knowledge necessary to perform the necessary data analysis, navigate the regulatory landscape, and serve as a subject matter expert with external parties will become a finance product manager by developing the skills common to all product manager roles.