Q&A with Abhishek, Product Director at Wise

ProductSingapore

At Wise, we value impact a lot. We always think about whether, and how we’re impacting our mission. This definitely helps prioritise when deciding which expansions or products to focus on next. For example, I’m very sensitive to price, and I know customers in Asia are too. So at the beginning of my time at Wise, I focused purely on understanding how pricing works for international payments, and how we can lower fees for our customers. Because I knew that’s what would impact existing and potential customers in South Asia the most

Why did you join Wise?

I was a very, very happy Wise customer! I’ve lived outside my home country for eight years now – before joining Wise I lived in Berlin and Kuala Lumpur before that. So moving money abroad was common for me. I hadn’t heard of Wise before moving to Europe, where friends introduced me to it, and I fell in love with the product right away. 

I was fascinated by how Wise was making it so easy and cheap to move money abroad, and I wanted to learn more about it. At the time I applied for Wise, I wasn’t actively looking for a new job – but the product, friends’ experience at Wise and the complexity of Wise’s mission sold it for me. I started as a Senior Product Manager and quickly realised how much room there is to learn and grow at Wise. 

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on?

When I started at Wise, I was focusing on South Asia as a region – but I felt that a lot of the stuff we built for South Asia could be scaled across so many more countries. So together with the team, we were actually able to take our projects so much further than we initially thought.

One example of this was launching mobile wallets in Bangladesh. At that time, Wise wasn’t supporting any mobile wallets in Asia, which are a huge deal – a lot of people don’t have bank accounts, so they’d use mobile wallets for any digital payment needs. After launching Bangladesh, my team and I scaled it across Indonesia and the Philippines, too. 

Another one of my projects right after joining had to do with sending money to Pakistan. It was really expensive back then – one of our most expensive currency routes.. I come from a non-fintech background, so I spent a lot of time digging into what was driving that cost. For a whole week, I didn’t do anything else related to my job, I just read through tons of articles on foreign payments, how exchange rates are set, and so on. What ended up happening was that we found an issue with how we showed exchange rates on our platform for conversion. Once we realised that, we immediately jumped to fix our error. Fast forward two years, and sending £1000 to Pakistan costs around £6 compared to £15 previously. I’m pretty proud of that one!

 

What’s different about being a Senior Manager vs a Product Director? 

I think the main difference is that I’m now leading a lot more people than when I started, which is super exciting. Working in, and leading autonomous teams has definitely been a challenge as well. I had to adapt to working in an autonomous structure, where teams themselves look at their data, and then decide what to build next. All the way down to setting KPIs, it’s up to a specific team to do, rather than being instructed from the top down. I’m still trying to figure out where I should influence, and where I should take a step back and let teams execute on projects independently. 

 

How have you made working in autonomous teams work for you?

It’s definitely been a learning curve, but I do think it’s so important to over communicate. It’s not always easy for decisions made in autonomous teams to be transparent and visible to everyone, so good communication is key. You always have to make sure you have all the right people involved in projects, and that any potential risks are flagged right away, instead of being looked back retrospectively.

 

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever done?

In Malaysia, I spent some time volunteering at a local part of the local gurudwara, a religious place for Sikhs. I made Indian bread for the first time! You have to roll them into a circle, and I was terrible at this. At some point, they removed me from that task and put me on washing up duty. 

 

What is your side hustle?

I play squash. I’ve been trying to compete a bit in a local league in Singapore and really stick with it. So I try to practice twice a week, and compete once a week. 

I’ve also been trying to learn about investing. I read about how to invest and how to buy equity in certain companies – I want to become an investor eventually. I’ve connected with a few founders who are in the very, very early stages of building their startups and I try to advise them on how they should think about running their business. It also helps me to build experience around different companies and their structures.