20Product Nubank's CPO on Why Product is 90% Science and 10% Art, Why Execution is Overrated and Strategic Clarity is UnderAppreciated, Why You Should Never Fall in Love With Your Own Ideas & Nubank's Biggest Product Challenges Scaling to 80M Users

Summary Notes


In a candid conversation on "20 Product" with host Harry Stebbings, Jack Dugal, CPO at Newbank, delves into the intricacies of product management, emphasizing the importance of not falling in love with one's own hypotheses and maintaining customer empathy as the core of product development. Dugal, with a history at Facebook and Google, stresses the significance of strategic clarity over mere execution, citing Newbank's focus on customer love and primary banking relationships as key drivers of their growth. He also touches on the challenges of segmenting products for upmarket customers and the lessons learned from both successes and failures in product decisions. Throughout the discussion, Dugal and Stebbings explore the balance between science and art in product management, the pitfalls of relying on credentials when hiring, and the dynamic nature of decision-making in a growth-focused environment.

Summary Notes

Introduction to "20 Product" and Guest Profile

  • "20 Product" is a monthly show focusing on product leadership and development.
  • Jack Dugal, CPO at Newbank, is the guest, discussing product strategy and roadmap.
  • Jack Dugal has led over 200 professionals across various functions at Newbank.
  • Prior to Newbank, Jack was the director of product management at Facebook, focusing on video and third-party content monetization.

This is 20 product with me, Harry Stebings. Now, 20 product is the monthly show where we sit down with the best cpos in the world to discuss what makes great product leaders and what makes great products. And joining me today is Jack Dugal, CPO at Newbank, where he's responsible for product strategy and roadmap, reporting to CEO David Velez.

The quote introduces the show "20 Product" and the guest Jack Dugal, highlighting his role and responsibilities at Newbank.

Miro and Canva Sponsorship

  • Miro is a visual collaboration platform that aids in brainstorming and strategizing for teams.
  • Canva is a design tool that allows for the creation of various design elements without prior experience.

For those of you that have not used it before, it's this incredible tool that I think is truly game changing. Just ask the 1 million plus people who sign up for Miro every month.

The quote emphasizes the significance and impact of Miro as a collaboration tool, as evidenced by its large number of new users each month.

Jack Dugal's Career Transition

  • Jack moved from Meta in Silicon Valley to a Brazilian fintech, Newbank.
  • David Velez, CEO of Newbank, played a significant role in persuading Jack to join the company.
  • Jack was attracted to the opportunity to apply his skills to help the global income pyramid's bottom half.
  • Fintech, according to Jack, is in its early stages with a long game ahead, presenting a significant opportunity.

And what David and Newbank offered was the chance to take that same toolkit and apply it to, roughly speaking, the bottom half of the global income pyramid.

Jack explains his motivation for joining Newbank was to use his expertise to impact a broader and underserved demographic.

Product Management: Art vs. Science

  • Jack Dugal believes product management can be made 90% scientific.
  • The discipline of product management is relatively new and evolving.
  • The remaining 10% of product management, which involves empathy and intuition, is considered art.

I think you can make it 90% science. The thing about product management is it's a pretty new discipline.

Jack suggests that product management has become more scientific over time, but there is still a component that cannot be fully quantified or metricized.

The Art of Product Management

  • Empathy with the customer is the core of the art of product management.
  • Understanding customers' unmet needs is vital but challenging to quantify.
  • Product managers should not take dictation from customers but instead synthesize and interpret their needs.

The heart of it, and it's the hardest part to make scientific, is the empathy with the customer.

The quote highlights the importance of empathy in product management, which remains an artful aspect of the discipline.

Effective Customer Development Questions

  • Good customer development involves exploring the customer's problems, not solutions.
  • Questions should focus on the customer's life and implicit workarounds rather than direct issues.
  • It's essential not to lead customers to preconceived conclusions.

It's about exploring the customer's problem rather than the solution. And even when you're exploring the problem, you don't ask about the problem directly.

Jack explains that effective customer development requires a nuanced approach to understanding the customer's challenges without biasing their responses.

Avoiding Bias in Hypothesis Testing

  • Product managers should have clear hypotheses but must remain agnostic towards them.
  • Falling in love with a problem, not a specific solution, allows for flexibility and better outcomes.
  • Avoiding attachment to a hypothesis is challenging but crucial for objective product development.

We should never fall in love with our belief or our hypothesis.

Jack stresses the importance of objectivity in testing hypotheses in product development, avoiding personal biases towards specific ideas.

Lessons from Facebook

  • Facebook's culture emphasizes quick resolution of differing opinions through consensus or escalation.
  • The speed of escalation at Facebook is tied to its historical execution speed.

Facebook was incredibly good at saying, and I had to learn this from a number of people, but they were incredibly good at simply saying, you think x, I think y. By the end of this week, the latest, we are going to either agree, disagree and know why.

Jack shares insights from his time at Facebook, highlighting the company's approach to resolving internal disagreements efficiently.


  • Jack Dugal's experience across major tech companies has shaped his perspective on product management.
  • The discussion covers various aspects of product management, from the balance of art and science to customer empathy and decision-making.
  • The insights provided by Jack offer valuable lessons for product leaders and teams.

Retaining Speed and Agility in Large Teams

  • Newbank maintains speed and agility by keeping teams small.
  • Escalating issues quickly is encouraged to avoid stagnation.
  • Autonomy is given to managers at various levels to make decisions.
  • The CEO, as a founder, actively fights against the natural creep of corporate processes.

"We try to keep teams very small... And the second thing... when you get stuck, don't stay stuck, escalate. Someone will make a call." "As a senior exec, there was a religion around autonomy."

These quotes emphasize the importance of small team sizes and quick decision-making as key strategies to retain agility in a large organization. Autonomy is highlighted as a cultural value, empowering individuals to make decisions and take ownership of their work.

Trusting People and Assuming Good Intent

  • Trust is given to individuals from the start at Newbank, following a mantra learned from Facebook.
  • The hiring process is rigorous to maintain a high bar for new recruits.
  • Once hired, employees are trusted to perform at their best and are given room to learn from mistakes.

"Tend to default to trusting people from the start... assuming good intent, trusting people." "Once they've proven that and we've decided to extend an offer, I'm going to assume that you are new bank quality."

Jack Dugal explains that he prefers to trust new hires from the outset, assuming they have good intentions. This approach stems from a cultural practice at Facebook and is applied at Newbank to foster a trusting work environment.

Hiring Process and Evaluating Candidates

  • The hiring process at Newbank has evolved, with less emphasis on traditional credentials.
  • Understanding the importance of team dynamics has become more central to hiring decisions.
  • The hiring process is described as more of an art than a science, with a focus on drive and clarity in potential candidates.

"Some mistakes in hiring, some great understanding that... credentials matter less than I thought." "The team matters... recruiting someone who is going to fit the need, fit the team, fit the problem."

Jack Dugal reflects on his changing perspective on hiring, recognizing the diminished importance of credentials and the greater significance of how a candidate fits within the team dynamic.

Questions to Unveil Character and Drive

  • Questions during interviews focus on candidates' drive and clarity.
  • Looking for individuals who have demonstrated the ability to overcome challenges and possess a clear understanding of their past work or ventures.
  • Seeking candidates who can clearly communicate their ideas and show determination to achieve goals.

"What's the hardest thing you've done? Tell me about a time when you're in a situation where you didn't know what the answer was." "Are you able to stomach your own incompetence? Are you able to enter into a situation where you do not know what the answer is and dive in anyway?"

These questions are designed to assess a candidate's resilience, ability to handle uncertainty, and drive to succeed. They help determine if a candidate has the qualities necessary to thrive in a challenging and innovative environment.

Strategic Clarity vs. Execution

  • Strategic clarity is considered underrated compared to execution in the tech industry.
  • Without strategic clarity, execution can become aimless and frenzied, lacking direction and purpose.
  • A clear strategy allows for better interpretation of feedback from the market and more effective iterations.

"Execution without strategic clarity is basically frenzy. It is not progress. It is not forward motion." "If you do not have a clear hypothesis, a clearly articulated strategy of how you plan to win, you can execute with speed, with velocity, and never get there."

Jack Dugal argues that while execution is important, strategic clarity is essential to ensure that efforts are directed towards meaningful outcomes. Clear strategy helps in making informed decisions based on market feedback.

Aligning Goals with Strategic Outcomes

  • Goals must be aligned with strategic outcomes to effectively drive business success.
  • Metrics of success should reflect the true progress towards the company's strategic objectives.
  • Setting goals that are not gameable ensures that the team focuses on meaningful growth rather than superficial metrics.

"That's what Facebook calls execution, is aligning your success metrics and agreeing the success metrics that actually align with winning."

The quote highlights the importance of setting success metrics that are aligned with the company's strategic goals. This alignment ensures that the team's efforts contribute to genuine progress and not just the achievement of arbitrary targets.

Pre and Post Product Market Fit Stages

  • Jack Dugal explains the two stages of product development: pre product market fit and post product market fit.
  • The responsibilities of a company or product team are different in each stage.
  • Pre product market fit focuses on achieving customer love for a newly launched product.
  • Post product market fit involves scaling the product.
  • Without customer love, scaling a product is challenging and less effective.

"There is pre product market fit and there's post product market fit. And your job in each stage is completely different."

The quote emphasizes the distinct roles and goals a company has before and after achieving product market fit. Pre product market fit involves refining the product to ensure it resonates with customers, while post product market fit is about growth and expansion.

Customer Love as a Success Metric

  • Customer love is crucial for a product's success and is considered more important than scaling initially.
  • Jack Dugal discusses the concept of customer love and its significance in product development at Newbank.
  • The Sean Ellis Survey is mentioned as a scientific approach to measuring product market fit.
  • The importance of achieving customer love before considering significant scaling is highlighted.

"And if I don't get customer love, scaling is like pushing the rock uphill."

Jack Dugal uses the metaphor of pushing a rock uphill to describe the difficulty of scaling a product without genuine customer approval and enthusiasm, stressing the importance of achieving customer love first.

The Illusion of Success and Dead Cat Bounce

  • Jack Dugal explains the concept of a "dead cat bounce" in the context of product launches.
  • Companies may experience a temporary success with a product launch that is not truly loved by customers.
  • Incentives can become misaligned when the focus is on making early launches appear successful rather than ensuring genuine customer satisfaction.

"But that doesn't matter. What matters is do the customers love it, because then it'll explode out on its own accord."

This quote underscores the idea that genuine customer love is what leads to sustainable product success, as opposed to temporary boosts from marketing or other strategies.

Churn as the Ultimate Metric

  • Churn is considered the ultimate metric for measuring customer love and product success.
  • Leading indicators for churn, such as the Sean Ellis survey and NPS scores, are used to gauge customer sentiment.
  • Jack Dugal emphasizes the importance of iterating for love, not scale, when early metrics do not show strong customer love.

"The ultimate metric that I try to focus on is churn."

Jack Dugal identifies churn as the most crucial metric, as it reflects the long-term retention and satisfaction of customers with the product.

Segmentation and Churn

  • The conversation touches on how different product categories can affect churn rates.
  • Jack Dugal discusses Newbank's approach to defining and measuring a primary banking relationship with customers.
  • The focus is on ensuring that customers are not just retained but are actively choosing Newbank as their main financial institution.

"Being trapped is different than being in a committed relationship."

Jack Dugal distinguishes between customers who are locked into a service and those who are genuinely committed, indicating that true customer love goes beyond mere retention.

Defining Primary Banking Relationship

  • Newbank's definition of a primary banking relationship includes customers moving the bulk of their income to Newbank.
  • The growth of customers treating Newbank as their primary bank is a key focus.
  • The metric of primary banking relationships has grown significantly over the past three years.

"Are they moving the bulk of their incoming money into Newbank before they start spending and saving and doing the rest of their financial lives."

Jack Dugal explains how Newbank defines a primary banking relationship, which involves customers using Newbank as their main financial hub for income and transactions.

App Usage and Customer Love

  • Newbank values intense engagement with their app as an indicator of customer love.
  • The company's first value is for customers to love Newbank fanatically.
  • Usage intensity is seen as a leading indicator, but the ultimate goal is customer love.

"We believe in the context of what we are trying to do in our strategy. That intensity of engagement with our app is actually a leading indicator of that customer love."

Jack Dugal discusses how Newbank uses app engagement as a proxy for customer love, believing that active use of their services correlates with positive customer sentiment.

Prioritizing Product Decisions

  • Product decisions at Newbank align with the company's mission to transform financial services across Latin America.
  • The company's expansion into Mexico and Colombia was a strategic move to prove the model beyond Brazil.
  • Newbank's focus is on proving they are more than a credit card company and extending their services.

"We want to transform services, including financial services, across Latin America."

Jack Dugal shares Newbank's overarching goal, which guides their product development and expansion strategies, highlighting the aim to revolutionize financial services on a broader scale.

Resource Allocation Between Core and New Products

  • Newbank uses a rough heuristic similar to Google's 70/20/10 rule for resource allocation.
  • The focus is on perfecting core products and allowing small teams to innovate on new offerings.
  • Resource limitations are set intentionally to foster creativity and drive among teams.

"We want to make sure we don't lose sight of continuing to invest to improve in our core products and our core handful of products now."

Jack Dugal explains Newbank's approach to resource allocation, emphasizing the importance of continuous improvement in core products while also encouraging innovation in new areas.

Frequency and Participants of Product Reviews

  • Product reviews occur at least half a dozen times weekly.
  • Jack Dugal personally obsesses over certain areas of the product.
  • Reviews focus on details of product flow and involve a biweekly cycle with the team.
  • Inclusivity versus safe space for brainstorming is a challenge in product reviews.

"We do at least a half dozen weekly."

This quote signifies the frequency of product reviews, emphasizing the importance of regular check-ins on product development.

"Making one great is hard because you're balancing two things. You're trying to be inclusive, and particularly in a Zoom world, you can include 100 people in your product review, and a very inclusive meeting works against the second thing you're optimizing for, which is this is a safe space for us to brainstorm together."

Jack Dugal discusses the difficulty in creating a productive product review environment that balances inclusivity with the need for a safe brainstorming space.

Product Review Goals and Methods

  • The goal is to have a safe space for the product team to discuss issues and ideas candidly.
  • A product team should feel safe to reveal problems and propose ideas without pressure from senior management.
  • Pixar's review process is mentioned as an inspiration, with clear decision-making authority despite receiving broad feedback.

"I would like to lean towards having the safe space, because a product team should feel safe to come in and not do a dog and pony show for senior management and tell us how everything is great, but tell us where the warts are, what things aren't working, what things they're struggling with, and have ideas about what they're thinking about, some of which will be bad ideas."

Jack Dugal expresses the desire for product reviews to be learning environments where teams can openly discuss product flaws and potential solutions.

Reflection on Past Product Decisions at Newbank

  • Successful decisions include launching a bank account product and a secured card product during the pandemic.
  • The bank account product led to significant customer growth and engagement.
  • The secured card product helped customers build creditworthiness and was very successful.
  • Challenges include defining a clear and distinct offering for the upmarket segment in Brazil.

"One of the decisions, I think that we did really well... was we had first, for context, we were a credit card company... We had about... Over the course of the previous year, we had launched our bank account product and it had unleashed this wave of growth."

Jack Dugal reflects on Newbank's successful decision to launch a bank account product, which drove customer growth.

"And in terms of the product, we've struggled for a while to get exactly right... our suite of products for the upmarket, for the high income segment in Brazil, has not had, and I have not cracked myself, the degree of clarity of what makes that offering fundamentally different for that target we could have."

Jack Dugal admits the difficulty in creating a unique value proposition for the high-income segment in Brazil, highlighting the importance of product clarity and differentiation.

The Importance of Clarity and Focus in Product Strategy

  • Clarity and focus are crucial for successful product development.
  • Products need to be fundamentally different to break through market noise and attract customers.
  • Incremental improvements are not enough to compete with established players.
  • Newbank's low cost of acquisition is attributed to offering distinct products that customers advocate for.

"The biggest single reason is we need clarity, and we need a degree of focus. On what? Every product that I've ever been involved with that succeeded has had one core characteristic. It has been fundamentally different."

Jack Dugal emphasizes the need for products to be fundamentally different and focused to succeed in the competitive market.

Listening to Users and Balancing Technical Expertise

  • Always listen to users but do not necessarily follow their exact suggestions.
  • Brazilian banks have raised their service standards in response to Newbank's success.
  • Credit is challenging to master due to its complexity beyond technology.
  • Newbank's success in credit is due to starting with the hard aspects first, making it part of the company's DNA.

"You always listen to users, which doesn't mean you follow exactly what they say."

Jack Dugal stresses the importance of listening to user feedback while making informed decisions that might not always align with user suggestions.

Hiring for Product Teams and Leadership Advice

  • Founders often make the mistake of hiring based on credentials rather than suitability for a startup environment.
  • Product leaders should have a clear priority and focus on what they need to get right.
  • David Vélez's openness to changing his mind and lack of ego is highlighted as a special quality.

"Be incredibly clear about what hill you're going to take. Someone just told me yesterday, actually, someone on our board, on the new bank board told me priorities is not a plural and I like that. Be very clear on what is your priority and what you absolutely need to get right, and be very focused only on that."

Jack Dugal advises product leaders to have a singular, clear priority to focus on for success.

Impressions of Other Companies' Product Strategies

  • Spotify's evolution and focus on customer needs and technical understanding are praised.
  • The balance of customer focus and technical expertise at Spotify is seen as masterful.

"The first product I did in Silicon Valley when I joined Google was Google Audio and just a failed product in the end. But one of the privileges of that role back in things late 2006, early 2007 was I got to play with the desktop demo version of Spotify back in the day... It's been masterful."

Jack Dugal expresses admiration for Spotify's product strategy and evolution, especially in light of his own experience with Google Audio.

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