Meet the Team: Interview with CoinLoan’s Product Owner Eugene Zomchak

Take a peek behind the CoinLoan platform with our new Meet the Team interview. Product Owner Eugene Zomchak explains the logic of software upgrades, shows how users’ ideas become features, and unveils the most exciting changes in store for CoinLoaners in 2022.

– Could you describe your career path?

I’ve dealt with finance and technology throughout my career. At first, these avenues were separate. I worked as a business analyst for banks and investment funds, gained experience in IT, and traded my own assets in conventional markets.

Eventually, I realized that I was drawn not to investment per se but interfaces – the products, their interaction, architecture, data, and so on. Finance was only secondary, and I got bored with its traditional arsenal.

Then, crypto came into the limelight, offering a fusion of finance and blockchain technology. Getting hired by CoinLoan was a natural development. It happened in March 2021.

– What inspired you to get into product management in crypto?

To me, the best thing about this role is the mix of different activities. You never work on your own. As an extrovert, I enjoy collaborating with designers, developers, compliance experts, recruiters... It never gets boring. Even routine tasks are very diverse. I see purpose and value in everything I do.

A fascinating aspect of crypto is that so many things are built from the ground up without ready-made blueprints or examples. Crypto businesses are trailblazers. Certainly, there are growing pains, but everybody knows that this industry is here to stay as an integral part of a new world.

With this in mind, I turned to pure crypto businesses. With CoinLoan, everything came together: the role, the industry, and the company. By that time, it already had a proven value proposition and viable products, so it needed to move forward. This stage in corporate growth, the transition from a startup to a well-established brand and a stable enterprise, is my favorite.

– How would you define the role of a product owner? How do you contribute to the company’s success?

Above all, a product owner is a mediator. Like business development, this job is all about interactions, but it has an inward focus – on the team, product, corporate needs, and so on. I reconcile the requirements of the business with the priorities of product development.

Product ownership emerged around the 1970s in the banking industry. It brought products and customer needs to the forefront in pursuing corporate financial interests.

The term product can describe a company’s brand, platform, or each item on it. Regardless, the aspects that strategically benefit product development come first, even if the immediate financial results are less spectacular.

Product ownership is also about making constant choices. You must select the options most in line with your product concept and strategy. Ideas that contradict the overall vision, even if they are commercially viable on their own, must be discarded.

– Your position is multidimensional: you act as a business strategist, product designer, market analyst, customer liaison, and project manager. Which of these aspects is your favorite? Why?

Interface design and prototyping. I particularly enjoy the initial stage, when all you have is some tentative ideas and basic analytics. Tying it all together into a mental concept, anticipating a great result, and seeing everything work out as envisioned – these things give me drive.

I also love the financial modeling stage, probably due to my background as a market analyst. As for the last point, I wouldn’t call myself a manager – I’d rather say I’m a leader or driver.

– The Agile methodology promotes a flat team structure. How would you describe your leadership style?

Balanced. I don’t like being aggressive or going to extremes with the hands-off approach. I value personal initiative when it is manageable. Excessive independence is not good for the team.

A person can have only so many competencies – for example, someone with excellent hard skills could be an awful communicator. A balanced leader treats every subordinate with respect and lets everyone speak out. At the same time, they never lose sight of the goal and make certain the final decision is made.

Agile is revolutionary compared to older and slower hierarchical models. It could also become chaotic and bogged down by too many options. As a result, there is a difference between theory and practice.

For instance, the Kanban framework includes a fluid task queue and some elements of lean management. Scrum, an iterative framework with multiple limitations, conditions you to think in terms of teams rather than individuals. Both systems give structure to Agile’s freedom and equity. I prefer their fusion called Scrumban.

– What role does hierarchy play in the process?

It is the glue, the connective tissue between everything you must achieve, combine and organize. Hierarchy is always secondary. When it becomes the end goal, it causes nothing but trouble. Hierarchy is a means of communication, but it only works when there is a clear aim.

– If you were to choose only one soft skill, what is the most important attribute for a product owner and why?

Productivity. It engenders everything else – effective communication, confidence in the business and your skills, love for the product, the pursuit of the goal, the realization that you can’t relax your efforts, and so on. It doesn’t allow you to get complacent or lose your creative spark.

– What are the biggest challenges in your job? How do you overcome them?

As in life, the biggest challenge is a lack of resources – information, time, funding, motivation, and ideas. There are always some limitations to overcome. If everything were effortless, product owners would be redundant.

– Let’s turn to CoinLoan’s digital products. How does the company decide what features to work on?

Our product view is not entirely documented. Some parts of it exist in my head and the heads of our executives. We synchronize our vision to work out the roadmap and the necessary features. Sometimes, we add a feature quickly when there is an urgent need or integration is very simple.

Generally, though, we follow a long-term plan. First, we look at our competitors, the market, the industry, new trends, and the news. No company exists in a vacuum, and you can always find some reference points. Any company benefits from learning, however innovative it is.

Next, expert opinion and inspiration come into the mix. Finally, we are gradually unrolling a data-driven system based on robust analytics. All of these factors are indispensable as they complement each other.

As any company grows, it accumulates a history of interactions that must be formalized not only qualitatively, but also quantitatively. Data is increasingly important on a global scale as this industry is evolving, and our competitors aren’t standing still.

– How do you evaluate customer needs?

Based on feedback. Our Customer Support team relays a wealth of information – praise, inquiries, requests, and so on. CoinLoan is active on social media, and we also monitor reviews on third-party platforms like Trustpilot, App Store, and Google Play. Finally, we get requests from partners – for example, business development managers who interact with us directly.

– What user research methods do you apply?

As I have mentioned, we are implementing new data-rich analytics to quantify this input. Naturally, we have a comprehensive vision of CoinLoan’s finances, portfolio, and use cases, but it is not applied across the board. For the most part, it concerns the highest level of product development.

– Could you tell us about a time when user feedback or metrics affected your product roadmap?

Last year, we added reports to our app and web platform. This feature is non-monetized – it is designed for the sake of user convenience. Personal transaction history is turned into a document with aggregated data in a format accepted by financial authorities. Meanwhile, corporate clients can access all of their information instantly from one place.

Another change in response to user requests – hiding small Wallet and Interest Account balances –  declutters and enhances the UX. Users only see the assets they have invested in.

With partial Loan repayment, we provided more flexibility while acting on user feedback. Some CoinLoaners wanted to lower effective LTV instead of adding collateral, some needed to pay before the due date, and some preferred more independent Loan management. The interests of the business and the interests of the clients came together.

– How does CoinLoan choose the assets to add to the platform?

We add assets gradually for two reasons. First, CoinLoan is a regulated company, and we care about our reputation. Secondly, security is one of our core values, so we double-check the background of every candidate.

Adding an asset to the Wallet, Exchange, or other products is not the whole story. It must be integrated into our existing security ecosystem, AML and KYC procedures, and custody services. All interactions with its blockchain must be smooth. Finally, specific metrics and checks must confirm that this asset is safe collateral for Loans.

We prioritize confidence, reliability, and efficiency over eye-catching numbers. Adding more assets more quickly would diminish safety and put compliance at risk.

Quality trumps quantity. This industry is flooded with hype: some cryptocurrencies skyrocket only to crash into oblivion. For platforms featuring abandoned assets, there is no way to inflate the demand.

We seek out well-respected projects that bring value, run on robust technology, and have a solid community behind them, such as Polkadot or Cardano. We don’t want our platform to collapse under the weight of shady assets that will soon be forgotten.

Our strategy is focused on products that interact with assets  – Interest Account, Сollateralized Loans, and Crypto Exchange. The CoinLoan Wallet is an organic part of the platform, a means of asset transfer, but not a core product. There is no shortage of crypto wallet providers, but all-inclusive systems that intertwine Loans, Interest Account, and Exchange are rare.

– What, in your opinion, are the key strengths of the CoinLoan platform and app?

Simplicity, security, transparency, and performance. We put a lot of effort into ensuring that all data flows smoothly and the user experience meets the highest standards. We want our software to be convenient and pleasant to use. Pleasure matters just as much as visual design and functionality.

– Are there any features that users often misunderstand or find difficult to navigate?

First, Interest Account calculations. User requests to Customer Support warrant the need for a more detailed explanation. Clients want more clarity in terms of their APY amounts and account options.

Secondly, they want more structure for Loan-related transactions, as they are currently listed among Wallet transactions. Some users wonder why they had an X amount deducted when paying with collateral or received a Y amount back after the final payment. Some users want to see history search by Loan ID.

Thirdly, as CoinLoan is a multi-product platform, we see a need for a personal summary module with details of all products, assets, and transactions.

Finally, acting on another user request, we are adding more account balance options – users can already choose between USD, EUR, and GBP. Eventually, it all boils down to the same fundamental principles of simplicity, transparency, and speed.

– How would you rate the user experience at the moment?

I can rate it highly with confidence. Reviews, interactions with our Customer Support, ratings from users, and direct communication with our partners attest to this. There is always room for improvement, but I’m satisfied with the current UX, feedback, and NPS [Net Promoter Score]. Compared to DAO and MAO figures, user interface issues are relatively rare, which is additional indirect evidence.

– What exciting features and changes are in store for CoinLoaners in 2022?

Most of them are listed in our 2021 annual report. First, users will see new tokens from existing blockchains like Ethereum, Solana, Tron, and other assets. Secondly, we are making our staking scheme more flexible and transparent and launching a new, more accessible loyalty program.

Interest Account will feature a fixed period. Many CoinLoaners keep their assets on the platform for a long time, so they will be able to get better rates based on duration. This is another area where business interests coincide with user research.

We will take the reporting system to the next level via automatic third-party integrations. Users will access easier tax reporting and personal finance management with multi-format downloads and more.

CoinLoan will offer customized loans for specific goals and categories, possibly with tailored personal offers. Finally, users will get a convenient account information dashboard. As for our Crypto Exchange, we are focused on its back-end – stability, scalability, quality, and speed.

– How would you describe the CoinLoan of the future?

In three years’ time, I envision CoinLoan as an all-in-one crypto ecosystem – more than a platform, interface, or range of products. It includes everything our users need, similarly to Apple’s interconnected products and unified solutions. Revolut and Robinhood are also moving in this direction.

Through the synergy between products, such systems generate an additional wow effect. This vision includes enhanced reporting, market data, alerts, convenient management and customization, an informational and educational portal instead of an ordinary website, a catchy blog, and a useful help center.

– Tell us about your personal experience using CoinLoan and other crypto platforms. How do you pick one worth a try for yourself?

I like our platform and use it quite actively – I have an Interest Account, take out Loans, and swap crypto on our Exchange. I find it convenient, simple, and understandable. A product owner must walk in the shoes of a regular user at least occasionally.

As for third-party products, I look at three things: design, functionality, and reliability. I make sure I’m not dealing with a fly-by-night company, a platform about to fail, or a product with unclear value. If a product is convenient, functional, and visually appealing, it will be popular. The better the design, the more pleasant and understandable it is to use.

– Is it challenging to hire for a project like CoinLoan?

Yes and no. On the one hand, we have a great company and a great product in a trendy industry, so there is no shortage of candidates. On the other hand, the entry threshold is high. We are very demanding when it comes to our team. We prioritize quality over quantity.

– Here’s a fun question. How many green pop-ups can you find on the CoinLoan platform?

Still not enough! All great platforms are highly interactive. CoinLoan is, in a sense, a living and data-driven ecosystem. It gathers feedback and responds to it to ensure proper informing, transparency, and alerts. The interface highlights relevant features and gives clues, so users can react in time, find specific information, learn something new, and so on. This level of interactivity is one of the keys to a flawless user experience.