Q&A with Airwallex product designer Lisa Jacquiot and engineer Matthew Duran
In less than a decade, Airwallex has grown to one of the world’s leading global financial platforms. Milestones along the way include breaking the then-record for unicorn status in Australia, a valuation of US$5.6 billion, and expansion into 60+ countries.
Lisa and Matt embody the curious and determined traits that define Airwallex’s teams, prioritising our customers and never settling for what is easy. In this blog post, we sat down with them to unpack their Airwallex journey and how it’s shaped them to be trailblazers in their respective fields.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your roles at Airwallex?
Lisa: I joined in 2020 as a senior product designer to work on our Xero integration, and over time my role has expanded to oversee our design team across our full range of spend management products, including Cards, Expenses, and Bill Pay across web and mobile platforms. Day-to-day, I collaborate with engineering, product managers, and a team of talented designers to make sure the design of our products reflects what our customers want and need.
Matt: I’ve just been promoted to engineering lead. My role is a bit different to Lisa’s in that while she works across an entire portfolio, I have been working exclusively on one project for the past 12 months, our Bill Pay initiative, which was launched in September to manage invoice payments. I’ve taken this product from inception to its go-to-market, working closely with our product, design, engineering, and commercial teams to build a brand-new offer that lets customers automate domestic and international bill payments from one place.
Q: How does an idea transform into a fully executed product at Airwallex?
Matt: We’re really close to our customers and most of our ideas come from them. We pick up in our conversations with them where they’re frustrated with their financial capabilities or processes, and then we work on creating products that remove their pain points.
For our new Bill Pay product, we started with ideation research and speaking to the market about what their ideal solution looked like. It was clear businesses were frustrated trying to pay their domestic and international invoices having to use different products and tools, which meant spending heaps of time and resources, and the manual processes often resulted in human error. We took those issues and honed in on delivering a product that takes hours out of paying invoices and automates the entire process in one place.
In my experience, in most other tech companies, demos are led by commercial teams, but at Airwallex, engineering is plugged in during the whole process. We operate in a really complex space - accounting, banking, and finance. Our engineers can’t build products with real value in this space without speaking to or understanding how our customers want to work.
Once we have some initial feedback, we take those learnings to tailor the product before it goes out to market, and along the way we ‘dogfood’ our products so our teams across the business are using it and testing it themselves too.
Q: Airwallex has expanded considerably in the three years since you both joined. What do you think has been the driving force behind this growth?
Lisa: We have a really clear vision to become the go-to global financial platform for businesses. While this is an enormous brief, it’s also very focussed. It means we’re always looking at what else we can get to market and where the new opportunities are to build new things. I think most of us find this cadence and pace really invigorating.
Matt: I agree with that. When I first joined, our capabilities of collecting money were quite limited, but it’s now become one of the largest verticals in the business. If we think we can find another way to continue helping our customers, we’ll make it happen.
Lisa: The feedback loop we have with customers also means we’re almost always on the right track. At other places, you can waste so much time in building things that ultimately aren’t used in market, which is hugely demotivating. But we’re always talking to our customers in one way or another, and have really robust processes in place to collect and act on that customer input and feedback and adjust our products accordingly.
Matt: For me, I really enjoy that you can see the impact of what you’re doing, almost instantaneously. We launched Bill Pay a few weeks ago and within 48 hours, 200 customers worldwide had already activated the product and we could see a significant volume of money being processed.
The quality of the talent we work alongside also plays a huge role. Our CEO refers to Airwallex as “talent-dense” and I can definitely say I’ve never worked with such a smart and impressive group of people before. The ambition of the business and the scale of the opportunity seems to attract high performers who want to push themselves in their career but also encourage the wider team to do the very best job possible.
Q: How is the business able to adapt and innovate at such a pace?
Matt: From the start, Airwallex was a tech-first company. We use all the technologies you would expect of a startup, and have built a product suite that is sophisticated and extensive enough to compete with the big banks, who still to this day are stuck using outdated legacy systems. It’s a really powerful combination that gives us a competitive advantage in the market, as we can move quickly and embed innovation at the core of everything we do.
Lisa: That applies to our design ethos too. Airwallex really cares about design and isn’t burdened by the limitations of traditional banking providers in this space. Everything is obviously fully compliant and legal, but the user experience always comes first.
Q: You’ve both worked for major tech companies before. Is there anything unique about your experience at Airwallex?
Matt: In my experience, it’s really rare to have a financial services company headed up by a tech specialist. Our CEO is an ex-engineer and sits in on our product meetings. He is so invested in what we’re building, and across the leadership more broadly, our technology and our products are prioritised above anything else.
I’ve worked for consultancies before, where the scope is so restricted - you’re paid to deliver X and nothing above or beyond. But Airwallex is a product company, where we’re judged by the quality of our work and building products with real purpose and longevity, which as an engineer, makes this a really special place to work.
Q: What have you had the opportunity to work on for the first time since joining Airwallex?
Lisa: As a designer, your work can often be focused on responding and submitting to a brief. But because Product is so important at Airwallex, the design gets as much attention as the more technical aspects. I’ve had the opportunity to lead and work with a much broader cross-section of the team and develop my stakeholder engagement skills as a result. This type of exposure also means your contribution is really recognised and appreciated, which I find really rewarding.
Matt: The same applies to engineering. Engineers are often siloed in an organisation, but at Airwallex we’re involved from inception to execution. I’ve had opportunities to develop my commercial skills at Airwallex, and the craft of presenting a business case, all the while honing my engineering capabilities.
For more information on careers at Airwallex, visit https://www.airwallex.com/careers
Nick is the Director of Corporate Affairs for Airwallex in Australia and New Zealand. He helps media, government and stakeholders understand the power of Airwallex's financial infrastructure.
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