5 Questions with Irina Scarlat (Revolut): about growth and products, going global and having the right TEAM to do that

Irina Scarlat is the Head of Growth – CEE at Revolut, the famous startup rising star. Irina has direct, hands-on experience in driving successful, large-scale growth processes in one of the most competitive business environments – fintech.

Passionate, with solid experience as Product Marketer and Project Manager, doubled by a background in startups, tech, and communities, Irina is a do-er and entrepreneur at heart, and has worked with other impressive projects (Lead Marketing Manager at Uber Romania, Chief Marketing Officer at TechHub).

Q1:  You’ve just been appointed Head of Growth in CEE at Revolut. What does “growth” mean for the startup you work for and for you? 

If you ask 5 different persons / companies what growth is, you will get 5 different answers. At Revolut we look at growth all around the funnel and classify as growth top-of-the-funnel user acquisition, exploring all the different acquisition channels, conversion and retention. It is an approach I highly appreciate and prefer to the one where we see growth = performance marketing only.
We want to grow in terms of number of users, but we want the growth to be sustainable on the long-run, and this can only happen if we convert the users to active customers and make sure they keep being our customers over time. For me growth is product marketing all around the funnel.

Q2: How do you see the transition from a Country Manager to being in charge of Revolut’s growth in CEE region? Was there a natural evolution?

Countries in the CEE region are somehow similar in terms of user profiles, although each of them has its particularities. I am lucky to work with very talented people within the region that know their markets and have valuable insights on how to grow within their geographies, and this helps me a lot.

For me, personally, this was a natural evolution – I started in early January by coordinating what we call the European Growth Machine. Throughout this project I have worked on building world-class growth teams in our major markets in Europe & beyond, managed some of the new hires and worked on different markets. Being the Head of Growth in CEE was for me a natural step forward and I am very thankful for being given this opportunity.

Q3: For a global fintech product as Revolut, in what way would you say the product is changing for growth?

I think consistency is key when having a global fintech product and it is very important to offer people the same experience, no matter where they are located. Our product teams work tirelessly to make sure all product features are available in all geographies. As for localisation, we went at length in order to localise the product in our major markets. We started with the language (translating the app) and we are working all around the clock to also offer support in local languages.
In terms of building dedicated product features to support growth in particular geographies, I think this has to be treated very carefully – if the product needs to be optimised / changed to unlock a market, it should be considered, but always taking into account the cost-benefit ratio. As long as product features / optimisations can remove major blockers against growth, they should definitely be prioritised. Otherwise, product teams can make a better use of their time.

Q4: In the context of “products” and “growth”, what are the product metrics by which you make sure that Revolut is a great product and continuously growing?

I think one big mistake that tech companies do is looking at signups as a relevant product metric. Of course signups are important, because you want to continuously grow your user base and increase market penetration. There are some other metrics though that are more relevant than signups themselves:
  • Conversion rates: you want to see how many of those signups actually convert to active users. It is very important to look at conversion rates gradually: completed registration, first-time usage, repeated usage, since these indicators give you an overview of the health of your funnel. For example, at Revolut we have conversion divided into account top-up, card order, KYC passed and 1st transaction. Back at Uber we had conversion divided into card successfully added in app, conversion to first-trip, conversion to first paid trip, conversion to second-trip
  • WAU / MAU: it is very important to closely follow the evolution of WAU & MAU. If these numbers are low, you have a product issue that you have to solve before going forward with user acquisition / marketing. High numbers represent an indicator of the health of the funnel. A sudden drop in WAU / MAU has to be investigated to understand the root cause, which most often lies within the product. A sudden increase often means a new product feature / optimisation / campaign with sound results
  • Churn. It is very important to understand churn, to deep-dive into the reasons users churn and experiment around effective ways to bring them back. This is oftentimes more important than user acquisition, since the latter becomes redundant with a high churn rate and focuses any company’s efforts in the wrong direction
  • Conversion to paid optionsLast but definitely not least, any company should focus on sustainable growth and hence all the above mentioned indicators value nothing if users do not pay for the product you are offering. We closely follow the conversion rates to Premium & Metal and are on the lookout for ways to optimise them. High conversion to paid mean that your product actually solves a problem for users

Q5: You will join us in How to Web, discussing teams. The teams-growth connection is one that – depending who you ask – is subtle or essential. What is your “side” on this based on your experience? 

Essential. Teams are fundamental for the growth of any single company out there and getting hiring right can make the difference between success and failure on the long run. We invested a serious amount of time in hiring the right people to join our efforts and our interview process is quite demanding, shaped to make sure we evaluate cultural fit and team fit, beyond the role fit. This way we make sure we avoid making costly hiring mistakes and we bring the right persons in the right place at the right time.

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