An Interview with Jason Dell, Chief Product Officer, MyBudget


The reality is that shifting culture is really hard, and it can take years to achieve and continued work to sustain. Fundamentally, it is a ‘core’ thing, not a ‘surface’ thing.

FST Media: Since your arrival at MyBudget in 2017 – first as CTO and now Chief Product Officer – the company has embarked on a wholesale transformation of its technology and customer engagement strategy, leveraging its vast data assets to enhance its operations. Take us through the progress of this strategic transformation and digital evolution of MyBudget over the last 18 months.

Dell: The digital transformation is not only about data. For companies embarking on this journey, the transformation must be bigger. First and foremost, it’s about the culture and organisation and its relationship with data; the second is the transformation of the product, which the culture and organisation subsequently create. 

For MyBudget, the culture and organisational shift occurred in people, processes, and technology/architecture, and had to happen first in order to achieve the product experiences for which we wanted to be known in the market. Many of the buzzwords we hear – like agile, scrum, Kanban, tribes, guilds, and more technically, microservices and containerisation – are all part of this on a surface level, but buzzwords don’t change the foundational core! True foundational change can alter how a company and culture communicates, of which these buzzwords may – and most likely will – be a part. And for MyBudget, they were. The reality is that shifting culture is really hard, and it can take years to achieve and continued work to sustain. Fundamentally, it is a ‘core’ thing, not a ‘surface’ thing. 

As that shift occurred and continues to occur for MyBudget, it is crucial to balance what can be accomplished while on the journey. Project selection is critical. Early on, pieces of the re-platform that were too complex for the newly implemented processes were challenged, whereas other modules that were less complex could be delivered earlier with greater success.

As these less complex modules and initiatives were completed, they were launched into the business and out to our customers. This is where we roadmapped the changing journey of our clients. Various launches inclusive of the mobile app functionalities, pre-appointment data capture, and budgeting methodologies are a few examples of earlier road-mapped functionalities. As our foundational culture and organisational shifts have now become more robust, we are very excited about the advanced functionalities our clients will experience in the near future – but you will have to wait for the press releases on those.

FST Media: Customer relationships are at the heart of MyBudget’s business model. How has digital innovation served to enhance interactions and engagement with – and ultimately deliver better outcomes for – your customers?

Dell: At MyBudget, we are relentless when it comes to focusing on our clients. We classify activities on a spectrum from ‘Transactional Interactions’ to ‘Valuable Interactions’. Effectively, this is a scale of the quality of interactions. 

In this context, our digital innovation strategy started with re-imagining the ‘Transactional Interactions’ first. By making these frictionless, this would then allow the precious time spent with customers to be that of high value.

FST Media: As a business with an avowedly intimate knowledge of customers’ financial health (according to MyBudget founder Tammy Barton: “a 360 degree [view] of the client’s wallet”), MyBudget has unique insight into the personal circumstances and financial wellbeing of its customers. How have these customer insights been translated into functional data, and how is MyBudget making use of these vast data reserves to both improve financial outcomes as well as deliver better digital experiences for customers?

Dell: MyBudget has 20 years of experience assisting clients in not only creating a budget but helping clients live their budget. As Tammy stated, we are positioned to understand the entirety of a person’s wallet inclusive of past spend, current position, and future buying intentions.  Very few companies, if any, have earned the trust to have that privilege.  This trust translates into allowing MyBudget to provide powerful insights that help guide our clients to incorporate positive financial behaviours and better decisions into their daily lives at the time that they need it. Effectively, behaviour insights + financial knowledge + timing = positive decisions.

FST Media: As noted, MyBudget maintains highly personalised and intimate one-to-one relationships with its customers. With a steady influx of AI-powered ‘chatbots’ within financial services, what role do you see for these emerging technologies in the company’s future customer interaction model? Do you see them as a complement to or replacement for human service representatives?

Dell: I believe these emerging technologies are complementary in the customer interaction model. In our research, we have discovered and understand various personas, as you would imagine. Some prefer no human interaction, and others really want it. This spectrum of preference is also parsed by the level of question complexity and the clarity of the automated answer. In general, the more we can automate low-value interactions, the more time we can spend with our clients on the high-value (and typically, more complex) conversations where it matters the most.

FST Media: What other emerging technologies do you expect will have the greatest impact on financial advisory services like MyBudget over the next five years?

Dell: I do not believe it is one technology over another. For MyBudget, it’s what the technologies, when combined, can do to enable an easier way for people to interact with their money. The industry is in brutal need of customer-centric, customer-positive experiences. ‘Customer-centric’ being easy to use and interact, and ‘customer-positive’ equating to good financial behaviours that lead to a good financial trajectory.

FST Media: As a leader with a truly global perspective, how do you inspire innovative, out-of-the-box thinking within your team?

Here are a couple of components to our approach:

  1. Recruit from around the world if possible: This organically accumulates a variety of perspectives and knowledge.
  2. Use techniques from the best companies: An example would be co-creation sessions with techniques made popular by Google.
  3. Look at other ‘out of category’ solutions and features:  We are in the financial services industry, but we look at best-in-class experiences from Spotify, Uber, and others.
  4. Always work to have a significant ‘Wow!’ feature embedded in each launch: Discussions on this topic forces thinking beyond the normal product.
  5. Set the right context for the team as to the gravity of what we do: Are we just creating a budget, or are we changing people’s lives? We change people’s lives. Check out our Product Review feedback:

Analytics: hype, hope, or just plain hard work? Jason Dell, featured keynote speaker at the Future of Financial Services, Melbourne conference, will reveal the secrets to transforming raw data into a strategic asset. Don’t miss your chance to hear Jason at the 2019 Melbourne event. Register now to secure your place.