A response to coronavirus: Q&A with Sylvain Grande, Chief Product Officer

Question: As Chief Product Officer, how do you anticipate the current environment affecting Yieldstreet’s ability to scale?

Yieldstreet has a track record of growth and a strong balance sheet. We expect that given the market and economic impact, investors will reassess their positions and strategies in the short-term, making it a period of lighter engagement in terms of investments while putting even more emphasis on their portfolio. However, as post-crisis times emerge, we expect to have an even bigger opportunity to deliver on Yieldstreet’s mission. I would say that our ability to scale from a product and experience perspective will come into play once this happens. We have been developing some truly unique investment opportunities that will give retail investors access to a range of financial products that they didn’t have access to in times of crisis such as this in the past. 

Q: How is the switch from in-person to WFH affecting your day-to-day? 

At Yieldstreet, our Product, Design, Data and Tech teams were used to working in a globally distributed environment with daily remote interactions even before the crisis started. This working model was then applied more broadly on a company-wide basis once working from home came into effect. We had been using tools such as ClubHouse, Slack, Clickup and Hangout/Zoom to communicate with each other beforehand. A  big change has been that now we rely on these technologies as an entire company, as opposed to just some teams and that we have to use them over a longer period of time. 

With face-to-face interactions being out of the question, the need for even more communication, especially for cross-functional efforts has become critical. We have adapted quite quickly with even more importance being placed on how things are documented internally. 

We’ve also added virtual activities that encourage connection between team members and alleviate isolation. For example, my team and I have become accustomed to having a virtual meeting over tea or coffee to ensure we stay in touch. We’ve also adapted by conducting activities that instill culture within an organization virtually, such as celebrating work anniversaries using software like Tribute. We have also been understanding of the fact that not everyone will have an optimal work from home set up, anticipating that people may want to bring in some of their office equipment from work or have slower internet connectivity at home. Our HR team has also been amazing at finding new ways to connect the entire company during this difficult time.

Q: What are some of the most important areas Product teams should be focusing on now?

Our core focus areas with regard to Product, Design, and Data have largely remained the same. From an investor lifecycle perspective, we think the focus should remain on onboarding, activating, engagement and retention. When considering what kind of value we can provide to our investors, our focus has been on giving access to informative materials and being reliable and transparent about what’s going on. We are now spending more time talking to investors in order to understand their expectations in this specific scenario and what we can do to enhance their experience, on the web or through our mobile app. 

Q: How has this affected professionals within your industry (layoffs, decreased spends, hiring spree)?  

As a player in the Fintech world, Yieldstreet is a part of two industries: finance and technology. When it comes to the tech industry in general, I expect that this crisis will force many digital non-native industries to accelerate their plan to provide products and services digitally. I think some really interesting trends will emerge much faster than anticipated, such as telemedicine or the development of stronger remote work technologies that have various applications. Within that segment, I think product managers, designers, and data professionals will continue to have big opportunities for growth. Certain companies are bound to be negatively impacted but there will always be others who will hire and leverage this crisis to attract more talent. It is heartbreaking to see the massive impact on unemployment this crisis already had in a few weeks. It will certainly be seen as one of the most important crisis of the past 100 years.

While it’s too soon to tell how this will all play out for the finance industry, I expect similar acceleration towards digital to occur. The value proposition of Yieldstreet and other fintech platforms has never been so relevant. With the stock market and bonds becoming unattractive to many in current market conditions, I expect that retail investors will start looking for access to unique opportunities to invest and trying to benefit from the recovery period of this on-coming recession.

I think that overall, there will be long-lasting effects from this crisis, with parts of the economy doing well whilst others are deeply affected. I believe it will be looked at as a game-changer in globalization and economic history.

Q: What are some takeaways from this situation and how can we be prepared in the future?

I think the long-term effects of this crisis will be very palpable. This is the first global pandemic in an age of a massively globally connected audience. I consider the crisis a Blackswan event that will have profound effects on people and society at large. Concepts like resilience and interdependence will re-emerge and people will call for a different model of society. Personally I do not believe that ask will only be at the margins. Some of the things I’m expecting to come out of this are:

  • Learning what people truly value and what consumption patterns emerge in times of crisis.
  • How we go about doing urban planning and the impact it will have on the rise of cities. 
  • An impact on how people work and an acceleration in the development of technologies that create social links without interpersonal interaction. 
  • A reorganization of how certain industries operate their supply chains to be more local rather than global. 

On a more personal note, I am hoping this crisis enables us to focus on what I think are two of the biggest issues we face as a society: climate change and mental health. On this Earth Day 2020, I do hope the best of humanity comes out. One always has to believe (and act accordingly).

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