Reinventing the nature of work for hourly employees through embedded finance

Embedded Partners
Reinventing the nature of work for hourly employees

Welcome to the SMB Tech Innovators podcast, powered by Gusto. We explore the intersection of financial services and vertical SaaS strategy and discuss how software combats the rising complexity of running a business. We aim to share stories, advice, and best practices from the leaders and investors behind today’s cutting-edge platforms.

Managing teams has become more complex than ever, but the increased usage of AI and automation has changed how businesses hire and schedule employees. Small businesses and enterprises alike now have a software solution to simplify scheduling, payroll, and labor law compliance, no matter how simple or complicated your team is.

Deepesh Banerji, CPO at Deputy, covers how to make crucial decisions early on in business without sacrificing opportunities for growth as they become available and why the customer experience is your most significant competitive advantage as a financial product provider.

Embedded fintech highlights include:

  • What makes Deputy unique in a world of time and attendance tools?
  • Why the customer experience should be a top priority, no matter your business size
  • Prioritizing mobile app usage with your customer base
  • What Deepesh thinks about country-specific needs within a global platform
  • Thinking about software designs with more upfront optionality
  • The difference between companies that grow quickly and companies that struggle

(The following was transcribed and edited for clarity)

A builder’s journey to transforming industries and empowering workforces

You’ve worked with several startups that have scaled successfully; how did your career journey bring you to your current role with Deputy?

I started my professional journey by writing software for the health sector. However, my passion for understanding customer desires and seeking creative solutions compelled me to transition to product roles. I loved working more closely with customers and shaping the development of solutions to their problems.

Then I embarked on a five-year adventure at CBS Sports. Amidst the rise of Apple TV and smart TVs, I worked on the products at the core of CBS’s transition to streaming. I soon transitioned out of the non-financial services world, and am now proud to be part of Deputy. As a leader, we empower businesses with hourly workers to manage their workforce efficiently. I realized that software can and should enhance people’s work experience. Especially those working hourly jobs where the complexity of shift tracking and scheduling create challenges those of us in tech, with salaries and equity, hardly remember from our summer jobs.

Standing out from the crowd as time tracking tools (and more!) become essential tools for hourly workplaces

Time and attendance is a crowded space with many tools available for SMBs. What makes Deputy unique? 

In hourly workplaces, time tracking is a fundamental principle for employee compensation and facilitates staff communication and task management. In contrast to the many tools typically used, hourly workplaces that use Deputy rely on our platform as their all-in-one solution. The range of services Deputy offers makes it an indispensable daily work tool for such establishments to increase profitability.

Also, each country, state, and city has its wage compliance laws. For example, overtime schemes in the United States differ across all 50 states. Our business also operates as service providers in Australia, where labor laws are among the strictest globally, and the United Kingdom, with its unique regulations on leave accrual and overtime, converting tracked time into proper compensation.

Unlocking success through user experience and growth strategies for customers of all sizes

How does Deputy navigate building for enterprise vs. for SMBS? Does it have to be for one or the other?  

For SMBs, user experience-driven solutions are vital due to time constraints and the need for self-service options that eliminate the reliance on salesperson interactions. We focus on delivering an easy-to-use, real-time, and seamless experience.In the mid-market segment, where multiple buyers and departments are involved in decision-making processes, salespeople guide them. All of us have experienced buying software for companies, and user experience consistently features as a critical criterion. It becomes imperative to involve team members who view the solution through different lenses, considering its usability and adoption potential.

Design and management become crucial considerations for all sizes as the stakes and complexity increase. Striking the right balance involves positioning the product as simple on the surface while accommodating advanced settings underneath. These advanced settings may encompass permissions, workflows, performance and scalability, access levels, reporting, and more.

Empowering hourly workers and managers with comprehensive functionality through a mobile-first approach

How does mobile play a crucial role with workers and managers using your platform?

Notably, 99% of our worker usage occurs on mobile devices. This high mobile usage percentage is quite surprising for a B2B application. The driver is that hourly workers are not tethered to a computer throughout their workday.

On the other hand, their managers tend to rely more heavily on computers, likely constituting a usage percentage of 70-80%. Native mobile apps must offer comprehensive functionality, enabling users to manage leave, schedules, time tracking, team communication, and more. The key is to meet customers where they are, recognizing the importance of mobile accessibility.

Striking the balance between the art and science of global product management and design

What makes a company like Deputy unique in its perception of UX, entry point, and global perspective?

Successful product management, engineering, and product design require a delicate balance of art and science. It revolves around deep domain and industry knowledge, understanding the intricacies of regions such as the UK, EU, US (50 states plus DC and PR), Canada, and Australia. Expertise and awareness play a vital role in comprehending the landscape of each region. It involves creative thinking to identify commonalities and differences across geographies. This is where the product development process’s architectural design and upfront flexibility prove invaluable. Making strategic technical decisions with a long-term global perspective rather than solely focusing on a specific region can yield significant dividends in the future

Operating globally, especially for financial services companies, requires industry-specific data, geographic insights and forecasts, and a long-term investment mindset. Depending on the nature of the service, we prioritize building it in-house. However, in other cases, we also consider partnering with local entities, financial institutions, and fintech companies with deep expertise in tax regulations, infrastructure, or billing.

Embracing optionality in designing for future expansion

At what stage of your product development process can you think of a longer-term building with more flexibility from the beginning, even if it accrues a bit more tech debt? 

I encourage teams to embrace optionality. In our case, this entails not necessarily building for all regions immediately but preparing for the possibility of expanding into them in the future. Embrace optionality by being aware of potential feature options and designing with this flexibility. You can often design with optionality when making software choices without immediately implementing all the available options. Envision a multi-country, multi-region offering from the start to execute for the present while priming your product for future expansion.

I have shared this advice with many individuals, emphasizing the importance of adopting an approach to problem-solving rather than adding unnecessary burdens. This may involve investing slightly more in the initial architecture, but it ensures that your options remain open for as long as possible. This approach exemplifies the art and science of product management and engineering, where thoughtful design solutions come into play.

Embedded finance partnerships: prioritizing user experience, domain knowledge, and track record in collaboration

Deputy has built a handful of other embedded products that have added new revenue streams to the platform. What do you look for in a developer platform or an API embedding partner where you won’t natively build some functionality?

Deputy has built a handful of other embedded products that have added new revenue streams to the platform. What do you look for in a developer platform or an API embedding partner where you won’t natively build some functionality?

I delve deeper into a few key aspects when evaluating partnership opportunities:

  1. Prioritizing a compelling user experience. Will it deliver a delightful and valuable experience, enhancing convenience for our users?
  2. Assessing the partnering team’s domain knowledge and experience. Gaining a partner with profound expertise in a specific area brings immense value to our collaboration.
  3. Examining the track record of the proposed partnership. Are there reference use cases where customers have already derived value? This enables us to evaluate its adoption and assess whether it aligns with our product sensibilities.
  4. Ensuring a good developer experience. Gauging the ease of interaction between our engineers and the proposed service is vital.

Guiding principles and flexibility in partnership approaches

When pursuing a partnership approach, it can be challenging to find the perfect balance. However, you can align certain principles with a clear vision while maintaining flexibility in the details. This approach involves establishing fundamental principles, such as ensuring the desired data flow or prioritizing a seamless user experience across mobile and desktop platforms. The chosen partner often determines the specific manifestation of these principles.

Flexibility is crucial, especially when the experience does not warrant complete control over every element. In such cases, selecting a partner depends on evaluating the core importance of the experience and considering factors like the investment required to build it in-house and whether the potential benefits justify relinquishing some control over the user experience. Regardless of the solution’s nature, guiding principles should dictate how it functions.

The Recipe for accelerated growth: market conditions, ambition, and people

If you’re talking to other technology founders and other product leaders, looking back, what was different about the companies that grew quickly and found more success versus those that struggled? 

Market conditions play a significant role as a catalyst. A macro wave sweeping through an industry creates a favorable market environment. With record-low unemployment levels today, businesses striving to be standout employers contribute to another macro wave. Capitalizing on such market conditions and a large target audience enhance growth potential.

Balancing invention and innovation with incremental progress is essential. Significant transformative steps help propel growth to the next level. A profound purpose that unites the entire team should drive this ambition, showcasing both the vision of a changing world and the positive impact that will result from it.

Last but not least, people are instrumental in achieving growth. The individuals involved should prioritize deep customer empathy, strong product sense, and the drive to turn ideas into reality. While a core group of dedicated individuals with the right attributes is essential, more than simply increasing team size is required to accelerate progress. Keeping teams relatively small and focused on the mission allows effective collaboration and impactful outcomes.

Listen to the entire podcast with Deputy’s CPO, Deep Banerji, available on Spotify and Apple.

Brian Busch Brian is currently Head of Marketing at Gusto Embedded; the only payroll API with 10 years of experience and actionable data behind it. Before joining Gusto, Brian held leadership positions at Cloud Elements, Kapost, and Captricity. He holds a BS in finance and a BA in philosophy from Boston College and an MBA from the Cal Berkeley Haas School of Business.
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