Q&A with PayKey’s Director of Product Management

Tamar Shen-Orr is in charge of PayKey’s product management and has a pivotal role in every new project integration. In our quick chat, she provides us with a peek under the hood of PayKey’s solution, sharing some of the latest keyboard features that help drive customer engagement.


Would you define your role as bridging between PayKey’s development teams and customers?

It’s more than that, because you also have to throw the end-users into the mix. A bank may decide to buy and implement our solution, but the project will be pointless if end users are unhappy with the keyboard and won’t use it. The way I see it, I’m connecting the dots between the business needs of the bank, the technological capabilities of our development team, the bank’s development team working on the actual implementation and users all over the world who end up using our keyboard. It means that I also have to be on top of users’ keyboard habits and preferences, and this gives me an interesting peek into human behavior.


Speaking of users – do you spot any differences in keyboard habits among users in different parts of the world?

The way people use the keyboard reflects their culture and the way they communicate with each other. One thing we see a lot in Asian markets – particularly Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea – is that users tend to customize their keyboard’s appearances and functionalities much more than in Europe and the Americas. Customer tend to see the keyboard as something that reflects their personality. It may seem a bit strange at first, but think of it: people choose their own phone cover for protection but also for fun. Your cover says something about who you are. Won’t it make sense to do the same with our phone’s screen that we spend so much time on?

Since we have many customers in these markets (Standard Chartered and PhonePe to name two), we are working on features that would enable this kind of customization.


In customer meetings you tend to talk about the “The keyboard features pyramid”. Walk us through this model. 

Our customers provide their end users with a complete social banking solution that is based on a keyboard. In order for them to like this keyboard and keep using it, it must first meet the basic requirements essential to any keyboard: being able to type and communicate with it flawlessly. This is the core capabilities layer at the bottom of the model. Given the standard of other keyboards on the market, just being able to type is simply not enough: in order to use the keyboard daily, users expect it to have emojis – expressing ideas not only in words, as well as to correct their spelling mistakes and offer suggestions that enable them to type and communicate faster. That’s the 2nd layer of enhanced features. Many users also use enhanced keyboard features for fun or advanced methods to communicate – such as using GIFs to send a customized message that captures their exact feelings towards a particular person at a given moment. At the top of the pyramid are features that are part of PayKey’s unique value proposition, tailored specifically for banks.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

I guess it’s the tension that almost every product manager faces: I’ll always be too technical for the people on the business side, and not technical enough for the development team. It’s really like mastering two different languages. There’s also the challenge of rapid context switch: I can find myself jumping from a meeting with the R&D team on defining advanced algorithms for word autocorrection, to a sales meeting on a new market we’re about to enter. But to be honest – this diversity is actually what makes this role exciting.


Moving to some tech talk: PayKey puts a lot of effort on NLP (natural language processing), and there seems to be some buzz around this field in the Tech industry. Walk us through this concept and its relevance for the PayKey solution

From a technological standpoint, any human language can be viewed as math, analyzed according to a list of consistent rules. Think of the auto-prediction feature: the algorithm behind it constantly calculates the probability of the next word that the user is about to type, based on millions of past references by this and other users in a particular language. The same goes with auto-correction. People tend to take these keyboard functions for granted, but there’s a delicate balance at play: give the algorithm too much liberty to make spelling corrections and word suggestions, and you’re increasing the risk of typing words different than what the user intended. You can, of course, reduce the risk of errors to zero – but then the keyboard will avoid fixing even the most obvious spelling mistakes. Our work on NLP is at the heart of getting just the right level of involvement in users’ typing flow. 


What’s next on your product roadmap?

We’re currently working on a new design template that will enable banks to design their own keyboard flows in much shorter cycles compared to creating them from scratch. We’re talking about serious time saving, with full weeks slashed off the timeline, giving our customers a customized SDK much quicker than today.

Naturally, we’re constantly adding new features to our solution to make it more engaging. One example is creating keyboard themes. These themes can either be branded to each of our customers, or enable users to personalize their own screen from a menu of lively keyboard themes. We’re also working on new keyboard functionalities that are aimed to save users time and hassle. An example of such functionality could be the addition of a clipboard feature, that will enable users to store and quickly retrieve large chunks of text, such as an intro message.


How are you involved in defining the services that customers decide to make available through PayKey’s solution? 

It’s all about coming up with the most relevant use cases: ideally, the banking keyboard should offer services that have contextual significance. Take online shopping for instance: a user in the process of completing a purchase wants to peek at his account balance or copy his credit card number without disrupting the purchasing flow. The banking keyboard can provide this info seamlessly. 

Similarly, a user might be chatting with their spouse, who reminds them of a certain bill that has to be paid. With the right services placed on the banking keyboard, they can instantly check if their paycheck came through and complete the transfer as a seamless part of the chat.


On a personal note – what built you for this role?

As far as my professional experience goes, I’ve worked in previous positions with banks and brokerage firms and gained a lot from my MBA at Cornell University and from working for Google. But at a deeper level, from a personality perspective, I’m really driven by a passion to break down processes and find ways to improve the user experience. Think of the Split Bill feature that we launched last year for Davivienda in Colombia: most banks offer a request pay service on their app. But if you place it on a social setting, you can create a whole new user experience, wrapping it in a really cool solution. So I guess it’s a mix of creativity, analytics, an ability to see things from different, something conflicting viewpoints, and a bit of healthy