Last month, Marqeta announced its expansion into modern credit card issuing. The API-driven platform will enable customers to launch customized credit card products with more flexible controls and features. For the initial offering, Marqeta is working with Deserve, our digital-first partner, to provide program management services, allowing customers to launch an end-to-end credit product in a fraction of the time.
Bringing this new offering to market was no easy task and took the collaboration of many teams across Marqeta. Our Senior Vice President of Program Management Brian Kieley sits down with a few members of our product organization (Santiago Jeyaseleen, Daniel Chao, Akhila Singaraju) and design teams (Noopur Goel and Steph Corrales) to give you an inside look into how this product came to life.
The Marqeta journey into credit
Why did Marqeta invest in building a credit offering, and what pain points was Marqeta uniquely positioned to solve?
[SJ]: Credit cards are a popular form of payment method among consumers and fit well with our product strategy to bring our modern capabilities to market. With our modern tech stack and developer-friendly approach, Marqeta can help brands, banks, and fintechs build credit products with great customizability, get to market faster, provide an excellent cardholder experience, and quickly react to the market in managing their credit card portfolios. We have deep expertise in the prepaid and debit card issuance space, and we knew we wanted to expand modern card issuance capabilities into credit. Credit cards are an adjacent market where we can leverage most of our existing issuing and processing capabilities.
What experience is Marqeta bringing from prepaid and debit to the credit space?
[AS]: We were able to understand what it means to build for scale. While credit is in an early stage, learnings from the prepaid and debit world meant that we have a thorough understanding of best practices when it comes to things like API documentation, building for scale (e.g., load and performance testing), and prioritizing them in parallel to building the MVP version of the credit system.
[DC]: Marqeta really made a name for itself in the prepaid and debit space, and has developed strong partnerships along the way. Because of that, we were able to build on top of our existing technology and payments infrastructure, and bring that into our credit card issuing platform. This enables future credit card innovators to build their new credit product using our payment solutions that have already been successfully proven on the prepaid and debit side. With our platform, customers will have the flexibility to set dynamic spend controls on their credit card products where they can restrict card authorizations using business rules in real time. Customers will also be able to instantly create customized virtual credit cards and automatically push them into digital wallets. And to top it all off, they’ll be able to access their data in real time, which can provide meaningful insights to enhance their credit card portfolio.
What are the unique requirements and challenges of building a credit product?
[SJ]: Credit cards are one of the most complex products because the underlying product is a revolving line of credit. On top of card issuance and transaction processing, we had to build a loan management system of record from scratch, which is very complex, and time and resource-intensive. The sheer amount of scope to build this platform, plan and prioritize the requirements — and most importantly — to execute it in an iterative manner was the biggest challenge for us. We also had to understand the existing pain points for brands and banks that work with legacy processors, and had to rethink how our platform can overcome those challenges and create a modern tech stack that’s developer friendly and bring the control back to the brands and issuers.
[NG]: Two years ago, at the cusp of growing credit as a product offering at Marqeta, we were faced with the unique challenge to not only test our APIs, but garner internal excitement and alignment for credit. We needed to work quickly in order to begin testing our APIs from the start and socialize our cutting edge credit strategy and functionality with the larger company. Within seven weeks, in a small but nimble team, we created a robust design system and functioning app to begin testing and garnering that critical internal excitement about our product. We were set up for success with that initial push to then build the system iteratively as a team and grow feature sets alongside our API capabilities.
Building a world-class credit issuer processing platform
How did your team embark on building the credit product?
[AS]: Our approach was to have a thorough understanding of what the table stakes are when it comes to building a system of record for consumer credit. This thoroughly informed a succinct definition of what MVP is, and allowed for hyper focus. We spent time studying the market, and engaging with prospects and customers to validate the MVP vision as we embarked on continuous build. Having a partner like Deserve also helped in further building out the credit product, as we were able to get continuous feedback on the APIs we were building. We also invested early on in testing our APIs internally through a dogfooding mobile app we called Watermarq. The app, paired with a real credit card, allowed us to thoroughly test the credit system of record and processing engine as we embarked on continuous development.
Building an internal app like Watermarq is uncommon. How did you decide that this was the right approach? What did you hope to learn from building the app?
[DC]: As we embarked on this journey to build out credit, it was crucial for us to be able to quickly test our platform as we were rapidly building. This enabled us to internally test transactions and validate our credit APIs in the real world, ahead of our beta launch. The feedback that we received from our Marqeta employees making credit transactions out in the real world allowed us to discover issues and get them resolved more quickly. I think one of the most important things we were hoping to learn from Watermarq was to gain an understanding of any potential issues or hurdles customers may face when integrating with our platform. Developing a modern credit card platform and a consumer-facing app provided us insight into the customer journey that helped us develop deep customer empathy to tackle these issues head on.
[NG]: Building Watermarq was a big team investment — not only design, but product and engineering resources. We decided it was important for us to not only test our APIs, but design stunning visual and user experiences for the app to garner internal alignment and excitement around credit’s work. Launching a credit product was going to be an even longer journey than the internal testing app. We needed to use design thinking to connect to our core users, our leadership team, and continually showcase the progress we made as a team.
What was it like getting internal employees to use Watermarq and provide feedback?
[NG]: It was exciting to see how our seamless user experience and stunning design patterns were garnering internal excitement around the cutting edge work the credit team was building. The company was able to tangibly see and understand the features we were building as a team, as well as the direct impact they would have for customers in a business-to-consumer (B2C) context. We received some helpful feedback from internal employees around growing our feature sets when we first launched too. We iteratively added credit repayment flows, disputes, and grew our support and error handling experiences. The biggest takeaway is that designing an app like Watermarq is a slow and steady marathon in which we integrate user feedback and continue to grow our functionality.
What’s next for credit?
What are your future plans for the Watermarq app?
[SC]: We are excited to keep growing our design system and features for Watermarq. One of our newest feature sets is riding the line between business-to-business (B2B) and B2C experience with simulated features. These features will add another shiny and unique layer to our design ecosystem as well as empower our engineering team to continue to test our B2B-specific APIs. Overall, we look forward to continuing to grow our design system to be a flexible, malleable ecosystem that can shift and grow according to where we take credit in the near future.
Where are you looking to shift your focus over the next year?
[DC]: We’ve built the credit platform’s system of record from the ground up to offer flexibility and customizability to partners and issuers who are looking to launch a card with a revolving line of credit. And we’re only just getting started! We’ll be adding more innovative feature capabilities around new product constructs, such as charge cards or installment loans. The team will also be building and enhancing our state of the art, intuitive dashboard, which will empower customer service representatives to manage and service their cardholders’ needs.