Alain Kowalczyk, Product Manager in London, United Kingdom
Alain is available for hire
Hire Alain

Alain Kowalczyk

Verified Expert  in Product Management

Product Manager

London, United Kingdom
Toptal Member Since
August 31, 2020

Alain is an agile product leader and coach with over 20 years of fintech and payments experience successfully executing technology-centric propositions across multiple market sectors in both B2B and B2C. He launched a B2B white label indemnified top-up service using bank transfers, a world first at the time of launch. A humble people manager and change agent, Alain's leadership and coaching experience span start-up, early-stage growth, and large complex organizations.

Project Highlights

Indemnified Enterprise Digital Payment Top-up App
Led product development and deployment to the largest UK telecommunications operators of a world first—indemnified top-ups using direct debit bank payments.
E-learning Portal App for Enterprise Market
Acted as the product owner to create and establish a sustainable SaaS business model to win sales in the enterprise market.
B2B M-commerce App Start-up
Led all product design and development of successful B2B start-up, resulting in the sale of the business for £30 million after 18 months of live operation.


Work Experience

Lead Consultant - Agile

2019 - 2020
Emergn Associate (Self-employed)
  • Established proven agile exemplars to act as change beacons across the client's global technology estate through hands-on coaching of selected teams and identifying and resolving their primary productivity challenges.
  • Achieved a 200% increase in user engagement on agile clinics and virtual seminars within a three-month period of the change program by deploying marketing-centric activities to the 1,000+ global target audience.
  • Established a de facto agreed-upon standard for the role of product owner across technology by authoring the playbook and role profile, supporting learning content, and creating the competency matrix.
  • Enabled the client's 1,500 technology teams to self-navigate through an agile transformation journey without hands-on coaching by authoring media-enriched scripted pathways for each change capability.

Product Owner Coach

2017 - 2018
Sullivan & Stanley
  • Ensured high caliber product owners were in place across the global payment network product division to meet delivery of global sales milestones by sourcing new specialist agencies and overhauling the interview process.
  • Surfaced opportunity cost savings of multiple millions across two product platform initiatives by undertaking product lead interventions to pivot away from failing project mindset-centric programs.
  • Improved the potential outcome of the 2-year transformation program by championing the creation of the first product owner guild across the company, to foster best practice in a highly challenging environment.

Product Leader

2016 - 2017
  • Enabled a start-up e-learning technology SaaS provider to win three enterprise-level customers within a 12-month timeframe, by pivoting the product plan and scaling the ways of working and operational processes.
  • Created the company's first product roadmap and commercial pricing. Managed service contract schedules and corporate governance processes. Collaborated closely with alpha customers and sales channel partners.
  • Ensured fast-track delivery of the most valuable outcomes, namely a Netflix-type of end user experience to consume digital learning content, through ruthless and continuous grooming and prioritizing of the product backlog.
  • Established a sustainable development lifecycle by acting as an agile coach to a small dysfunctional team of eight development and business resources.
  • Collaborated with the CEO to pivot the technology to successfully create a disruptive play into the e-learning market space. The innovative proposition lead with a consumer-grade visual first offering, unlike the incumbent competition.

SVP of Product Operations

2014 - 2016
  • Led the establishment of a new product operations capability to support a number of value propositions within a new PaaS offering to the financial services market, through canvassing and winning C-level support.
  • Established an agile-based development lifecycle for back office operations, by championing and leading the design and execution of the required change program across technology and operations and sales.
  • Led the creation, design, and validation of all key process and user flows to ensure efficacy of customer bank onboarding to the platform.
  • Ensured commercial contracts were fit for purpose for a new PaaS offering by drafting all the operational contract schedules with legal counsel.
  • Mentored and matrix-managed the establishment of new product operations capability to serve local customers in the Americas region.
  • Established a product roadmap for PaaS product operations, aligning with the platform product portfolio.

Global Product Director

2012 - 2014
  • Led product proposition and roadmap for mobile payments and commerce offering for global client, with roll-out across three continents and target market of over 50 million users.
  • Established and sustained a global product roadmap for the core platform through regular canvassing of regional product teams and prioritized conflicting needs of local financial services customers.
  • Deployed mobile banking and commerce services to three new banking clients across Europe and the US.

Head of Product

2010 - 2012
Mobile Money Network
  • Led all product design and development of successful B2B/B2C start-up resulting in the sale of the business for £30 million after 18 months of live operation.
  • Deployed the UK's first indemnified payments app-based commerce for a B2B retailer and media companies.
  • Collaborated with marketing and sales to execute a number of user acquisition campaigns resulting in over 200,000 active users within 12 months of launch.
  • Led successful real-time integration with UK's largest mobile device retailer's POS and fulfillment systems, resulting in sales of over £10 million over a 6-month period.
  • Designed, developed, and deployed a B2B mobile marketing service for B2B customers within a 3-month timeframe.
  • Partnered with specialist image recognition supplier to deploy retail product checkout via image capture on app.
  • Championed the introduction of agile ways of working through the design and development teams to accelerate delivery of value outcomes.
  • Devised the credit risk policy and model to underpin the indemnified payment offering for B2B customers.

Senior Product Manager

2004 - 2010
  • Led all product innovation and value proposition activities for a corporate-funded start-up delivering a unique indemnified digital payment solution to the top-up marketplace.
  • Created disruptive innovative proposition in e-bank payments, with an associated £3 million exploratory budget. This initiative established the commercial and technical foundations for the subsequent launch of Pay By Account service by Mastercard.
  • Drove the intellectual positioning on the mobile payments discussion paper and prototype for the UK payments council. This innovation was subsequently realised with the launch of the national Paym service.

Consultant/Business analyst

1997 - 2004
  • Served as the lead consultant for the client. Completed the business requirements capture, definition, and testing of the payment services capability for a new mobile service provider, BT Genie.
  • Guided project as the lead business analyst. Achieved client acceptance of a re-platformed solution to power their $1 billion retail finance business. Directly accountable for BAD documentation, use case flows, UAT test strategy, and user training planning.
  • Led several opportunity assessments on digital wallets with many global telecommunications operators, delivering fully functional business and market models to underpin associated business cases.

Indemnified Enterprise Digital Payment Top-up App

Led product development and deployment to the largest UK telecommunications operators of a world first—indemnified top-ups using direct debit bank payments.

Seconded from Mastercard Vocalink, as a direct report within the start-up to the managing director, I acted as the sole product authority across this venture’s product lifecycle from inception to delivery into live production.

Establishing a collaborative approach from its inception with external technical and operational partners, I fostered an agreed development and operational model that allowed the start-up to deploy live services for Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, and Carphone Warehouse within a 12-month window.

The SaaS offering provided an innovative off-balance sheet managed service. The success of the business model predicated on using low-cost payment methods and risk management tools to drive operational profitability.

E-learning Portal App for Enterprise Market

Acted as the product owner to create and establish a sustainable SaaS business model to win sales in the enterprise market.

I was brought into the start-up to help pivot the initial technology solution into the e-learning market. Working closely with the founder and sales channel partners, I published the first product roadmap and pricing strategy, authored new contractual schedules, established a help desk solution and DR facility, underpinned by a new product development approach.

I employed a strong collaborative working approach to improving fractious team dynamics between development and marketing staff, driving an increased focus on value-based prioritization. This ensured the platform was clearly differentiated from its larger established competitors as a user-centric, consumer-grade digital hub. Key techniques introduced to the team to improve ways of working included impact mapping, customer journey mapping and alpha user testing.

I was directly accountable for deploying the SaaS platform to the first two enterprise customers, enabling the start-up to generate substantial revenue for the first time in two years.

B2B M-commerce App Start-up

Led all product design and development of successful B2B start-up, resulting in the sale of the business for £30 million after 18 months of live operation.

Responsible for the execution of the business strategy, I led cross-functional teams to design, develop, and successfully launch an m-commerce-managed service offering to the UK's retail and media communities.

At the time, a key market differentiator of the fully managed m-commerce service offering was payment indemnity. This was highly attractive to enterprise customers who had little m-commerce experience. I collaborated with marketing and sales to prioritize the product backlog to support a number of user acquisition campaigns, resulting in over 200,000 active users within 12 months of launch.

I sponsored and executed several experiments to hone the value proposition, including a B2B mobile marketing service and express retail product checkout via image capture on the app.

Technology Refresh of Retail Finance Product

Assisted as the lead business analyst within a 15 FTE team, ensuring client acceptance of production delivery of a multi-tier architecture technology refresh to support their $1 billion retail finance business line.

As the lead business analyst within a 15 FTE team, ensured formal acceptance from the client for re-platforming of their $1 billion retail finance business onto a new multi-tier architecture product.

I worked with the business teams to identify, document, and prioritize the requirements of the current product and directly authored BAD and service definition documents sourced from multiple client documentation to inform the technical design and development effort.

I then worked with key power users and stakeholders during the development phase to scope the testing strategy and path to production service readiness. I coordinated a small cross-functional team representing each business area to surface the QA and UAT tests required to achieve acceptance of the 9-month project. I also defined and actioned a number of QA tests on behalf of the client.
1986 - 1989

Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Science and Engineering

University of Leeds - United Kingdom


Certified Scrum@Scale Practitioner

Agile Centre LLP


Jira, Confluence

Industry Expertise

High-tech Startups, Digital Banking Applications, Banking & Finance


Scrum, Agile Product Management, Agile Workflow, B2B2C, Agile, Requirements Analysis, Business to Business to Consumer (B2B2C), Kanban, Agile Project Management, B2C, Change Management


Agile Transformation, Scrum Product Owner, Agile Product Delivery, Product Leadership, Product Management, B2B Product Management, Digital Payments, Mobile Banking, Payment Networks, Business Requirements, Early-stage Startups, Alternative Payment Methods, Product Coach, Value Proposition, VFQ, Value Modeling, Business Models, Head of Product, Product Strategy, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Jobs to be Done (JTBD), Impact Mapping, Feature Backlog Prioritization, Business Cases, EBPP, Online Payments, User Stories, Story Mapping, Business Analysis, Growth, Fintech, Startups, Digital, Roadmaps, SaaS, SaaS Product Management, Requirements, User Requirements, Pricing, Pricing Models, Price Analysis, eCommerce, Mobile eCommerce, User Needs, APIs, Product Design, eCommerce Development, Product Roadmaps, B2B, Innovation, Leadership, Feature Analysis, Product Ownership, Digital Product Management, Communication, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Cross-functional Collaboration, Product Vision, User Journeys, Product-market Fit, Training Content, Product Marketing, Scrum Coaching, Lean Product Management, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Software as a Service (SaaS), Enterprise SaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS), Lean Development, Systems Thinking, Customer Journeys, Post-merger Integration, Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), Open Banking APIs, Mobile Apps, Scrumban, User Interviews, User Flows, Competitor Analysis & Profiling, User Research, Innovation Labs, Agile Coaching, Remote Team Leadership, User Experience (UX), Innovation Management, Disruptive Innovation, User Journey Maps, QA Testing, User Acceptance Testing (UAT), Regulatory Compliance, Learning Management Systems (LMS), Edtech Design, Payment Processing, Payment APIs, Risk Modeling, Business Process Modeling, Pricing Strategy, Operations, Market Segmentation, Miro, Use Case Analysis

Collaboration That Works

How to Work with Toptal

Toptal matches you directly with global industry experts from our network in hours—not weeks or months.


Share your needs

Discuss your requirements and refine your scope in a call with a Toptal domain expert.

Choose your talent

Get a short list of expertly matched talent within 24 hours to review, interview, and choose from.

Start your risk-free talent trial

Work with your chosen talent on a trial basis for up to two weeks. Pay only if you decide to hire them.

Top talent is in high demand.

Start hiring