Telling the stories behind N26
Making a behind-the-scenes video series about building a bank the world loves.
I joined N26 in May 2017 as the first full-time Video Producer. Back then we had just over 200 employees (now we’ve grown to four times that size). Our employer branding series InsideN26 was my first project and has developed into our longest-running video production. I’d like to take you through the process of how this format came about and the learnings that have shaped it along the way.
We wanted to create video content to support our rapid recruitment while simultaneously developing a sense of company culture. From my past experience as a video journalist this seemed fairly straightforward in terms of the format. But from a design standpoint we needed to determine the most appropriate visual style for the series. Which filmmaking choices would best reflect the values of this fast-growing fin-tech?
It was crucial that the videos felt authentic and approachable — and didn’t come across like we were ‘too-cool-for-school’. But they also needed to look professional and capture a freshness and warmth that echoed the enthusiasm of the people working here. As a fully-licensed bank the fundamental principle we value most is trust. By balancing a well-curated style and human approachability we were able to help organically foster this sense of trust with our customers as well as people considering joining N26.
Finding the right angles
Cluttered desks are a headache to make look good on camera. Not only that but as a visual metaphor they are in direct opposition to the minimalist design of our product. Thankfully we have architecturally-designed communal areas which better reflect our outward facing aesthetic. Many of our meeting rooms feature warm timber textures with bright splashes of our brand colours and are encased by glass. Filming through these clear panels has become a strong stylistic feature as it echoes our core value of transparency — a visual language we now carry across all our video content.
While filming these interviews we wanted to flesh-out aspects of employee’s lives that existed beyond the walls of the office: whether they had a love for life drawing, MMA kickboxing or craved the spice of South-East Asian cooking. These hobbies and talents are what lift their stories beyond that of a member of staff and into something more holistic and human. It also provided the perfect opportunity to shoot outside — after all, we are The Mobile Bank.
The main touch points for N26 are our cards and their packaging so we decided to produce a special feature on this design process. During production we had the opportunity to fly to London to collaborate with packaging provider Burgopak. Our hardware designer Taryn Niesena and I flew over from Berlin for the day to further improve our Black card unboxing experience. The benefit of visiting in person was that we had prototyping machines at our fingertips. Packaging material was laser cut under robotic rigs to quickly bring new concepts to life. It was a long day but we left just enough time for a quick pint on the Thames before hopping a flight back to Berlin. It’s opportunities like these that help build the vision of N26 as a global bank. Documenting our presence in different cities and collaborating with industry leaders reinforces that we’re determined to do what it takes to bring the best product to market.
In 2018 we expanded beyond our headquarters in Berlin, adding new office locations in New York and Barcelona. Along with that growth came bigger opportunities for InsideN26, including a collaboration with a video production company in New York. This satellite shoot prompted us to more concretely define the series format as we wanted to keep a uniform look and feel across all the videos. Coincidently this was at the same time we were in the process of defining wider rules and principles for motion design at N26. Everything from conceptual goals, how our animations move to video camerawork and editing style was being formalised into the Motion Design Styleguide. That process of documentation was a huge step forward, allowing us to reflect back on and learn from what we had already done and better focus on the direction we wanted to be heading.
Where to from here?
As N26 continues to grow the demand for employer branding content is now outweighing our in-house capabilities. The next steps for this series is to collaborate with an external production company that can help telling our stories. This production handover is still a work in progress but it’s exciting to see this project expand into the next stage.
One of the biggest learnings while making these videos is how important it is to ensure the person being interviewed is made to feel comfortable. When your subject is allowed a safe space to relax it really allows their true personality to shine through. That’s when it really feels honest and authentic. This level of familiarity and trust might be a hurdle to overcome once the series is handed over to an external agency. Our goal is to retain this sense of casual approachability in each video portrait.
For me the number one thing to keep in mind is don’t take yourself, or the format, too seriously. Even though N26 is a bank we’re still human, we have a sense of humour and we sometimes make mistakes. We don’t shy away from the imperfections — this is where that special human connection lies. So my advice to others producing similar content is to keep it casual, playful and have fun sharing your stories.
For all the camera nerds out there, I couldn’t write this article without listing off a few items inside our equipment cupboard. Our primary camera setup is a Sony FS5 with Metabones adapter and Canon EF 24–105mm. If we need a second camera for interviews or travel situations we use the very compact Sony a6500 (this is the camera I stuffed into a backpack and took to London for the day). We have two large LED panels for lighting but try to use natural light wherever possible to give a more documentary feel. For recording sound during interviews we prefer a wired lavalier microphone (less chance of static interruptions that can occur with radio kits) so we went with the AKG C417 — which does a great job.