Georgia Fintech Academy

S2 - Episode 14: Inside the Wallets of Working Americans with Anita Ward, Chief Development and Diversity Officer, Salary Finance and Lilly Sharples of UGA

May 28, 2021 Georgia Fintech Academy Season 2 Episode 14
Georgia Fintech Academy
S2 - Episode 14: Inside the Wallets of Working Americans with Anita Ward, Chief Development and Diversity Officer, Salary Finance and Lilly Sharples of UGA
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Georgia Fintech Academy
S2 - Episode 14: Inside the Wallets of Working Americans with Anita Ward, Chief Development and Diversity Officer, Salary Finance and Lilly Sharples of UGA
May 28, 2021 Season 2 Episode 14
Georgia Fintech Academy

Anita Ward, the Chief Development and Diversity Officer of Salary Finance is a national leader in improving #financialinclusion for all Americans. She joins Lilly Sharples, a junior at the The University of Georgia and a fintech engaged computer science major and leader in the Terry FinTech Society. This discussion unpacks the 3rd annual Salary Finance study, "Inside the Wallets of Working Americans." 

Show Notes Transcript

Anita Ward, the Chief Development and Diversity Officer of Salary Finance is a national leader in improving #financialinclusion for all Americans. She joins Lilly Sharples, a junior at the The University of Georgia and a fintech engaged computer science major and leader in the Terry FinTech Society. This discussion unpacks the 3rd annual Salary Finance study, "Inside the Wallets of Working Americans." 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Georgia FinTech academy podcast. The Georgia Vintech academy is a collaboration between Georgia's FinTech industry and the university system of Georgia. This talent development initiative addresses a massive demand for FinTech professionals and give learners the specialized education experiences needed to enter the FinTech sector.

Speaker 2:

Hi , this is Tommy Marshall , the executive director of the Georgia FinTech academy. Welcome to season two, episode 14. We got a really interesting show lined up for you today. We have Anita award, the chief development and diversity officer from salary finance. Joining us along with Lily Sharples of the university of Georgia. Welcome Lily and Anita.

Speaker 3:

Hi Tommy. That's on me here

Speaker 2:

Before we jump into the meat of our discussion. Um, could you take some time to just tell us about your career journey? Um, it, you've had such an impressive career continue to have, do amazing things , uh , tell our listeners about that.

Speaker 3:

Sure. Thanks Tommy. Thanks for , uh , for asking me because I think your story , um, everybody's story is really what informs , uh , your life. And my story starts, my career story starts actually when I was a child and I'm not sure, you know, this, I know we know each other pretty well, but I grew up a homeless child and, and couch surfed , um, with friends and family. Um, my family , uh , didn't have financial wellbeing really didn't have a sense of financial literacy. And so we lived for the most part with friends and relatives. I , I often joke with people when people talk about their home address. I say minus 13, because I lived in 13 places before I was 16. And , um, and I think that that really begins to inform , um, both my psyche, my mindset, and my, really my passion for how do you create inclusive financial services , uh , products. So I , um, I was really fortunate in that. I went to the university of California. My parents landed us in Las Vegas of all places. So I'm an east coast born and bred girl for those 13 locations. But , uh, at some point my dad threw all of us into a U haul and we drove across the country with $200 and lived in the Mojave desert in the back of a U hall . And until I got a job at McDonald's and I shared this Tommy , because McDonald's really taught me how to understand , um, finances, what it meant to be , uh, financially empowered. And, and at the same time, it was McDonald's on Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas, and it was a franchise owner. So I got a bit of entrepreneurs and at the same time, and, and from there , um, I ended up it , you know, I , I went to college, I was fortunate, went to California, went to UC Santa Barbara and fell in love, not with computer science, but with anthropology, which really seems odd, but anthropology is really about people and, and cross-culturally how do people behave? And so if you think about both currency and commerce and how that shaped by the, the cultures of the organizations or the subcultures of the communities within which you're offering a product and, and how finance is the finance and economics are, you know, the backbone of that society. I embraced anthropology, but what I didn't think about and Lily listened to me carefully, thank God you're in tech in tech, because what I didn't think about was when I left school, what was I going to do with an anthropology degree? There wasn't a box on an org chart that said cultural anthropologist . And, and , and so I was really fortunate because the CIO of Occidental petroleum , um, interviewed me for an opportunity and, and hired me. And his logic was he knew nothing about people, and I knew nothing about computers. And for him, that was a marriage made in heaven because every strategy that he wanted to employ every technology he wanted to deploy was really rooted in the, an understanding of people. So I would ask all of the questions that nobody on his team would ask, because they'd be too embarrassed to admit that they may or may not know what that technology is. And in the process, what I realized was the power of tech to drive cultural change. And that if you could integrate geek, speak with human speak, that, that in fact, that that is a powerful tool, powerful tool in terms of mergers and acquisitions in terms of efficiencies, in terms of new product development, but one without the other, didn't have the same synergy as when you brought the two together. So I'm an accidental CIO. Um, I'm fortunate that I had a mentor early on who leaned in and sit and gave me that opportunity, but I went from oil and gas into insurance and banking and , uh, and w ended up at , um, chase through a series of acquisitions. And I was a CIO for all of the emergent technologies. I often joke is because nobody else wanted, you know , the ICTs to experiment with those. But for me, I was delighted because the emergent technology was the future piece. So how do you wrap your head around what should banking products of the future look like and how do you deploy them, and how do you think about them from a cultural perspective? So not just what's the technology architecture and how sexy is that, but really what are you trying to achieve from both the employee perspective and the customer perspective? And I recall one day I share this because I think it's an important thing for FinTech to keep in mind. Um, but herb Kelleher, the founder of , um, Southwest airlines was on our board and I was going through a passionate speech, as you might suspect around all these great new technologies we had developed. And we looked at it from the customer perspective and how exciting it was and looking at that journey. And herb said to me, I needed , that's lovely, but you really can't have a satisfied customer without a satisfied employee. So what are you doing with technology to focus on your internal culture, as much as you are your external culture? And in many ways he was asking us to eat the food we cooked and , uh, rather than just roll it out to a marketplace. Um, and so for me, that's really where I became a CIO. That's really where my love and passion for technology came about. Um, I did a stint in the, in the healthcare world with the Cleveland clinic and built technologies for brain health and for the neurological Institute, which was also really interesting and exciting, but I ended up there because both my parents were ill and I had to move back to Las Vegas to take care of them. And the clinic and Cleveland clinic happens to be in Las Vegas , um, and everything in my lifetime, he seems to be accidental. So I dunno , somebody might argue that in others, there's, nothing's accidental. Right. But , uh, but , um, I lost both my parents sadly, but my son took on this great career in entertainment and we needed to be in Los Angeles. So I reached out to friends, somebody was on the board of an organization called operation hope. And he said, I really think that you could get passionate around what operation hope does. So I moved to LA as a chief transformation officer initially for operation hope, hope is a financial , um , coaching and education organization. It's a nonprofit and designed it to uplift financially, the individuals who are living in underserved communities. So it fit right in with my anthropological side, fit in with my technology side. Ultimately , uh , I ended up in Atlanta as president of operation hope and , um, we built that organization from what was nine locations at the time that I joined. And in four years we grew it to about 170. And so , uh, that, that transformational piece of using technology to help uplift , uh, the unbanked, the underserved, the most marginalized of our communities is what I'm most passionate about. But coaching can only take you so far. Education can only take you so far and you need the tools. I met the salary finance team about a year and a half ago, and thought these guys can help me carry that forward and really , uh, provide tools and technologies that , uh , a non-profit certainly doesn't have at their disposal. And I joined about a year and a half ago as chief development officer. And , um, and, and again, a bit accidental. I met them at the hope global forum. So C you know, life is a series of choices and accidents and pathways to a future that you may not have ever anticipated.

Speaker 2:

I love that. It's such a great story. This, this FinTech industry is so lucky to have you, and it's , uh, it's just been exciting for me to, to know you. Um, and I , um, I look forward to how things continue to evolve , um, with, with salary finance. And I know there's just been, there's been key things like, I think of 'em as operation hope was kind of growing and succeeding. I know like chase played an important role and there was that relationship or continues to be that relationship where, where chase, I guess, provides a forum, a place for the coaching to be executed or engaged on between the communities and , uh , um, and the, and the, and the experts. Um, and , um, there's all these, I'm sure, multiple key connective pieces you brought to bear , uh, to helping people improve their financial lives.

Speaker 3:

Yeah . It's most of the money center banks tummy . So the model is called hope inside, and the banks actually provide the space to an operation hope coach and , uh , then individuals from the community or individuals from their own organizations come and get free counseling and free education , uh, to support that. And , um , I also believe that hope has introduced a digital platform. So if you can't get to a location in response to COVID, that you can actually, you know, FaceTime a coach, which is pretty great , uh, but it gives access to resources that, you know, historically are, are the , uh , resources that you, or you might've had, or somebody else may have had through like wealth or private in a bank. This really takes it and creates a private bank for the poor.

Speaker 2:

I love that. It's such an exciting , um, concept. And , uh, and one that just demonstrate, I mean, it gets back to the anthropological , uh, comments, like there's, there's so many , um, exciting possibilities that are, that are possible today with , um , the technology we have before us at lower, lower price points, I guess, or lower cost that , uh, and then of course the mobile phone has helped the opportunity , uh, even even further with it's , um, what it unlocks in terms of possibilities for advice and guidance , um, to really almost all people , um, a lot, it's almost like the possibilities are endless. Uh, it seems , uh, it's just , uh, we're only limited by our creativity. It almost seems today in so many ways, it

Speaker 3:

Certainly provides accessibility and inclusion. So if you think about the ubiquity of a smartphone, it's much more pervasive than the technologies I certainly had to play with, you know, as, as CIO for many years, it's , uh, it, and everybody's a creator in this world. So, you know, students create, we all create content is, is not to sound so cliche, but so much of this has been democratized where it used to be really consolidated and centralized in the hands of larger organizations. The access to technology and access to a developers kit is, is broadly available. So there is no limit, as you say , uh, other than your own imagination, even education for technology has in many ways become open-sourced . So this idea of, I believe now I'm going to really sound like an anthropologist, but I believe this idea of open source technology really aligns nicely with open source cultures, if you were will, but you're able to create groups. You're able to create communities, organizations evolve, the technology evolves, and this contribution your currency to play is your contribution back to open source, whether that's data or code or ideas. So I , I think the ethnography for an anthropologist now is really quite different from what it was with Margaret Mead , when she was looking at, you know, at the Samoans. Now the ethnography digital ethnography is really quite exciting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah . I'm talking about , um, well, let's get, come back to, I want to come back to salary Friday . I said a minute, but Lee , Lily ,

Speaker 4:

Tell us about you. Of course. So my name is Lily circles , and as I mentioned earlier, I'm a rising junior at the university of Georgia. And , um , thank you for sharing your story. I knew that mine's going to be a little different. So I actually grew up in Silicon valley, California and my dad worked in tech. I had zero ingesting computers until my senior year of high school. I wanted to be a vet. Um, I was going to be a horse vet, dead set on it. And then my senior year of high school, my dad, he made me take one coding class and I took one coding class. And I was kind of like, okay, I actually kind of enjoyed it , some kind of good at this. So it changed my entire path, decided to come be a computer science major. So now I'm studying computer science and I'm going to get my master's in artificial intelligence. So very different than becoming a vet. And , um, recently in the past year, I've also got into financial technology. So I, because I wanted to be a vet, I kind of thought what if I can find that intersection of being a vet and doing technology, you're like kind of biomedical technology. So that was my first plan being a computer science major. And then I discovered , um , UGA is our Terry college of business school. We had a Terri FinTech society and I joined that and I thought, wow, this is kind of cool. I really enjoy all the, all the data and everything working around with finance and banks and technology. You know, there's so much technology and finance, as we all know, and banks, every day, he used some kind of financial technology. So I'm actually now the vice president of Terry FinTech society. And we work pretty closely with , um, with Tommy and the Georgia FinTech academy. Hence why I'm here. But yeah, that's a little bit about me. I'm very interested in financial technology. Now I'm actually working for IBM this summer as a development operations engineer. So looking forward to building more of those , um , technological skills that I can then carry forward into the field of financial technology and my

Speaker 3:

Future Lily , that's so exciting. I have to tell you when I first entered the tech world, there were very few women. Um, and so the idea that more and more , um, all of us have begun to embrace technology and you clearly can't go wrong, you know, studying AI right now, everything that that we're doing in terms of infrastructure and artificial intelligence, I think is , um, is so important. So it's certainly crossed industry. So congratulations on thinking that through. Although I think being of that is also a wonderful, maybe you can create those of a virtual pets for us or a virtual, you know , something for us. Uh , I'm excited

Speaker 2:

To tell you both that we recently pulled the , um, gender and race, ethnicity data on the FinTech students. We have system-wide and we found that , uh , 34% of the students engaging with our FinTech program are women. Um, and of course we're not done yet. We want to be at parody . Um, timing . I was very encouraged by, yeah, I was really encouraged by the 34%. And we've had , um, so many women like you, Lily that are kind of stepping up in like leadership roles with , uh, with the FinTech society, what you're doing at UGA, but at several of the other schools that we engage with. And , um, it's , uh , it's just been, it's just been wonderful and it's so , um , exciting to me and to this program and to the industry, right ? I mean, the , uh, the different industry , um, corporates and otherwise that are engaging with us and really coming to the FinTech academy as a source of talent , um, had just been a few sieve in their comments around , um, the diversity profile from both the gender , um , and racial ethnicity standpoint, I guess, on that front 71% of the students are from underrepresented groups. Um, and that's also, yeah, there's, there's nothing like it in the, in the U S for the fin financial services technology

Speaker 3:

Industry. Yeah. Congratulations on, that's a huge success and, you know, I'm now Atlanta is my home. So forget about that. Number 13, I'm , I'm here to stay, but , uh, I also know that Silicon valley has, you know, such a, such a problem when it comes to , um, diversity, equity and inclusion. So in some ways, while I don't want to lose students from Atlanta, because we have plenty of, of tech opportunities, it's also potentially a pathway for us to help, you know, the , the valley that we're , you know, the Genesis of technology took place. So,

Speaker 2:

And I can't , um, I can't name names yet, Anita, but I can tell you , um, some, some big names from that part of the world have been knocking on my door a lot lately, and we've got a lot of exciting conversations underway that I'm hoping to bring to fruition , um, so that we can demonstrate further , um, our engagement with that part of the industry. Uh , and, you know, we've been seeing more of those big tech names making investments right here,

Speaker 3:

Right here now in Atlanta. Yeah. And that

Speaker 2:

Certainly has helped , um, Anita, tell us about salary finance

Speaker 3:

Salary, finances. Uh , it's amazing. So first of all, but salary finance was born in the UK in 2015. Um, the founders, Dan Cobley was the , the head of Google Europe. Uh, Daniel Chacone is a social philanthropist and a sash Sarkar , uh , are the three founders and necess was, I think at some point the youngest , um, consulting partner at PA consulting, but they recognized an opportunity in the marketplace , uh, where , um, individuals who were precluded from really participating in both the capital markets and, and having access to capital when they, it , um, did it wasn't there. So they built technology that used, that was built on the thesis, that if you had a salary link and you used a salary link as your secret sauce in this architecture, that you could underwrite loans differently. And the salary link would allow you to take a deduction on, or take a payment through a deduction from your salary. Uh, and it would allow salary finance then to suppress interest rates, but more importantly, it would allow them to be inclusive. So when I talked about the marginalized communities that we helped at operation hope, if there was a salary link, very different from traditional banking, we can underwrite, you know , uh, subprime loans. And to in fact, the entire company was built on the premise that we would offer financial services to , um, individuals, but we would scale it through their employer. So , uh, you know, I talked about our 168 locations at hope, nothing scales faster than getting big employers on board and leaning in. So if we could offer financial services through an employer, then in fact , um, we felt like we could more much more quickly and much more broadly impact lives. We are founded as a social purpose organization. We are members of conscious capitalism and our value systems drive everything that we do. Every hire, we make every product we build every, every marketplace opportunity we're matching up values first and making sure that people are aligned around social purpose. So for us, the social purpose is to get millions of in, in our case. Now I'm selfishly talking about the U S but millions of working Americans, millions of employees from a position of struggling to a position of prospering. Uh, we , we like to talk about it in terms of moving individuals along the financial continuum, there are basically five products that sit within the financial well-being platform. And, oh, by the way, Tommy, we don't charge an employer and we don't charge an employee. So our social purpose first and foremost said, this is an employee benefit with no charges. So if you really want to break down the obstacles to , um, for the unbanked and obstacles to individuals who don't trust the banking system, and don't have financial services, you remove all the fees , um, which really goes against everything I used to build in banking, by the way. Right?

Speaker 2:

So the month the revenue that's made is made on interest income.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So we, yeah, so we offer a learning platform for free. You can measure and assess your financial wellbeing , both as an organization and as an individual. So you can track your financial fitness score. And then all of the tools and curriculum are lined up in indexed by where you are in your financial journey. So if you're struggling, there's no reason for me to present to you Fidelity's stuff, right? I need to present to you information. That's going to get you from struggling to coping. So all of the tools, all of the platform is indexed along this financial wellbeing continuum. That's rooted in our data. I'm a big data person, a bit of a geek, as you can imagine. So , um, in addition to a learning platform, we have a Barling platform that is completely inclusive, as I said, so an individual can apply for a loan with salary finance. We underwrite it not using FICO score. We underwrite it based upon tenure. So we believe that stability, if you will, tenure with an organization is a much better indicator of ability to repay a loan. So we're underwriting it based on that. And then we kept our interest rates. So we don't have a single interest rate higher than 19.9%. We think anything beyond that is predatory. I don't care if you have a 500 credit score, you're never going to see anything above 99 with salary finance. So , uh, and then additionally, we know we don't do everything. So , um, for example, we know we don't do financial coaching, but we know there are lots of great organizations like operation hope that do so we have a database and a process that we call get help. So an employee can go onto our platform, search for a coach, find a coach , um, could in fact, maybe even search, maybe they're struggling. Maybe they have a pre-foreclosure process in place. We have , uh , 40,000 people that it , or 40,000 organizations vetted in our database, all of which provide their services for free to fill in any gaps that we might have in our process. And then lastly, Tommy and Lily, you're going to hear some news from me today that we haven't even done the press release on. So , um, th this is, this is just for you Tommy right now, and I'm excited to announce it here. First, me exclusive be exclusive in the next , um , two weeks, maybe next week. But in the next two weeks, we're announcing a safe program and we are incentivizing that safe program with cash incentives from salary finance. So we want to encourage employees to save. We are, we are really struck by that CFPB , um, fact that what 48% of Americans don't have $400 in savings and COVID made it worse and made it much worse for the BiPAP community. But , um, so we are effectively leaning in with cash that equates to a 10% interest rate on a saving account and maybe a digital account . So for every hundred dollars you save telly finances given you 10. And we believe, yeah , there's nothing right . There's nit are met

Speaker 2:

Right now. Like the best savings rate even a wealthy person can get right now is 1% maybe,

Speaker 3:

Maybe, yeah. Maybe. And that might be with your Goldman Marcus account. Right? Right . Actually, Goldman Marcus is only doing 50 basis points. So I don't even think anybody's at a hundred basis points, but most of the big banks are at a 0.1%. So they're at 10 basis points. First thing we're going to effectively give you 10%. And , uh, and we're going to set it up with also what we think of as kind of a spending account. So we know people have to spend, and we know the two go hand in hand, but the spending accounts also going to have a roll-up feature in it so that you can , um, save when you spend. So if you spent $10 and 20 cents at Starbucks and you want to roll up those extra 80 cents into your savings, you'll be surprised how quickly that accumulates. And then lastly, on the saving account, we were around the spending on saving account. We removed all fees. So there are no fees. And if you're on your savings account, you went to Starbucks, but you check didn't hit right away. Um, we have free overdraft protection. And so we're offering that. So again, we're trying to get to the unbanked who ended up paying all those overdraft fees, who really are terrified about participating. We've removed those obstacles. We've made it super easy, and we're rewarding people with a cash incentive to sign up for it. And we believe that this initiative is going to start to close the financial divide, particularly as it relates to savings. So now we've attacked it from the financial divide from the borrowing side, because we're not using FICO to make a lending decision. And now we've, and from the saving side, because we're not using fight . Tito , tell me in many times the, you know, to get that account, even a savings account, a bank is running a credit check, and we're the people who really need it may have a 500 credit score. So we've eliminated all of those pieces. We've eliminated the that's the , um , check system. So we're not even asking if you've had problems with another bank, we're still gonna help you open your account because we know your debt , you need the help. So we've put all of this together into what we call a financial well-being platform, offering it into , um , employers for free. So you can learn, you can access emergency resources, you can build your savings, you can access affordable capital. And , um, and we've grouped that together into what we think is , uh, is driven. Well , we know it's driven by social purpose because we want to help people, but it's all rooted in the tenants of conscious capitalism. And, and as importantly, it's, it's free. So our, our business model, as you started to speak to Tommy is really our cost of funds and our average interest rate. And we believe that as our loan portfolio grows, then , um, you know, so will our margins. So we're where , uh, we'll be doing well by doing good at the end of the day. And I , and we service our own loans to Tami . So that's , um, that's really important because that lets us do things like Tesla's a big customer of ours. We have four and a half million , um , uh , people using our platform and about 600 employers, but Tesla is one of our , um , larger clients in the U S and you know, they had to furlough people during COVID. Well , what we did was we put them on payment holidays. We said, go buy your groceries. Don't worry about your loans. You can do that when you service the loan. So literally you'll love it because we have, you know, unique underwriting and unique AI that sits in the background of how we underwrite a loan , um, and how we build into those algorithms. The , you know, socio-cultural factors, including , um, you know, behavioral, economic , uh , factors, and, and in many ways , uh , the cultural piece is some still an anthropologist, but with a little bit of, of data and a whole lot of technology we've created this, this, what we think is an effective driver of change, social change in our FinTech. Yeah. Thank you. Nita .

Speaker 4:

I did have one question. So I know you mentioned you're working with companies like Tesla. So are you, is your a platform, are you mainly reaching out to companies to attract their employers? Or are you working with individuals or can people reach out to you to use your platform?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's a B2B model. So we're basically working within employers. So , um, if you're an employee of Tesla, we'll stick with Tesla who doesn't love Elan . Right. Um, I would have to get to an argument with you if you said otherwise. Yeah . But we're not

Speaker 2:

Going on the Elon Musk tangent . We're going to stay away .

Speaker 3:

I know. Yeah. I know one another day. Tell me, but if you , but if you've worked for , uh , Tesla , then , um, this is , uh, it's, it's considered like a voluntary benefit in an organization. So you have it available to you as an employee benefits. Okay, awesome. That's super cool to hear. Thanks.

Speaker 2:

I'm just, I'm just curious to hear your questions. Lily is your , as you is, you're just getting introduced here to salary finance , um , either from a business perspective or a technology perspective.

Speaker 4:

Yeah . And again, I like how you're saying that you guys are using a lot of artificial intelligence kind of in the background of that. It definitely shows that there's, I'm sure you have lots of, you know, you already have your one ID that has lots of things moving forward. I'm sure you're gonna be able to keep incorporating all this new modern technology and that,

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's interesting. One of the things we've been looking at lately is we do integration with payroll systems, for example, for , um , the salary deduction, but there's lots of new emergent technology like our guile and , and plaid that may infect, facilitate that integration and , and make it so we don't have to do it. So we are, we continue to look at other technology partners as they're growing. Um, we have , uh, we have obviously our own IP, but it , but partnerships, I think in the world of FinTech are critical , uh , because somebody is going to do that middleware and that integration or validation or verification, all of that in that one pot , that's where they're going to specialize. So rather than us trying to build it, it may in many ways, make sense to look at an Argyle, for example, for validation or verification. Um, we have integration with , um , payroll systems. So if you, you know, you think about that deduction. The last thing HR wants to do is have to manually input, you know, Lilly Sharples $20 this week to salary finance. So we've, we've built the integration pieces as well, which I think , um, from an it perspective, all of you might find interesting. Um, because each payroll system obviously has its own set of specs. And , uh, and so there's a lot that happens in the background in order to deliver our social purpose and all of that's techs . So it kind of circles back to where I started with my story, right. I fell in love with technology, not just cause I think, you know , uh, databases are the coolest thing ever, but I fell in love with it because I think it can make a difference in society. And that's why I stay focused.

Speaker 4:

You were mentioning earlier about how everything's kind of open source and you were saying you have all these kinds of other platforms. You're like, why don't, why would we do it ourselves if we had these platforms already available to us? So I definitely say you say it kind of all comes full circle about everything can be open source for the, for the common good.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. At the end of the day, I always said, as a CIO, my, my best friend was my chief architect. Right. So , uh, because that individual could help me figure out what does the integration look like? What should the architecture be? What are our options in that structure? And so I always kept them close.

Speaker 2:

Well , Lily's now a dev ops engineer. So she wants dev ops engineers to be also your best

Speaker 3:

Friends. Of course there will , we can't let the architect and I can't get it done without, without , uh, experts like Lily .

Speaker 2:

The , um, the other thing I just wanted to touch on for a minute, Anita, before we head to the news wrap up was is , um, the, the report that you all just released , um, the, the third annual salary finance inside the wallet. [inaudible] um, can you just give us a few headlines of what you learned? Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

Yes. It's a, it's a longitudinal study. This is our third year of looking at , um, what or what individuals are going through in terms of financial stress. And I'm happy to share it with anybody telling me, so I'll give you a link and if you want to have the link on your podcast , and I'm happy to share that with individuals. And then again, back to my open source, if anybody on this call wants to actually work with the data, just please reach out to me. And , uh , we're willing to make the raw data available as well for other people who are doing research well, you had ,

Speaker 2:

Uh , that's uh , okay. I'll definitely be reaching out to you on that with the university. Yeah . Cause we've got it with the Georgia state and in particular, their masters of finance , um, professors , uh, bows on gang and Russia, Ashraf , they've been kind of knocking on my door every day. Like Cami , I need , we need more datasets

Speaker 3:

Help you. Yes, I can help you. We have a hunt , we asked 178 questions, Tanya . And as you know, this report's only about 30 pages long, so we clearly have much more data than we've actually reported on. Um, but we look at , um, financial stress and this, these are from 2020. So you'll see how people were feeling in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. But , um, more than half of working Americans , um , are financially stressed and 67% of, of everybody who's employed , uh, doesn't have money set aside for an emergency, which really that number is so compelling because we thought we need to drive a savings product. And that's the data that led us to really addressing savings. People don't have , um , emergency funds set aside. And when you see a 67%, that's incredible. But some other things that we saw pop out it that we hadn't really thought about was that as a result of COVID 40% of , um, of employees are financially supporting family members. So I know that now the jobs market is picking back up, but this was an expense that nobody anticipated eight or nine months of supporting friends and family. Um , and 40% of us were doing that. So the numbers there, when you start to the, to look at them are pretty, I think pretty compelling, particularly , um, there , if in fact, what we saw was that if in fact people were out of work for a longer period of time, or for actually for even a short period of time, 53%, couldn't pay their basic expenses, 53%, oh , financial shock hits, or somebody loses their job . 53% of them couldn't pay their expenses. And then the other one that we really don't keep eyes on is how much 401k borrowing there was last year. Yeah . So another, I think it's 49 to 50% say that they're going to use up all the retirement money before they retire. And so if you have all of the struggling going on, the data's showing us that many of us are not prepared for the next financial shock. And then what we did was we flipped a diversity , uh, uh, equity and inclusion lens and said, what does this look like for , um, for women in the BiPAP community? And, and do you know that 25% of that group left their jobs to be full-time caregivers last year? So now you're talking about re-entry, you're talking about financial impact. Um, and , uh , 57% of Latin X employees have less than two months of expenses saved. 55% of African-American employees , uh, are the same way and about 43% of women. So you combine all those together and, you know, you've got systemic issues going into 2020 and those systemic issues of wealth and income disparities. And then you layer on this level of financial stress. Um, I think what's going to happen is we, I , I think it's a tale of two wallets, right? Not just one wallet. And we've got to look at both of those wallets and segment that data, particularly because Tommy , what people aren't thinking about is how many forbearances were in place in 2020s mortgage forbearances re rent forbearances student loan. Forbearances that check is coming due. That's

Speaker 2:

All got to get turned back on. It's all getting turned back on fulfilled , and

Speaker 3:

There are 19 million Americans at risk of losing their home. Um, uh , once those forbearances are gone. So , uh, we are, we are focused very much , uh , as I said on the data and what is the data telling us? And this particular year , uh, it was, it was pretty compelling. The other piece that we saw was , um, you know, credit score related because there is a big disparity in average credit scores, particularly when you look at it by race. And , um, and the average credit score for African-Americans for example, was six 47. But the average credit scores for , um, for white population was seven 34. So again, you're looking at systemic issues that we've got to address either through , um , education, through these impairment tools, through tools like ours. Uh, if we, I didn't, I don't know that I mentioned it, but when you take out a salaried link to loan , we, we report to the bureaus and your payments are on time because they come from your salary. So we're popping credit scores by 43 points quickly, and we'll say lot of economic leverage right there. So there's, there's, I have lots of data around this. I won't, I won't, you know , um, for you with all of the numbers, but , um , I will say that, you know , um , many people, 76% don't have access to affordable credits, and I'll just leave you with that one giant statistic , um, out of the data that says we're driving those individuals to predatory lenders, we're driving to predatory sources. And , uh, and while I understand that people need access to capital, we as fintechs have to step up and , and fill that gap so that , uh , the people who are most vulnerable are not paying three and 400% on a small dollar loan. So I, you know, I think you'll find the data. I think you'll find the data both compelling and interesting.

Speaker 4:

That's crazy to hear those , those numbers.

Speaker 3:

It's crazy Lilly . It's scary. Yeah . Crazy scary. Yeah. Um,

Speaker 2:

But then, you know, to have a capability being offered by a firm like salary finance, and to hear that you're capping interest rates on APRs annual percentage rate is at 19% capping. I mean, that means , uh , there's probably a very reasonable average APR that's accessible to a big part of your underwriting curve , um , that that's even lower and much more even manageable. Um, not , I mean , well,

Speaker 3:

You're right, Tommy though, because if you think about it, the most, the neediest individuals are coming to us first, right. For the loans, and then the high income employees, do you know that 28% of people make $168,000 a year live paycheck to paycheck? How's that first statistic. Right. But so, you know, we, our average interest rate hovers somewhere between 11 and 13%, and that's still recognizing that so many of our borrowers are subprime that that average should be, you know, I think much higher, but in our case, we keep it down because we know that that's an important part of the community. We're serving back to that social purpose.

Speaker 2:

Thank you all for doing this study. Um, it's, it's valuable. And you mentioned as longitudinal, I mean, this will continue to go on, you'll continue to give the snapshots. Um, these studies are really important. They, I ma and then I think your study can be taken with , um, some similar type studies that are conducted , um, like with the federal reserve, for instance , um, to help, you know, all of us better understand in greater detail , um, the urgency , um, of really addressing these , um, these, this savings problem, lending problems, systemically , um, uh, for many different populations , uh, broadly. Um, let's our listeners know that we like to wrap up with like FinTech news of the week. So , uh , maybe we, we should probably head there quickly , um, Lilly , what, what caught your attention this week in the world of FinTech?

Speaker 4:

Sure. So over the last year, I've become pretty interested in cryptocurrency. So over the last week , um, some news regarding the possibility of a United States digital currency. So basically the federal reserve chairs around Powell and announced that sometime this summer, they're going to be releasing a paper regarding their thoughts, namely, you know, the benefits and the risks of creating a United States, central bank, digital currency. So that obviously like look out for this summer, seeing what they think , um, their risks and benefits are and, you know, weighing those, seeing what possibilities they can come up with that. Yeah. I was ,

Speaker 2:

Uh, I was excited to hear that news from , um, chairman Powell and , and I'll , I can't wait to get my hands on that report and see what they're thinking. Um, we're seeing more, more central banks around the world. I mean, have, you know, say they're saying directly there and they're starting to launch currencies. Um, in fact, we just lined up , um, the ban , the homages , the central bank of The Bahamas. I can't say the word very well, but they're , they're going to come on and do a student event with us, with Canada in the fall. And I, and I'm looking forward to hearing directly from them. They've been , um, taking some , um, you know, initial steps from a central bank standpoint. Um, Anita, how about you? What anything caught your attention?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And you'll probably think, oh, Anita, it's been my soap box through this conversation with you today, but Wells Fargo announced its initiative. I don't know that they choose saw it, but it's around the unbanked and support for the unbanked . And they have put together this , this very broad based initiative to focus on digital banking, financial guidance, affordable products, all in all with the focus on un-banked communities. So I love the idea that they're , um, that they're collaborating and they're taking their bank on coalitions. I think operational help is involved. Um , fintechs are involved. So this idea together we're stronger, I think is a critical part of that. And, you know, kudos to Wells Fargo for focusing on creating financial, a financial ecosystem for the unbanked . Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I love it. Go stagecoach. Um, the one , um, the , the one, I guess, piece I'd add is there the caught my eye was the fidelity, the, the investment manager. Um, and now it's a , uh , youth account. Um, that's available to customers now , um , addressing 13 to 17 year olds. Um, and I think this is just, this is another, like another big trend that we've got going on , uh , in the marketplace that FinTech is enabling is how to , uh, improve financial literacy of young people. Uh, and , uh, that's of course important , um, to helping young people learn how to save, how to invest , um, really closing the , uh, I guess what I'd call is an illiteracy gap that exists when young people and empowering parents to help , uh, educate young people in financial literacy . So

Speaker 4:

When I was 13, that would have been cool. Yeah, no kidding.

Speaker 3:

I would say, keep an eye on Motley fool. I don't, I'm not an insider, but you have to believe that that Tom and David have that, that , uh, you know, that in their sites is to , yeah. And then

Speaker 2:

I'm always happy to , um, I can't even talk about this topic without bringing up Greenlight financial, our local Lana, you know , FinTech, double unicorn now. And they, they all , they launched a , an investment account for kids , um, back , um, gosh, I think, well, over six months, nine months ago now that , um , that I believe has been going very well , um, in its delivery. I've got my kids on that. That's, that's my one of choice. I've got my kids on , uh , in those accounts. Um, well, great. Well, Anita, just thank you so much for being here as part of this podcast. Thanks for being part or engaging with the Georgia FinTech academy. You are always welcome , Lily . Um, so great to have you here. Thanks for the leadership you provide to not just the tint Terry FinTech society, but also to the Georgia FinTech academy. I'm so glad that you're a junior, we've had some great leaders that are seniors that have now graduated. Um, so it's just , uh , it's important to have , um, juniors , sophomores, freshmen, of course, engaging with us. Um, we rely on you to deliver what we do on all the different campuses. So thanks for being with us and best of luck with your internship. The Georgia FinTech

Speaker 1:

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