Last week the fintech world gathered in San Francisco for the 7th annual LendIt Fintech USA conference. As I do every year at this time I will share many of the highlights from the keynote presentations and other parts of the event.
We kicked off the event with a fascinating discussion that encapsulated so much of what is important in finance right now. We had the CEO of Discover, Roger Hochschild and the CEO of ZestFinance, Douglas Merrill on stage talking about bank-fintech partnerships and how machine learning is helping both banks and fintech companies expand their credit box to the previously underserved. Hochschild said that partnerships are so important for banks because they can get access to talent that they might otherwise not. My favorite quote from the session was from Merrill, “There is a moral beauty in finding people who have been mistreated by the [financial] system and fixing that”.
The CEO and Co-founder of Affirm, Max Levchin, had some harsh words to say about credit cards in his session. He basically compared them to pay day loans in that in both instances borrowers are allowed to refinance their own debt in perpetuity. Their business model is based to some extent on deceiving the customer. Far better to have an installment loan where you know exactly how much you are paying with a fixed payment every month. He also talked about Affirm’s groundbreaking partnership with Walmart and how both companies, while very different when it comes to scale, have a very similar customer-centric approach. He appreciated Walmart no longer offers a deferred interest payment option, something that Levchin dislikes intensely. He said that 2019 will be the year of big partnerships for Affirm both within finance and outside.
Sallie Krawcheck is the CEO of Ellevest and previously ran the wealth management operations for some of the largest Wall Street firms. She talked about an amazingly underserved investor segment: women. Investment management is such a male dominated industry with 90% of mutual fund managers and 95% of hedge fund managers being male. She made the interesting point that we have been socialized to think that something “for women” means it is inferior and likely just a marketing ploy. Women have not made the progress either in finance or other industries that we all expected a couple of decades ago. The gender pay gap is decades away from closing and one of the ways to help close this gap is to help women invest in a smarter way.[Read more…]