Introducing Yolanda D. McGill, VP, Policy and Government Affairs
Zest AI is thrilled to introduce Yolanda D. McGill as our Vice President, Policy and Government Affairs! As a practicing attorney with more than 20 years of experience in financial services, Yolanda’s commitment and passion for mission-driven organizations brought her to Zest AI. In her role, she advances the company’s thought leadership, shares ideas behind Zest AI’s innovation before policymakers, and maintains relationships with Zest AI’s current and potential policy partners.
We sat down with Yolanda to talk about her expertise, leadership style, and what it’s like working with legislators and financial institutions to ensure inclusive and equitable access to credit.
Why is financial equity important to address at the policy level?
Whether you like it or not, you're really hard-pressed to make it through the day and not engage with the financial services industry in some way. If you're going to pay someone, if you're going to buy something, if you're going to get money from somebody, there just really isn't a way to not be involved with financial services.
Because everybody’s impacted, it’s important to address issues at the policy level. Solutions that can be applied broadly and understood broadly are more likely to be seized upon and have real impact.
Financial services touch everyone, everywhere. By working with lawmakers to enact clear, fair policies, we protect consumers and ensure equitable access to these financial services.
How do you work with the US government to accomplish Zest AI’s goals while meeting and surpassing all regulatory standards?
Zest AI is full of brilliant minds, and we're constantly innovating, or coming up with an improvement to something already on the market. Our work, as well as our industry, can push into a gray area, meaning that there isn't really expressed black letter law on how to do what we might want to do. Or maybe there's potentially black letter law on it, but we're not sure how it might get applied to our work. Sometimes creativity, also known as innovation, can cause concern or confusion and even if those sentiments are unwarranted they can drive new rules and laws, which could be counterproductive.
In this role I can help Zest get in front of potential concerns by initiating and participating in conversations to promote a better understanding of what we do and what we are trying to achieve. Being at the table also gives me a chance to hear what regulators might be seeking, and to find potential champions for Zest. We want to be in the relevant conversations about us and our industry, especially if we can help shape research and rules that might impact us. Technology has progressed faster than laws can keep up with — we want to be sure that the companies like Zest AI who are doing good, safe work in this space can continue doing so. It's important to make sure that I am working to educate legislators who really could, at the stroke of a pen, change the way Zest AI is able to do the business that we all believe so much in.
What does Zest AI’s mission mean to you? How do you envision Zest AI’s mission and goals aligning with your own professional life?
I started out as a bankruptcy lawyer. And what started me fighting for fairer financial services was that I see significant debt really as a health issue for people. Debt can cause stress and a deterioration of mental and physical health. The financial equity Zest AI is focused on will help alleviate some of the core issues blocking folks from getting affordable credit.
I think the thing that I find the most compelling about Zest is all the thinking that's happening, all the ongoing refinement, and how everyone is always asking, “Can we do it better?” Our technology helps our customers reach more people, in a safer manner, and creates an inclusive credit system that hasn’t existed before now. I have dedicated my whole career to thinking about how to level the playing field for people who are just trying to get a fair shot at credit that they need to live their lives. Zest AI’s mission to make fair and transparent credit available for everyone is absolutely in line with my own personal path.
Who is inspiring to you and why?
I place a high premium on spending time with my friends and family. What’s most inspiring for me is to watch people grow. I love growth and it warms my heart to see growth in somebody who I’ve known since eighth grade, college, or law school, or we used to wait tables together, you know. I have people around me from all stages of my life and we've all grown together.
It keeps me going, because everybody has overcome all kinds of things, and everybody is still chasing down their one hundred percent, their A+. Everyone's still going for their thing. When someone was down for a bit, everybody else was there to rally for them and cheer each other on. It's nice. I think my biggest source of inspiration is my friends.
What is the most important lesson that a leader can learn?
That your team's success is your success.
Biography: Yolanda D. McGill is Zest AI’s first Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs. She is a practicing attorney with more than 20 years of experience in financial services. Since 2003, she has worked for mission-driven organizations such as the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, providing highly technical legal expertise with a personable approach to complex topics.
Yolanda was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and is from two large families with deep roots in North Carolina. She lives in Raleigh, N.C, is a graduate of University of Michigan Law School, and received her B.A. in German from New York University.