Fair Lending & Compliance

Watch: The Fintech Agenda For Inclusive Finance

Bruce Upbin

December 15, 2020

Though 2020 was a grueling year, there were one or two bright spots the financial services industry can reflect on as it faces the recovery ahead. One is the opportunity we all had to learn from the pandemic’s massive shift to digital. The second is in the progress made in using new technologies to solve problems of financial fairness and inclusion that have plagued our society for generations. “We crammed a decade’s worth of technology adoption and innovation into a few short months,” says Jo Ann Barefoot, the moderator of a special LendIt Fintech panel Zest AI hosted last week on inclusion in consumer finance. “People are looking at the events of this year and saying, ‘Let’s do better on problems that we’ve had for a long time and haven’t solved, even though we may chip away at them.’”

The call for equity is coming from all corners. A recent Harris Poll revealed that half of Americans think the lending system is unfair to people of color and that 7 out of 10 Americans would switch financial institutions to one that had more inclusive practices. Talent and capital are seeking out companies that are trying to do the right thing. But are we doing enough, and doing it together?

This virtual panel session convened a great conversation with experts from unique perches in fintech, venture capital, human capital, and regulation:

  • Jo Ann Barefoot, a former bank regulator and the CEO and co-founder of the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, a nonprofit working to enhancing fair finance in the US and globally through regulatory modernization.
  • Mike de Vere, CEO of Zest AI, which has been applying AI/ML since 2009 to make consumer lending more fair and transparent to everyone.
  • Ulysses Smith, head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Blend, a digital platform whose mission is to create an open and accessible and equitable consumer banking ecosystem. Blend touches one in four mortgages in the U.S. and works with more than 250 customers including Wells Fargo, Navy Fed, and US Bank.
  • Nasir Qadree, the founder and managing partner of Zeal Capital Partners, a new, early-stage venture capital firm anchored by PayPal that’s focused on partnering with exceptionally diverse management teams that are recreating the building blocks of wealth, from education to employment to fintech.

In the video, you’ll hear:

  • What new technologies and startup business models are emerging to restore equity to the credit landscape
  • Why sticking with status quo credit scores will continue to exclude big parts of the American population
  • What changes financial institutions need to make in hiring and product development and partnerships to move the needle on diversity and inclusion
  • How AI and machine learning creates a real opportunity to widen credit access safely
  • The role of automation in approving more people efficiently through new and established channels
  • How tech can improve personal financial management so more people can build real credit
  • Changes ahead on the regulatory front that could affect inclusion in lending and financial services

The 2021 FinTech Agenda for a Fairer Economy from Zest AI on Vimeo.

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