LEADING LADY IN FINTECH
What's your story? What drew you to FinTech?
I’ve always been interested in finance and technology as far back as I can remember. I studied Economics and Psychology at the University of Toronto during undergrad, and that’s where my love for fintech began. I joined Capital One initially in Online Banking, launching customer-facing features. Later, I was tapped on the shoulder by one of the directors to lead the back-end migration of Capital One’s bread and butter product – the secured credit card. Through this initiative, we became the first bank in Canada to move a financial platform to public cloud. It was at CapOne that I realized that I had found my calling. With this, I joined Columbia Business School to continue to learn more about finance, technology and entrepreneurship.
Moving from Canada to the US obviously entailed some challenges, but having lived north of the border, I did not expect the type of challenges I faced when it came to US banking. I was unable to get a checking account before moving, or even upon arriving in the US. And I was unable to get a credit card that met my needs for the first three years, all because I didn’t have a US credit history.
I met my co-founders at CBS and we spent the last six months before graduating diving deep in the problems internationals face when moving to the US (or any other country for that matter), the market size in the US, laws and regulations. It is at this point that we decided to apply to Y Combinator to pursue Sable full-time to use our expertise to help millions of internationals that move to the US every year.
What do you think are some of the most exciting FinTech trends likely to influence the Financial Services industry?
Of course some of the major trends that most people are talking about are using blockchain for remittance and other use cases and using ML to help customers make better financial decisions and other use cases. I won’t go into more detail here as they are spoken about quite a lot, but will share some more industry insights.
I believe there will be a trend in the next couple of years of fintech’s moving towards becoming their own processors. This is an exciting prospect as it gives more control to fintechs, enabling them to deliver customized features that are relevant for their customers.
Additionally, we will see more vertical driven solutions – so, for example, Sable does not exist just to provide banking solutions to internationals who move to the US. Sable exists to help anyone moving from any country to any other country in any area that they need help – whether it be banking products like checking, credit, loans, or other services such as remittances, setting up phone plans, finding rent guarantor, and many other areas where internationals need assistance. We have started with providing core banking products.
Can you tell us a little bit about your job function? What are some of the solutions that your company offers?
Sable is a mobile bank that helps credit worthy new-to-America internationals easily access financial products and build their credit history from day one. Today, Sable offers a checking account (with a debit card) and a credit card. Customers can download Sable from the app store, apply for these products and start using them all within five minutes. As an international, it is impossible to get checking accounts and credit cards when you first move to the US - one does not have a credit history or a social security number. We enable internationals to get credit cards with higher credit limits and checking accounts even before they move to the US, all online, within five minutes.
I head up product at Sable, so my focus is mostly on collecting customer feedback and launching features with the technology and design team. As a startup, this role is pretty hands on, so I personally chat with customers weekly and work with the technology and design team during agile ceremonies daily. Additionally, I keep myself abreast of trends and customer pain points so, forward-looking, we can invest in the right solutions for our customer base.
What career advice would you give to recent college graduates?
Spend the first few years out of college learning and mastering different skills. Spending the first years in demanding job functions and learning how to execute on them will set you up for success in the future. Additionally, spend some time to reflect on what you want and create goals to achieve them. Don’t wait for opportunities, go out and find opportunities!
What is essential to ensuring FinTech companies attain gender equality?
Equality and diversity must extend beyond gender to include people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ+. Diversity is something that is brought from the top, and it has to be lived, not just spoken about. We need diversity in leadership in order to attain equality across the company. I’m always wary of companies that speak about diversity when its leadership is not representative. In addition to a diverse leadership, companies should invest in having a diverse hiring panel to mitigate implicit biases. And lastly, companies need to implement parental leave that is equally available to all people. This is to mitigate the ‘motherhood gap’ that many women feel in todays work climate.
How was your Y Combinator experience?
Y Combinator allowed us to accelerate our progress beyond what we would have achieved on our own. YC enabled us to hire our technology team quickly and launch an MVP product before YC’s demo day – making us the fastest mobile bank launch in history. We quickly got 300 customers on the MVP products (and capped the number of customers there) so that we could learn from them and make updates before a public launch. Additionally, YC accelerated the timelines for fundraising by bringing all investors into a single room all at the same time. This allowed us to quickly go back to focusing on the product post fundraising.
Beyond accelerating our success, YC provided us invaluable advice. We met with our partners once a week, either in one-on-one office hours or during group office hours, and learned from their experience (of seeing what worked for thousands of companies) and from our cohort. YC also brought on startup founders for talks. This included folks like Brex, Airbnb that provided their own invaluable advice.
If you did not need to sleep, how would you spend the extra eight hours a day?
Oh my! Being in an early stage startup means that all my waking hours go into the company. I would take the extra 8 hours to invest in personal hobbies, spend more time with family and friends, and doing community work.
In Naveen Qureshi's own words, exclusively for LADIES iN FINTECH.
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