Staying True to our Roots and our Moral Compass
I’ll tell you a secret we’ve kept to ourselves for far too long. While we’ve been working tirelessly to scale INSIKT into a company that can address the need for affordable capital for the 66 million underbanked and unbanked in this country, we have done so with a compass we’ve held close to our chest. In a category driven far too often by profit margin – usually at a great cost to borrowers – INSIKT has held itself to a higher standard in the lending space. Our secret: we’ve set a moral compass for ourselves here. To guide our mission, we started with a basic tenet around ATR: the ability to repay. We go to great lengths to verify the income of our applicants and to analyze their expenses and debt relative to their income. We don’t want our loans to put borrowers in danger. If someone has too much debt or not enough money after their expenses to afford a loan, we say no. Put simply, we want our customers to succeed and that starts with underwriting their loans the old fashioned way: based on their capacity to repay.
Why set the bar so high? Because core to our organization’s mission is borrower success. For us to be successful, our business model for financial success must be as powerful as the scale and impact of our borrower’s success.
We want to serve low income communities the right way. CDFI certification is one step. It’s essential for others to know what we stand for. But the problem we’re trying to solve is complex. We want to upend the massive predatory lending market. Just this week, Fin Techs touting “financial inclusion” in the national press are also offering loans to low income borrowers with triple digit APRs. Providing capital is important, but we need to do much more and aim higher.
We want to build bridges with communities that are highly distrustful of financial institutions because of predatory lenders. We want to stay on the high road of lending to communities in need, providing loans that help, not hurt. We want to grow a for-profit lending company but do it in an ethical, moral way.
In times like these, it’s important to have advisors who understand our mission, who can make connections, and who are willing to guide and – when necessary – challenge us and push back. So I’m excited to announce that we have assembled a dream team of industry experts to lead INSIKT’s first-ever Advisory Board. The board has a mission to guide INSIKT through complex decisions of ethical, affordable and for-profit lending practices; collaboration with legislators to help underbanked communities; and strategies to guide low-income Americans away from predatory lenders.
The board comprises experts across corporate, finance, political, technology and public policy sectors, including ten nationally recognized Latino and African-American leaders. We are blessed to have such strong representation from people of color given it aligns with the communities we look to serve. That alone makes this board unique in the finance industry. Because we have assembled such a strong group, the Advisory Board will be fundamental to our success, and it has already provided critical input on some strategic decisions.
The board is led by Tom Soto, Member of the Board of the New America Alliance, dedicated to advancing the economic development of the American Latino community across the United States. He is joined by Gene Sperling, who brings extensive expertise in the economic issues facing all working class Americans, having served as the Director of the National Economic Council under two presidential administrations.
Here are all the details on the entire board:
Tom Soto, Member of the Board of the New America Alliance
Soto is a member of the Board of the New America Alliance, dedicated to advancing the economic development of the American Latino community across the United States. He served in both the Obama and Clinton Administrations. Soto will lead the Board’s operations and internal communications. Soto has received wide National recognition, including being named one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Latinos and one of Poder 360’s 100 National Top Latino Green Leaders. During the Obama Administration, he was Co-Leader of the President’s Transition Team for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. During the Clinton Administration, he was appointed to the State Department’s Border Environment Cooperation Commission, which oversaw the $2.5 billion North American Development Bank. His late mother, Nell Soto, a prominent Latina politician who fought for the working poor, was twice elected to the California State Senate, and his late father was the first Latino elected to the state legislature in 1962. Soto is also one of the country’s leading VCs in the impact sector, with INSIKT being one of his portfolio companies. He is currently Senior Advisor to Aspiration, the country’s fastest growing online financial services platform.
Gene Sperling, Former Director of President Clinton and Obama National Economic Council
Gene Sperling is an independent director of Insikt’s Board of Directors, and serves as a liaison with the Advisory Board. In his time with the Obama Administration, Gene played a key role in budget negotiations, as well as issues including the American Jobs Act, manufacturing policy, GSE reform, the Small Business Jobs Act, the payroll tax cut and the expansion of tax credits for low-income working Americans. Sperling is the Founder and Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations and Brookings Institute. Sperling graduated from the University of Minnesota and Yale Law School and attended Wharton Business School.
Manolo Diaz, Former California Assembly Member
Mr. Diaz has over twenty-five years of experience in public policy advocacy as a former engineering manager for Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Jose City Councilmember, California State Assemblyman and current government relations consultant.
Gerardo Interiano, Head of External Affairs for the Southwest U.S., Google
A 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar, Mr. Interiano currently serves as Google’s Head of External Affairs – Southwest. Prior to Google, he spent several years in public service, both at the federal and state levels. He has been recognized as an Austin Under 40 leader in Government and Public Affairs, a member of Leadership Austin’s Essential Class and was an Austin Area Research Organization McBee Fellow.
Carmen Palafox, Century Center for Economic Opportunity
Ms. Palafox currently serves as board member of Century Center for Economic Opportunity, a non-profit organization based in California with the mission to empower underserved young adults to rebuild their lives. She is also a partner at Make in LA, an early stage venture capital firm and accelerator. In addition, she serves on the advisory board at Santa Monica College Business Department, is Chair of Next Gen Latino and is also a contributing writer for Latinas in Business.
Qiana Patterson, Director of Public Partnerships for HopSkipDrive
Ms. Patterson is the Director of Public Partnerships for HopSkipDrive. Prior to her time at HopSkipDrive, Qiana held several executive roles in educational technology. At Educational Networks, she was the VP of Operations, and with Edlio, she was the founding COO where she oversaw operations, project management and product. Prior to her years in educational technology, she was an educator and dean in Los Angeles Unified School District. She holds a BA from the University of Washington, a California Clear Teaching Credential from UCLA and MBA from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business. She is a vocal supporter of education, equity, and access.
Cleofas Rodriguez, President and CEO of the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Rodriguez currently serves as the President and CEO of the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, where he leads 1,200 business members, many small and minority owned. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association, where he works to improve the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworker children and their families. He has also served as Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Raising Austin and Executive Director of the Texas Head Start Association. He has been recognized as one of The Latino Americans’ Who’s Who, received Texas State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Othle Award from the Mexican Government.
Nelly Rojas-Moreno, Chief Credit Officer, LiftFund, a CDFI
For nearly two decades, Ms. Rojas-Moreno has helped entrepreneurs achieve the American Dream by providing small business loans to borrowers without access to traditional credit options. Currently, she serves as Chief Credit Officer at LiftFund, a multistate Community Development Financial Institution, and one of the nation’s largest small business lenders. Rojas-Moreno is also a 2013 participant in the Annie Casey Leadership Learning Network.
Frank Salazar, California Latino Legislative Caucus’ Latino PAC
A former Clinton Administration appointee to the USDA, Mr. Salazar currently serves as Co-Lead of Latino PAC, California’s Latino Legislative Caucus. His public service experience includes extensive political work, and he is currently Director of Communications & Public Affairs at Pioneers Memorial Hospital, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in California that provides healthcare and compassionate service to families in need in California.
Jon Samuels, Former Deputy Assistant for Legislative Affairs, Obama Administration
A recognized leader in the public and private sectors, Mr. Samuels has more than twenty years of experience in public policy, community organizing, and nonprofit management. He led White House efforts to advance the President Obama’s financial services policy initiatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves as Partner at The Vistria Group, a middle market private equity firm focused on education, healthcare and financial services.
Tammye Trevino, Former USDA leader, Obama Administration
Ms. Trevino was appointed the National Administrator for USDA’s Rural Development, Rural Housing Program under the Obama Administration. Later, she served as Regional Administrator for HUD, overseeing all activities in Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Prior to her public service, Trevino served as CEO for FUTURO, a Texas-based non-profit providing housing, business and community development. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Housing Authority of Bexar County in Texas.
Janee Murphy, CEO of Community Partners Consulting
Ms. Murphy is a seasoned public affairs professional currently engaged in Florida’s dynamic political and public sectors. Her work spans a broad array of corporate, political and community-based clients with an emphasis on organizational positioning, crisis management and value-added management advisory services. As a current founder and CEO of Community Partners Consulting, Janee has also established a well-earned reputation as a top political advisor in Tampa Bay and Florida for over two decades.