Leaders in Lending
Leaders in Lending

Episode 94 · 1 week ago

Credit Unions Driving Racial Equity


Credit Unions, at their core, have a strong commitment to service. But how do you scale the concept of serving your members to the broader community — even to the wider world of financial services? Our guest today believes that if you serve people passionately, you will ultimately move the entire industry forward toward more inclusivity and equity.

In this episode, Renée Sattiewhite, President & CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition, highlights her strategies for driving equity and bridging the racial wealth gap, addressing the housing and credit disparities, and ensuring access and fairness.

Join us as Jeff and Renée discuss:

  • Background of the African American Credit Union Coalition and its goals
  • The scalability of service to your staff and members
  • How to address equity gaps in the traditional banking system
  • Overcoming bias through community representation 

Want to learn more about how Upstart partners with credit unions? Check out this case study mentioned in the episode.

You're listening to Leaders and Lending from Upstart, a podcast dedicated to helping consumer lenders grow their programs and improve their product offerings. Each week, here, decision makers in the finance industry offer insights into the future of the lending industry, best practices around digital transformation, and more. Let's get into the show. Welcome to Leaders and Lending. I'm your host, Jeff Keltner. This week's episode features my conversation with Renee Satti White, the President CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition a c C. Renee and I talked about a lot of things in this conversation. Particularly, we talked about her her vision of the possibility of people serving other people passionately. I love that phrase. We really dove into that what service looks like um and we really dove into the concept of how we serve different constituencies. Are employees, our customers, our communities, not just our shareholders. This idea of how how can credit unions and financial services in general really serve the broader set of communities, the broader set of stakeholders that are involved on the work they do to kind of make that possible, and how we can use those capabilities to move the entire industry forward to being more inclusive, more equipable. So I enjoyed this conversation. Uh. Renee is nothing if not passionate, and I thought the idea of the possibility of people serving other people passionately was a great description of her approach. Uh Tom show life to to the work she does, and I think it really comes from this episode. So please enjoy my conversation with Renee Sattiway. Renee, welcome to the podcast, and thanks so much for making the time to join us this morning. I appreciate it. Jeff, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited let's do this. I mean, this is gonna be There's a lot of energy in the room today, even it's rainy Monday here in Pasadena, but it's a lot of energy. So I'm excited. Um. I like to start all my interviews with just kind of asking my guests what their career path was. I think it's always fascinating to find out how people ended up where they're at and what their path was to get there. And I'd love because you're not you pointed out in our programs that you're not a lender which is my typical audience. If you want to give a little background on the a CU CE, who you guys are, what you do, just for the context of the audience, okay, UM, I can start off that I'm not a lender, but I'm a I'm a former banker. So I spent quite a bit of time in a in a place that you know, City National Bank, where I learned the wonderful gift of great service, customer service. And then I came over to UM, which is in crediting land, we say banks are the dark side. So I came over to the light UM in working for Credit Resources, which is a was a credit insurance marketing company, and so I started with them and I was doing training, and then I was led to this organization called the a c u C before it was formed, so the African American Credion Coalition became formed. They asked me to help write UM a grant for their internship program, and so I did that and ended up being the program manager for that. My company at the time, Satway Training Productions, did training and marketing, so all of the integral stuff about getting the organization together and the marketing and all of that. They allowed me to do that as a young person and so UM that's my relationship with the organization has been over years now and now as the President CEO, happily President CEO UM, I have been able to work with different organizations around the industry and other leaders. What ACC does. We're a five and one C three nonprofit and our mission is to provide advocacy and professional development for our members and our members. Although it says African American Creating Coalition people think that we're exclusive, we are the most inclusive organization in the crediting system that I'm proud about that fact because we we invite everybody to be a part of a CEC. So the industry as we know it is is um is largely non um, largely without color,...

...if you will. Our sisters and brothers are a light of you. And so the African American Creating Coalition seeks to make sure that everyone understands what African Americans bring to the table and how we can do better as as UM as a whole unit. So that's a little background on on me an ACC. I love it. Thank you for that. And you know we were talking before and you said the best question to start this interview, officers like talk to me about how you think about service, what service looks like to you and means to you in the context of your organization, the credit union, and the financial system. Brother, how do you think about what the word service really means and conveys. So one of the things that UM, I always say when I'm introducing myself is I'm the possibility of people serving other people passionately. I'll say that again, I'm the possibility of people serving other people passionately. So I believe that if we all did that, we could change the planet. Imagine if you're going into a branch and your sitting with the teller, and that teller is passionate about serving you. They're listening to you. They want to know, Um, do you have children, are they in school? What's going on with you? How you're feeling all of that energy that service, that level of service. It also is a connection. So when you're looking at your staff, what do you do as a leader to connect to your staff? What's the service life? We have just come out of the pandemic and the horrific um things that have happened with that, and then the social unrest. So how do you how do you serve your employees? How do you make sure that they know that they're appreciated. So one of the things that a CC did this year around November was to do some things just for staff, and I did a staff appreciation month, making sure that every week, because my my staff is supposedly remote, making sure that they got something every week. I mean stupid stuff, right, like blankets, but they were pretty blankets, or I may I personally put together candy bars with their faces on the beautiful pictures and thank you and um and sent those out. So those kinds of things that will help. But also giving people grace right when they make a mistake, not to be all, you know, not writing people up immediately, really going through the steps of why did you do this, what happened, what do we need to do, how do we course correct? I think being of service to your staff in that manner, making sure you understand what's going on. Why is this person there? Because I have a superstar team, so if somebody's off, there must be a reason for it. So let's look after that. Let's be sensitive to that, because we're living in such a time where it's important to make sure that you're connected UM and then as a leader service as a leader, what does that look like. Well, I now have a a dream team board of directors, and in having that dream team board of directors, I want to make sure that they know that they're value and appreciate it. Well, most of them have spouses. I want to make sure that those spouses note that we appreciate them allowing their spouse to be part of what we're doing. And so I remember birthdays I one of my board of directors. He said, man, right now, you're making me look bad in front of my wife. Man, you're making me look bad. So, but I think it's really important that people are showing appreciation. But listening to people is as sure fire way of showing respect and appreciation. So that level of service again being they're not always being the one having to talk or waiting with your question, Well, I hope you finish it so I can ask this. You know, I want to talk about that no, being really intentional about being present with people. Let me ask you. You brought up an interesting UM concept to me, which is this nature of being of service to different communities, which I think I feel like there's this moment in the American economy or the business climate, if you will, where people are kind of realizing we used to think that my job as a business was to be of service to my shareholders. Maybe in the credit union space, we...

...thought I'd be of service to my members, because I'm very member oriented in the credit uth space. But this idea that there are lots of stakeholders that we need to to be cognizant and intentional about being a service to my community, my staff, my customers, my investors, my board. How do you think about balancing that? Because it's it's it's a I think it's more holistic way to think about the impact any organization has on its various stakeholders constituencies. But it was also much more challenging as a leader to think about, you know, twenty people I have to think about an optimize for versus just like I make the stock price go up, I've done a good thing as a business, which is very limiting, but also at least gives you a degree of focus. How do you think about, you know, managing those various constituencies and being of service to all those various stakeholders and groups, Because that's cant con to me seem a little overwhelming or daunting when you think about the totality of the people you really are influencing and impacting through your work, well part of it. Part it can be right, it can be people, but people can be daunting at this. So, um, one of a good way to look at it is an elephant. You can only eat an elephant, and by the time, you can't eat the whole thing at one time. So so you start off in phases, right, So as I was talking about the different levels of appreciation, I made sure that my staff came first and then because if you take care of your staff, the staff will take care of your people. That now, I'm a firm believer in that take care of your staff. The staff will take care of your people. Whether that's your members or your board or your stakeholders. They will run through big walls for you if you do a good job of taking care of them. Um, when you're looking at the totality of how of how large this can be, you look at it, Okay, Well, the elephant has a nose. Well, the nose might be my stakeholders, right, and that big bottom butt on the on the end that might be all of the community at large. Right, So there's a life, a left cheek and a right cheek, and we're gonna keep it g rated. But so it's it's all of that coming together and then finding what what what resonates with the group. So that makes it easier what resonates with that group. So it's about scalability. So what does that look like? Scalability if you're looking at a larger group, then it's in a various group, it is what is the common what's the common denominator? What's gonna make everybody happy? Well, it's probably not gonna be one thing. It might be it might be well, you know, um, this greeting really resonated with someone, or or a really impactful article. So it's being intentional about who you're serving and and knowing. But you have to know who you're serving and what their interests are, because you don't want to spend all this time trying to do something to someone they could care less. Hey there, I'm David brand s VP of Lending Operations that Share in View Federal Credit Union. When we saw our members turn to personal loans to consolidate and pay down their debt, we knew we needed to improve our digital process. We were able to launch with Upstart in just sixty six days without any heavy lifting or hiring any additional staff. Best of all, we've been able to work with our account manager to adjust our loan volume and returns given the current economic environment. If you want to learn more about how we've been able to scale to ten million dollars a month in personal loan volume and acquire over members to expand relationships with, you can check out our case study on upstart dot com slash lenders. That's Upstart dot com slash Lenders. Thanks for your time. Now back to the show. I did also want to dive into I think this topic of service is really interesting, but I also want to dive into some of the how our financial system as a whole is serving various communities because we had a lot of discussions. I think when you and I first talked about the difference between equal and equitable in the kind of gaps in how this system as a whole is serving, particularly communities who are I don't know that I love the phrase traditionally disadvantagement. So, for instance, thank you for that question. Jeff so...

...um A c c uh Imfacant. They've changed their name imfacant Um. They have a credit card, and so a CC decided to launch a credit card program. It's specifically specifically to make sure that UM communities of color can have access right because oftentimes UM and I used to be one of those people. So that's why I thought it was kind of funny that a lending podcast wanted to talk to me. UM. I've had really ragny credit UM in the past and UM, but of course I know what things to do to get my credit back up. But and I remember reaching receiving some of those UM letters in the mail that had the twenty nine percent interest card. UM, but your pre approved for three hundred dollars, not understanding what that hook was because I needed the resources, and so I said, yes, that's wars and cost me what at some point. So at the end of the day, so agency decided to do this credit card. It's called commitment to Change credit card. And in that we are looking at how we can drive equity. What does that look like. How can we make sure that that person has that extra five credit in case they need new tires, in case something comes up and they need to do something. And I'm excited about that because we can teach a difference between what's a credit card and what's a charge card, Like what's the difference, why is the interest rate important? And then having that financial literacy, if you will, is a good thing. So part of the equity piece to that is we have a so I'm a I'm a president of of a nonprofit organization, a very a very um, very auspicious one at this time, and there are other professionals that I'm aware of who are in the c suite, who who who are just as bad shape as the teller who's not getting paid enough right So um, for the people who are in the c suite who don't have the same resources, that's where the equity comes in. How do you make that equitable? And so one of the things that we decided to do with this credit card is to find sponsors who were willing to put up the capital to um to help someone have a five thousand dollar limit um that's guaranteed so that they can do what they need to do and then learn how to you know, learn how to hold their credit responsibly. But I just think that that was like, like what that was a really big deal for me, because if you're an executive and you can't. You can't whip out your credit card. You're kind of less than So I want to put people on part. So that was one of the things that why we decided to do that. We were able to do that interesting. Were there any barriers? I mean, I feel like one of the challenges we see in the industry is that there's this desire to um to expand access, but that lack of understanding of like this is often not as important as fairness. And some metrics there's some like random metrics of fairness, not random, but some that I think often run counter to the desire to expand access to communities that don't have a strong history of credit. You go out, you know, we'd love to give credit cards more to this community, but that we have a very conservative risk profile and they have lower credit scores, and therefore we were not going to do it. How do you I'm curious if there were barriers in that way to getting there, because I think so often, you know, particularly the financial sector, where there's a very little risk tolerance, particularly in the lending slide off, and we don't we want to see very low defaults. We've got a very traditional credit score income based way of looking at risk, and then that often runs counter to this goal of UH expanding access in ways that are very difficult to bridge. I'm curious if you how do the insights and how you bridge that or how you are able to find people that to bridge that gap, because it's it's we're still working on We're still working on it, UM and and one of the things that I would say is that education is key UM. There's a story that Keena about a mutual group who I think are the leaders in...

UM, indeed in the d I space UH here in Craignian Land. And they once thought that black people didn't like I didn't want to pay their bills, right, But that wasn't it. The only way you could pay your kind of mutual group insurance premium was through direct was UM was through direct debit from your account. A lot of black people don't want I don't want you debitting for my account, So I'm not gonna give you my account number. I'm gonna write a check and send it in. So managing your money differently. So when they had someone when they expanded and they had someone of color in that room, having that conversation they were able to offer that information, and once that information was provided, they took another look and saw that African Americans about more life insurance than any of their customers, and so they changed how they did business. I'm so proud of them for that. But again that that brings that equity part in there, because if you don't know, you're making the assumption and based off of your life and what you know to do. That's such a great point about the importance of having different perspectives in the room and you're making decisions and the misunderstandings. Um so many most of us have a very strong bias towards our own use case, like I would not do something that way. So if you do something that way, that's if I were doing it that way because I'm out of money or you know, well, that's that's your perspective, but maybe not the perspective of that individual and the reasons. And I think that it's fascinating because you talk about the the business opportunity that was missed because you didn't understand the perspective of the client. And I think that's why it's so important to get diverse perspectives in the room when you're building clients products and thinking about how to serve communities because you don't you don't understand what you don't have experience with. And that's UM, that's a great example. I've not heard that one before, but it's a really good one. We also talked a little bit about kind of the inequities, and I remember you had strong opinions on this on housing and rental, rental payments and credit and the things we've done since you know, systemically societally that have not allowed people who have to your point, like just different housing choices buying versus renting, UM, not have the same access to credit and not have the same credit history built up over time. Would love your thoughts on that particular topic as well, because that's as one of these examples of a similar thing that's done differently that ends up having very different outcomes from people that they're not expected or understood by either side. Frankly, going into it, well, when you start peeling back the layers right of how how do we get here, and and and UM and and white flight and gentification and all of those things right that that that turnover communities, it was it was it's interesting to see UM black neighborhoods. So I'm in Atlanta and when I'm first visited, but but I'm from southern California. H grew up in San Diego, and so you to being you a very um salad bowl environment. I don't like to say melton pot anymore because melton pot means everybody's gonna be the same. I don't want homogeneous. I want a different flavor. So it's a salad bowl works for me. We're in in in San Diego, UM, where I grew up was very diverse. When I came to Atlanta, UM, my people were concerned about me because it's the South, and they figured that I'm a little outspoken. I'd like to say passionate. Um this thing, I'm a little outspoken, and we're concerned about me. What I found here in Georgia or Atlanta area is that you can live a really, really good life and never have to deal with a white person or never have to deal with a black person if you don't want to. And that's interesting to me because that's not how it is in Lower California. It's just not everybody's everybody. Now they're there are different neighborhoods, right, But it's in the most part you can't. You can't just have a whole community and not see anybody else, having people be so different about um where you...

...live. UM it is. Is it hard to imagine that people still um find a way to throw in the things that will make it hard for people to have a home. Why would you do that? And so it's unfortunate that things still happen. I'm incouraged though, because people like you exposed stuff. People people who are similar to you, with the same mindset, they want to do things differently, they want to do things better. So when thank you for that right and thank you for calling out stuff when it comes up, I appreciate that. But when it comes to when it comes to making sure that lending practices are fair, I think that one of the things we have to make sure we do is that who are writing the scripts, who are writing what you're a judicating from, and what are you considering. So if you don't consider someone who's been renting for fifth teen years and they've been on time for fifteen years, that's that's that's to be taken into account um. And you know if they So those are the types of things that we've got to bring over to all these different algorithms. Yeah, it's a I look at that as a huge I won't say a data issue. I mean it's very frustrating as a lender to know that I have easy access to certain kinds of information, like I can pull I'll pull your credit file. I find out that you've got a mortgage and how long opening? Oh great, I'd like to use that information. It's useful information. And I think, I, well, how can I find out if someone has paid their rents for fifteen years? Y'all you can't find that out? Sure you can't. Well, even it's not as easy to access, right, Like the challenge for lenders like that's more difficult, And I would love to see us like lenders can can bridge that gap and systemically, like there's no reason we're not reporting those payments to credit bureaus. There's no reason to make it as easy to access that information as a lender is easy to verify it um as we do others. And that's h's can and there's of color who have suddition not owned as well. If we see a similar impact for young people who are fascinatingly making a very smart decision to not use credit alrighty on debit. They don't want to. They've seen their parents getting credit card that I'm not going there. And they go to rent department or buy a car and they go, you've never borrowed money before, we can't let it to you. They go, what do you what do you mean I've never been in debt before. That's that's a good thing, right, And they go, not, if you want to borrow money, it's not. You need the history of having every pay stuff. They have paid my bills every month on time. I'm never laid But like you know, we've we've got this system that's stuck in a particular perspective, but we don't get great information on cell phone payments. And I think the bureaus are starting to slowly try and incorporate cell phone payments and utilities payments and rental payments into the data you have on a customer. There's so much opportunity to improve the access and simplicity for a lender to make a smarter decision, because there's a little bit of I haven't tried hard enough, and there's a little bit of it's just a lot harder to get certain points of information, but it shouldn't be. It should be just as easy and they're just as valuable. I mean, mental payment looks from a percentage of income a lot like a mortgage payment. And the fact that on that not does not seem like it should change the fact that having made payments for twenty years tells you something about the likelihood someone will make payments for the next twenty years, um. And yet that data is not treated the same, which is kind of seems crazy to me. All Right, now I'm gonna ask. I got three questions I always end with, which are, first off, what's the best piece of career advice you've ever gotten or given? Don't take anything personally. It's not about you. I love that. You're a quick answer. You were ready for that. I was like, well, because I have several right, but the it's always about me. Everybody knows I am every I will bring the conversation back to me. It's it's Renee's world, right, So it's it's it's it's not always about you, and um uh, those are those are some of the things I've learned. But I've had a lot of people tell me it's sad about you, and they don't take that, don't take it personally. And that feels like the kind of advice I have to tell my kids since is it's easy...

...but hard or simple but hard. I think it's like it's, uh, it's simple advice. It's not complicated, but it is not to do in the moment, to step out and do that. And yeah, that's because some of the best advice, because it is remind my kids all the time, Like you know, I'm like, this is not complicated, it's not like you gotta learn some crazy thing, but like doing it, doing it's hard. Do you have any advice on how you actually put in that moment where you want to take something personally, how you pull yourself out from that and learn to take a an abstract perspective or a you know, kind of a more objective perspective. I feel like that's I understand it, but they're doing it. I feel like I had to write I had to write a setti white must do. In the setti white must do that relates to that is giving up the need to be right and and and when you give up the need to be right and let other people have it their way, you normally get yours and that really does work, and I've copied written that it really does work. I've been trying for years to explain this to my children and my wife about telling with certain people in the family. It that just you know. I was like, are you winning anything by winning the argument? Or are you just losing? And I'm still working on So have you got any tips on how to help people see them learn? And I'd love it because that's ah, that's great life advice, not just career advising. All right. Second question, what's the best piece of advice you've gotten about the financial services industry in general? Kind of like industry advice, UM, paying your bills on time and UM notice your interest rates so that you can avoid um late payments and get the best value. And understanding what the different twined charge card and a credit card is. That was the best, the best advice, because when I got that first AMEX card, I had no clue and I didn't keep it very long. I'm curious if you found ways to help. I feel like this is in that category of stuff everybody should know, but it's hard to get people to focus on and care about. If you think about from a credit unions perspective and dealing with the member. It's often we sometimes call it here the eating your broccoli problem. Like you want you kids each abroctly and it's good for them, but like not necessarily think everybody's self motivated to do. Have you found things that are effective at helping people become motivated to learn those lessons as opposed to go on, Hey, it's not I don't want to hear any of your financial education stuff. Just give me the car that I sent throughforeum, which is like, you know, not that you want to be upset with them, but like I think you got to make that learning engaging as as engaging as the am that's in the shopping you can do with it absolutely um, So um, you have to be willing to do what you have to do, and and and one of the things that, um, I'm a worker, so i'll i'll work to feed my family because my family consists of me, and so I'm I work all the time. But I think that um, when people because people know that I've had no problem working at Starbucks for eight dollars and five cents an hour, that if I'm telling you something, it's because I've been there and when I say I've worked at Starbucks for eight dollars and five cents. Now, it was when I was fifty four. I'm sixty two, so it wasn't that long ago, right, But I did what I need to do because I needed the money because at that point I was self employed in my business. My business. Um, and when its course, and so when you're when you are trying to help other people, it's it's best when you've already been there. That's a great story, all right, Renne. Last question, what's one bold prediction for the future. It's dangerous question. After the last couple of years. I feel like this used to be a safer question enough. The world's come crazy and bold predictions are hard. What's your one bold prediction that, through commitment to change credit means, will unite and eradicate racism as a bold old prediction. But that's a I think, a very positive bold prediction and something to the great note end on, So, thank you so much for spending time and sharing your perspectives that I really appreciate it, Renne, Thanks for coming. Thanks Jeff. Up Start partners with banks and credit unions to help grow their consumer loan portfolios and deliver...

...a modern all digital lenning experience. As the average consumer becomes more digitally savvy, it only makes sense that their bank does too. Upstarts AI lending platform uses sophisticated machine learning models to more accurately identify risk and approve more applicants than traditional credit models. With fraud rates near zero, Upstarts All Digital experience reduces manual processing for banks and offers a simple and convenient experience for consumers. Whether you're looking to grow and enhance your existing personal and auto learning programs or you're just getting started, Upstart can help. Upstart offers an end to end solution that can help you find more credit worthy borrowers within your risk profile with all digital underwriting, onboarding, loan closing, and servicing. It's all possible with Upstart in your quarter. Learn more about finding new borrowers, enhancing your credit decisioning process, and growing your business by visiting upstart dot com slash for dash Banks. That's upstart dot com slash forward dash Banks. You've been listening to Leaders and Lending from Upstart, make sure you never miss an episode. Subscribe to Leaders in Lending in your favorite podcast player using Apple Podcasts. Leave us a quick rating by tapping the number of stars you think the show deserves. Thanks for listening, until next time.

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