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“Traditional Banks Are Constrained By Underwriting Models For Lending To Small Businesses” with Bernardo Martinez

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bernardo Martinez, U.S. managing director for Funding Circle.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Bernardo Martinez, U.S. managing director for Funding Circle.

Funding Circle is a global small business loans platform, matching small businesses who want to borrow with investors who want to lend in the US, UK and Europe.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I am originally from Venezuela and have spent most of my career in small business lending and financial services in the US and abroad, including working at Bank of America and Banco Dominicano del Progreso, which is an independent operator of American Express in the Dominican Republic. Prior to joining Funding Circle earlier this year, I was at PayPal managing the US business lending unit for almost 3 years.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I started five months ago. It has been an incredible journey moving from a high-growth established company to a hyper-growth startup. One of the most interesting aspects for me has been how we are developing a purpose-driven company across multiple geographies. It is amazing how we are learning from each country we are in and applying those learnings to impact small businesses around the world. Those learnings have enabled Funding Circle to create a platform that has generated and sustained more than 75,000 jobs and contributed $5.2 billion to the global economy (measured in Gross Value Added) in 2017.

What do you think makes your company stand out during these disruptive times? Can you share a story?

Funding Circle stands out because we are driven by a clear mission: To build a better financial world. We’ve worked hard over the past several years to create a platform that has helped set the industry standard for transparent and responsible business lending. Ultimately this helps investors achieve their financial goals, and it helps help small businesses to expand and create new jobs.

Our mission helps us focus on what really matters to our customers, like speed and flexibility. At Funding Circle businesses can get a loan within days, rather than the weeks or months it could take at a bank. Recently a business owner came to us seeking a loan to expand her fun center in New York State. She applied with another lender first, but got tired of waiting and came to us. We were able to give her an offer before they even called her back!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

It’s important to define your company’s mission and values, and then bring them to life through the day-to-day work of your business. Some companies take the first step but don’t always follow through on the second. At Funding Circle, our values and mission are part of everything we do. They guide our decision-making and are a component of the hiring process, employee recognition and reviews, and more.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story or example?

I have been grateful to work with great managers who coached my career in the United States. All of them have been instrumental in what I have achieved so far. However, the person who has influenced me the most is my father with whom I started my career in our family businesses in Venezuela. He showed me two traits that have been critical to my success — trust and respect for people — which he demonstrated with the people working with us in our farm businesses.

Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 5 Fintech and Banking Trends Over The Next 3 Years” (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Small business finance transformation: Small business owners are still underserved by the traditional financial system when it comes to access to affordable capital. Traditional banks are constrained by factors like antiquated systems and underwriting models which make it difficult for them to meet the needs of small businesses. Within the next 3 years, fintechs like Funding Circle will become the dominant SMB financing provider, edging out banks.

2. Increased partnership between traditional and digital financial services providers: Rather than being adversaries, traditional banks and fintechs are increasingly engaging in mutually beneficial partnerships. In the end, this only serves to help expand access for customers. One example is Funding Circle’s strategic partnership with INTRUST Bank, where we are working together to expand access to fast and flexible financing for small businesses within INTRUST’s footprint.

3. Expanding mobile experiences: Customers have embraced the smartphone as a tool for all banking activities. Mobile will become the norm as traditional and FinTech players are investing heavily in enabling customers to interact via smartphones.

4. Leveraging data: The industry is embracing the use of data beyond traditional areas like risk management. Through tools like Artificial Intelligence, companies are transforming their services and operations. We rely on data for decision-making in every department at Funding Circle, from credit evaluations to marketing to human resources.

5. Customer experience will define the winners: The financial services industry is still rife with legacy systems and subpar customer experiences. With more choice than ever, customers will gravitate to those who prioritize their experience across every aspect of banking. This area has always been a major focus of ours at Funding Circle and we will continue to invest in improving customer experiences.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

There is a quote attributed to Henry Ford which is one of my favorites: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Learning is a critical equalizer for society and it keeps us all young in mind and spirit.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As I mentioned, I truly believe education is a critical equalizer in society. I would like to inspire a movement that brings better education systems to everyone. Better education leads to more democratic countries and more entrepreneurs around the world.

Originally published at medium.com

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