FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Head of Social Impact, Lauryn Nwankpa
Banking app Dave is disrupting legacy banking systems by providing those historically marginalized a new banking experience with the tools and guidance to become financially fit. At the forefront of this change, driving positive social impact and advancing equity, is pioneer Lauryn Nwankpa. One of the very first to take on and define the Head of Social Impact role in the tech space, Lauryn takes pride in being substantive at mission-driven organizations and bettering the lives of diverse communities.
Full name: Lauryn Nwankpa
Current job title: Head of Social Impact
Current company: Dave
Current location: Los Angeles, CA
“I often say that I’m “building the plane while I’m flying it” because my role is still such a new function and there isn’t really a whole lot of precedent or blueprints for who to operationalize impact at a growth stage company.”
A product of the great recession, Lauryn graduated from the University of Chicago in 2009. Facing one of the toughest times to enter the workforce, she went a nontraditional route, kicking off her career in the nonprofit sector and then starting her own company focused on helping black women with natural hair to feel confident. Feeling a bit disillusioned with the non-profit sector, she moved to LA for business school, where she focused on social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, and social impact. In this moment, Lauryn realized how an exciting phenomenon was happening at the intersection of tech and social impact, and that it was time to join this wave. She saw the opportunity to build social impact into the DNA of Headspace, a mindfulness and guided meditation app, when “Head of Social Impact” was a very new title known to the tech space.
Lauryn was then drawn to Dave, a banking app helping create financial opportunity for its over 10 million customers, by the CEO as he saw the opportunity to ground the work the team is doing from an impact lens very early on. Lauryn and her team are busy building an amazing product for their members, many of whom have been either left behind by or preyed upon by traditional and not-so-traditional financial institutions.
“We’re “disrupting” the legacy banking system, which is deeply inequitable and exclusionary, and this means we have to do everything differently and bake impact into everything both externally and internally. We are unapologetic about changing people’s relationships with their finances and with their financial institutions. We make sure to add tangible value-adds to our product experience to acknowledge and meet the needs and behaviors of our members.”
Dave is helping members access income, easily build their credit, and budget in real-time how much they can spend. Lauryn mentions the importance of materiality, “it demonstrates that you're listening, that you care, and that you’re providing value in response to member needs in as close to real times as possible.”
Lauryn mentions that it's important to understand that social impact should not be a siloed afterthought, and there is no one size fits all strategy. The idea of leveraging tech to democratize spaces that have previously been exclusive or inaccessible only comes to fruition if we are deeply interrogating the very facets of the system that maintain the status quo. Lauryn oversees Dave’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, strategic philanthropy, impact measurement and reporting, and non-commercial partnerships.
The transition from the non-profit sector to the tech sector was challenging for Lauryn, on top of that she also tackled carving out a new role at two companies. “I often say that I’m “building the plane while I’m flying it” because my role is still such a new function and there isn’t really a whole lot of precedent or blueprints for who to operationalize impact at a growth stage company.” Lauryn at times finds herself overwhelmed by the weight of not only performing in her role but also helping to inform and normalize the entire social impact sector. Like so many of us, she faces that inherent imposter syndrome that can sneak up at times.
Currently live: I am so in love with my apartment in Inglewood, CA. It’s been such a wonderful place to safely and comfortably quarantine.
Family: My sister and her husband (and their puppy Honey @HoneytheToy) live in North Hollywood so I’m happy to have family nearby.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Favorite hobby: Cooking and eating new recipes. My InstantPot and Airfyrer have been the real MVPs of this pandemic!
Favorite part of your day: I’ve (somehow) become a morning person, so I wake up each morning around 6 (no alarm!) and spend the first few hours of my day meditating, reading, life planning, and drinking tea from bed.
Productivity hack: If you’re a visual person, I highly recommend getting a giant dry erase board for your work area. It helps keep things organized, it’s perfect for to-do lists, brainstorming, or mapping out goals and ideas.
6:30 am: My usual morning routine of waking up (no alarm!), doing a 20-minute meditation, and reading the news and emails from bed.
8:00 am: Standing bi-weekly (virtual) appointment with my incredible therapist.
9:00 am: I will be on camera a ton today so I actually have to find something to wear. Typically a nice blouse, sweats or leggings, and fuzzy slippers - my legs are off-camera! Hair and makeup (which are usually not a priority at all during COVID) are a must today.
10:00 am: I hop on a really cool speed networking session at the LendIt conference where I get to meet and talk with 7 women from all over the FinTech space - the conversations are only 5 minutes long so it’s a little bit stressful but it’s such good practice for my “who is Lauryn” elevator pitch.
11:00 am: One of my favorite initiatives at Dave is our “Dave Spotlight” series - essentially it is an internal podcast/web series where we interview members of our team and share after our weekly all-hands meeting each week. As the host, I get to record an interview with employees from all around the company to shed light on the incredible humans I get to work with. It’s a project that started as a way to kick off Black History Month, but quickly evolved into a company-wide series and since have celebrated Women’s History Month, AAPI Heritage Month, and Pride Month.
12:00 pm: Hop on a call with an external partner to discuss the terms of an agreement we hope to get signed this week - fingers crossed we can get it over the finish line, on time).
12:30 pm: Record another Dave spotlight interview then grab a quick lunch - lunch usually consists of something I can quickly throw in the air fryer or some leftover InstantPot creation from the night before (curries and stews over rice are my favorites).
1:00 pm: Join a Google Hangout to plan the remaining events and activities for an upcoming affinity month celebration - typically we have a calendar chock full of events, educational opportunities, speakers, and/or panels several times a year. We are incredibly thoughtful about fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging at Dave, so these are some of the most highly attended events each month!
2:00 pm: I recently participated in the Black Venture Institute (BVI) Fellowship, a 2-week immersive program designed to help Black mid-career operators and founders learn more about VC! Each afternoon from 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm we would engage in rigorous coursework, analyze cases, network and hear from the incredible stories of pioneering black VCs, angels, scouts, and founders. Shoutout to the BLCK VC team and the brilliant folks at Salesforce Ventures, Operator Collective, and Berkeley Executive Education for creating such a meaningful program!
6:00 pm: Bridal shower planning call. (My sister recently married the love of her life, and while COVID proved to be a bit of a challenge, we were so happy that the wedding went off without a hitch. I was maid of honor and leading up to the big day attended a TON of zoom calls to plan and finalize all the details.)
7:00 pm: Dinner time! If I'm being a “responsible adult” I’ll make a quick meal from the ingredients in my fridge and pantry. If I'm feeling too tired to cook, I’ll grab take-out from one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants like Grilled Fraiche (Black-owned!) or Urban Plates.
8:00 pm: Complete the required readings ahead of tomorrow’s BVI session.
6:00 am: Usual wake up routine - It’s another “on camera” day. Real clothes, hair, and makeup! *sigh*
9:00 am: One of my “side hustles'' is advising startup founders through my local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) which here in SoCal is called the Economic Development Center. Today, advisors and the program’s administrators are participating in a brainstorming workshop to explore ways to grow and scale the program’s funding arm and provide even more value to our clients!
11:00 am: People Team stand-up. During today's meeting, I’m presenting my retrospective on our first ever diversity, equity, and inclusion survey deployed at our company.
12:30 pm: And we’re LIVE! I was asked to join an incredible panel of women for the LendIt FinTech USA conference called, “Hacking the Existing Financial System: Black Women Driving Equitable Solutions.” I had such a wonderful, real and inspiring conversation with all the ladies!
1:30 pm: BVI starts a bit early today because of a mandatory networking session before class! Fun times :)
2:30 pm: It’s financial literacy month at Dave, and I want to be sure to attend the amazing guest speaker we invited who will talk about all things startup equity with our team! I’m “double dipping” my meetings (when I have two virtual meetings at once) so I have the BVI Zoom session going on my laptop, and the FinLit speaker up on my phone’s Google Hangouts App.
5:00 pm: Snack time! Dried mangos and plantain chips from Trader Joe’s are my FAVES!
7:00 pm: Bi-weekly workout with my personal trainer.
8:30 pm: Shower and post-workout snack of plain Greek yogurt and granola sprinkled with cinnamon and date syrup - it’s SO GOOD. I decided to watch the Real Housewives of New York all the way from Season 1 to the current season throughout the pandemic on Hulu, so time to catch up on a few episodes!
Reach out to Lauryn on Linkedin