FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Marla Sofer, Founder and CEO at Knomee
Marla began her career in non-profit fundraising before pivoting to finance through a part time MBA. After graduating, she began her financial services journey as a private banker at Bank Leumi (now Valley Bank). Marla then transitioned to institutional custody banking operations at J.P. Morgan, supporting large asset managers. She was relocated to California and grew her team during the 2008 financial crisis, eventually moving to BlackRock as a founding member of the Global Provider Strategy team.
As Marla’s finance career progressed, she sought meaningful opportunities to improve the industry for more customers, and she came to the realization that moving into fintech would be the best next step. In 2015, she left BlackRock to pave a new path for herself in fintech by leading third party oversight at Lending Club, building a business development function at Xignite, and leading strategic partnerships at Jemstep/Invesco. Her experience and skills enabled her to move first to Microsoft, then to Carta where she spent 9 months as VP of strategic partnerships. After reflecting on her objective to change financial services for the better, Marla decided to pursue her passion for customer centricity by launching a business empowering people to connect more effectively with financial services providers through consensually shared profiles. With each career change, Marla gained invaluable industry knowledge that ultimately led her to create Knomee.
Knomee guides customers to align their behaviors with their values. The firm begins with self discovery by enabling clients to document their financial identity, update it often as their life changes, and share it with financial services providers who can offer them better, more personalized products and services. Knomee employees recognize that life is short, so the company culture revolves around having fun, working hard, and doing what they can to live their best lives in the present.
Knomee is also defining the future of fintech by flipping data ownership around. As personalization becomes critical to the delivery of financial services, companies are struggling to keep up. Most financial services companies lack a deep understanding of their customers and prospects. Customer records only capture a sliver of the data required for firms to deliver quality products and solutions. As customers take center stage, Knomee offers a tool for people to find financial wellness and empowerment over their futures.
Deciding to be a founder was the biggest professional and personal challenge Marla has ever undertaken. She pushes herself by going beyond her comfort zone daily and finding her people along the way. It is particularly the people who Marla’s met throughout her career – both supporters and doubters – that she is grateful to for motivating her to start Knomee.
Marla is excited to be a part of the growing community of emerging personal finance focused startups and to see trustworthy operating rails working together. She believes in the opportunity to engage the customer differently so that they rebuild trust in the industry to serve their unmet needs. While many fintechs in the past have failed to embrace the personalization or wellness opportunities that the industry demands, there is a new wave of startups, including Knomee, that are focused on trust and creating real value for the world.
More on Marla
Where you currently live: Foster City, CA
Living arrangement: Married to my husband of 20 years this year!
Family at home: 2 teenagers at home now, but not for long – 1 is a senior and 1 a junior…I’m already sad about them going to college over the next two years.
Hometown: El Paso, TX
Favorite hobby: Entertaining – I love hosting people for meals.
Favorite show to binge: Podcast – Esther Perel’s ‘Where do we begin?’
Favorite fintech media (blog, podcast, newsletter etc) that inspires you: I enjoy reading Theodora Lau’s newsletters and LinkedIn posts from Samantha Katz to stay up to date on all things related to diversity and inclusion in financial services. I also like The Financial Revolutionist and its brief takes on changes at large financial services firms.
What's the best job decision you ever made?
There have been 4 major decisions, and I am reluctant to call any “best”, but they have reflected my personal journey…and best or not…it’s mine.
When I dove into financial services from non-profit in 2004
When I relocated to San Francisco in 2007 with J.P. Morgan
When I jumped ship from BlackRock to Lending Club in 2015 to be in fintech
Now – launching Knomee
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
I’m an open book and recognize the value of sharing information to build relationships, express empathy, and create a bond. However, I have learned to curate my openness and to make sure that I spend more time listening. I have to bite my tongue sometimes because I get very excited in conversation and want to engage in a connection. Listening and allowing others to speak has been an incredibly important lesson.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I just began starting my day with a 10-minute meditation. It’s hard to carve out the time, but I learned to start with it to power more productivity throughout the day. I find that when I start with 10 minutes to ground myself and quiet noise, it helps me focus. My kids also motivate me. I want to be a part of making a better future for them. I do not believe in work/life balance. Work is part of life, and my life has always accommodated my work. I make the rules and find my own relationship to balance.
6:00 - 7:00 am: Morning routine
7:30 am: Meditation and say goodbye to kids as they head off to school
8:00 am - 6:30 pm: calls with team, investors, customers, partners
6:30 pm: Yoga
7:30 pm: Prepare & eat dinner with family
8:30 pm: 3 mile walk with husband
9:30 pm: Wrap up work and prepare for the next day
10:30 pm: Get in bed, read a bit or watch something briefly before crashing