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FinTech Female Fridays: Sharla Godbehere, Alternative Finance/FinTech Leader, Equifax

You have worked at Equifax for over 2 decades; what have been the largest changes you experienced within the company and within the industry?

Many people have asked me how I could stay at one company for so many years. Equifax has consistently evolved to meet the changing needs of the industry. This has created an environment of change for me. When I began at Equifax, modeling and scores were just starting to be used for risk decisions but the only real data available was credit. Now lenders have many options when looking at data to help them make solid decisions. While traditional credit is still a key factor in understanding risk, how debts were paid in the past is a good indicator of how they will be paid in the future. Of course, employment and income, debts beyond just credit cards and loans, cash flow and transaction data can also play a factor in determining risk.

Why did you decide to pivot from Strategic Account Team Director to Online Financial Services?

I was starting to work with online lenders a few years back and saw that the industry was rapidly growing and changing. I saw this as a tremendous opportunity. I was also fortunate to have leadership who supported my beliefs and allowed me to form a team focused specifically on the FinTech industry. We now have a team of people across the country who are dedicated to addressing the unique needs of this space.

Equifax is a global data and analytics technology company; in light of the volatile market; where do you foresee data analytic companies shifting in 2020?

This is definitely a unique situation we are in today. That said, more data drives better decisions. I see data and analytics playing an even bigger role in the future of financial services.

What is the biggest need in the FinTech ecosystem at this moment to help survive in this particular market?

FinTechs are in a solid position to help consumers and small businesses through these challenging times.They already work in a digital, virtual, social distancing-friendly environment.They provide services needed by small businesses and consumers to get them through challenging times in a flexible environment.It’s important for investors and the broader financial ecosystem to understand the value of FinTechs and to continue to support the FinTech industry.I believe that FinTechs can be a driving force as we work to move the economy in a positive direction again.

What do you think will happen to the lending market in the next 6-12 months for banks as well as private companies?

Banks and credit unions will need to learn from FinTechs, adapting strong digital strategies that help reduce physical touch points. Those that have already made an investment in cloud solutions -- allowing them to be nimble and flexible while focusing on the consumer experience -- will rise to the top.

Some people say that we needed an economic reset as we were on an all-time 11 year high; what is your opinion on the matter? When do you think we will feel economic “normalcy”?

I would hope that anyone who believed that we needed an “economic reset” was expecting a much different scenario than what we’re seeing today. Leading up to this, we all saw a lot of aggressive activity in the FinTech world. You saw two high dollar acquisitions recently – Plaid to Visa and Credit Karma to Intuit. I fully expected there were young, innovative college students anxious to create the next big FinTech. I was actually excited to see where we would go. Now, I think many will be more reserved and conservative. I tend to be optimistic, but I believe if the government and investors can continue to support the FinTech industry, we are in a position to help the consumers impacted by COVID-19 survive these challenging times and come out ahead.

This isn’t like 2008. Our financial structure is sound, consumers and small businesses just need a little help until things can return to some semblance of normalcy. I do think the “new” normal will look different, but there is no reason to think people won’t start traveling and eating out and undertaking the activities that fuel our day-to-day economy as soon as it is safe to do so.

*The opinions expressed are that of Sharla Godbehere and not necessarily those of Equifax.

Reach out to Sharla on LinkedIn.

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