At OppFi, An External Mission Means Internal Investment

How the fintech company levels up both its customers and employees.

Written by Built In Staff
Published on Mar. 30, 2023
At OppFi, An External Mission Means Internal Investment
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A company’s path to success can take all sorts of twists, turns and detours — and each stop along the way, it looks more and more different than it did at the start. 

That metaphor comes to mind when revisiting a 2016 interview with OppFi leader Todd Schwartz.

“The first office we were in was a two-room office with four desks, a fax machine, a printer and two computers,” Schwartz said. 

The organization formerly known as OppLoans looks a lot different than it did in those early days. Since its founding in 2012, OppFi — which seeks to lower the barrier to entry for obtaining credit — has brought on big funding, expanded to more than 450 team members, netted honors for its growth and went public

For Schwartz, an OppFi founder, it’s been a winding journey as well. In February 2022, OppFi announced that Schwartz, the company’s chairman since 2015, would be reassuming the CEO mantle he once held years ago. 

“I am thrilled to once again be CEO of OppFi and to build on OppFi’s success and drive forward our mission to empower millions of everyday consumers to build better financial health,” Schwartz said in a press release announcing the news. 

He also shared his excitement for the path that lay ahead. 

“Having been a part of OppFi’s journey since founding the Company in 2012, I am more confident now than ever in our growth opportunity and mission to unlock credit access for millions of consumers. I believe in this company, in our dedicated team and in our steadfast commitment to financial inclusion,” he said. 

“Opportunity financial” is the longhand of the company’s current moniker. And, at the end of the day, the concept extends beyond providing the right type of access for customers. As previous interviews with team members and key leaders reveal, fintech success is also predicated on giving the right opportunities for its people to flourish.  

 

GET TO KNOW OPPFI

  • The core of OppFi is OppLoans, its online platform that helps facilitate loans for people who might not have access to traditional products. 
  • According to a March 2023 press release, OppFi reached new revenue highs in 2022 at more than $500 million
  • Its company values include “Best Idea Wins,” “Continuous Improvement” and “Define Success First”

 

Incubating Talent 

SVP of People Michelle Y. Bess  is focused on making sure team members can embark on a fruitful journey at OppFi. 

In a previous interview with Built In, Bess emphasized the importance of lending structure to learning and development efforts — which doesn’t just benefit the company in the now, but in the future as well. As Bess explained, planting the seeds for future success means doing the heavy lifting up front.

“As a public company that is growing, there is even more of an expectation and necessity to have strong performance-review, talent-review and succession-planning processes,” Bess said. “Having these processes in place, optimized and ensuring that all employees know and understand them helps us support career growth and development — and it guarantees we’re identifying and supporting the next generation of OppFi leaders internally.”

Bess, who was previously a DEI leader at Sprout Social, also emphasized the need to empower OppFi team members with the right opportunities. 

“When employees know what is possible for them, receive regular coaching and feedback, and feel invested in company growth as owners and leaders, the result is a winning combination that allows for strong retention,” she said.

 

“When employees know what is possible for them, receive regular coaching and feedback, and feel invested in company growth, the result is a winning combination.”

 

In a February 2022 interview with the Talent Development Hot Seat podcast, people leader Erin Killingsworth-Walker explained how the organization wants to let promising talent level up and tap into their potential. 

“What we’re really trying to do is develop our employees and leaders faster, providing experiences that are aligned to our core objectives and getting people to own their careers,” said Killingsworth-Walker, who joined the company as senior manager of learning and development, and now is the director of talent, learning and DEI.

She explained to podcast host Andy Storch that the company’s first-ever “Emerging Leaders” program aims at incubating up-and-coming talent and finding lanes for them to accelerate their potential growth as leaders. And, according to the company’s 2021 DEI report, a strong majority of participants found the program’s workshops to be valuable.

OppFi’s perks and benefits also play a role in aiding its peoples’ professional progression, including tuition reimbursement, access to platforms like LinkedIn Learning, education stipends, mentorship programs and industry certifications, among other available resources.

 

DEI Dedication

“When we think of DEI at OppFi, we weave it into everything that we do,” Killingsworth-Walker said in the aforementioned podcast interview. 

In OppFi’s 2021 DEI report, Bess reinforced Killingsworth-Walker’s statement.

“OppFi serves a socioeconomically underserved population in need of credit access, financial inclusion and, at the end of the day, empathy and understanding. Maximizing our service to our customers first starts by prioritizing the well-being of our employees,” Bess wrote.

As a DEI leader, Bess asks the important questions that will culminate in wider change, making sure no consideration goes untouched. 

“Which promotion and hiring processes exclude underrepresented groups? In what ways have meetings or office events not considered working parents? Does the office layout and resources we offer inhibit individuals with disabilities?” Bess told Built In Chicago when asked about OppFi’s unconscious bias training efforts.

At OppFi, DEI — steered by the trio of values of  “equity,” “empathy” and “educate” — materializes in wide-ranging, complementary measures, like diversification efforts in leadership ranks, anti-bias training for hiring managers, companywide DEI training and other initiatives. 

A major consideration in realizing a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace starts with building a team in that light. And Bess has been able to make an impact in that respect, as well: According to an article by Crain’s Chicago Business, Bess helped bring in more women technologists thanks to strategic, thoughtful talent acquisition efforts.

“Our recruitment team spent time going into the community and building relationships,” Bess told Crain’s

 

Connection at OppFi

In the day-to-day work itself, it’s crucial for team members to have the support systems and forums for sharing their voice in an authentic, inclusive environment. At OppFi, business resource groups include:

  • Oppt for Gender Equality
  • Oppt for Pride
  • Oppt for Latinx Advancement
  • Oppt for Black Excellence
  • Oppt for Asians and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • “Oppt for Accessibility.”

 

As Bess wrote in the report, putting serious effort between DEI efforts internally can have a powerful ripple effect. And, at the end of the day, DEI work inherently overlaps with the company’s mission. 

“The work we do at OppFi is to empower people through financial literacy which is one of the best ways to disrupt this system,” Bess wrote. “With this knowledge, it’s our responsibility and commitment as a company to listen, learn and iterate in order to do DEI well, because the work of DEI can transform our cities, communities and country and that’s something to look forward to.

 

Header image via Shutterstock.

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