Tyler Gallagher
Aug 13 · 13 min read

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mariel Arraiza, Managing Director, Eloan, Fintech Arm of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico. Strategist, results oriented, visionary, breast cancer survivor and entrepreneur at heart. Currently, Managing Director for the Eloan FinTech business model since 2016. In this role, Mariel has embraced the challenge of developing a startup Fin-Tech company within Popular after leading different areas as a Senior Vice President of Banco Popular, a role she has held since 2004. As Eloan’s lead, Mariel spearheads the vision and implementation for all the moving pieces of the “start up like” business model including product offering, customer experience, technology infrastructure, marketing, servicing and partnership building. But, above all, she is a strong advocate of customer satisfaction and makes sure the platform fulfills the client’s needs, passions and dreams. With a solid track record in Banking, Finance, Corporate Banking, Customer Contact Center, Marketing and currently with Eloan, Mariel covers the strategic aspects, as well as financials, operations and marketing. Numbers are her thing and when applied to creative work, the magic happens. Recently recognized as one of the 25 Most Innovative Bankers in Latin America and the Caribbean by the FinTech Americas organization. Holds a degree in Accounting from Boston College and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In business, is driven to strategize and innovate to stay ahead of business trends and competitors.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I am a Certified Public Accountant turned into a Banker and then a Marketing Technologist. After many financial learnings from my accounting career years, I am more drawn to create my own story through a new project, business or startup. That is why my career has taken a twist that has provided me the opportunity to lead different efforts and functions across the banking sector; from finance to operations, technology and marketing to the creation of a FinTech company in the US market. As a small-town girl from Puerto Rico, I have been more than fortunate for the opportunities offered to me and for being able to make an impact in other people’s lives, personally and professionally. On a personal level, I am the lucky mother of three, a breast cancer survivor and a happy wife to my handsome high school sweetheart.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

One of my most significant stories has been the transformation of a subjectively monitored marketing area to a more objective, analytical and quantifiable one. This process in alignment with the creation of a strategic brand strategy led to tangible impact in customer acquisition, satisfaction, engagement and overall reputation. We started leveraging our advantageous market position of 63% customer market share to create an intelligent platform of transactional and behavioral data to translate into better servicing and cross selling for our customers. This resulted in a reduction of our marketing budget, while meeting and exceeding our goals in terms of assets, number of accounts, channel usage, image score and overall satisfaction. We also built programs to foster community and economic impact with the creation of the Echar Pa’lante (Moving Forward), Finanzas en Tus Manos (Finance in your Hands) and Startup Popular movements.

We raised the importance of having an entrepreneurship mindset much needed to spark the Puerto Rico’s economy. College foundation was mostly shaping students around finding a job after graduation instead of generating ideas and business acumen to create one. The development of these grass roots movements with educational outreach, sponsorships and business opportunities for clients resulted in an outstanding foundation to transform the knowledge, risk tolerance and mentality of Puerto Ricans. This is evidenced by the number of professors and students trained, startups created as well as the international recognition received for the advertising efforts as well as the programs. Finanzas en Tus Manos, became the best financial literacy program earning the George Bailey Award of the American Banker Association in 2014. Echar Pa’lante’s campaign “The Most Popular Song” received the Public Relations Grand Prix in 2012 in Cannes as well as the Grand Prix in Strategic Planning from The London Group. As a movement, it has been recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative as one of the most impactful programs presented to foster a mentality and educational transformation.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Bill Gates said in 2004 that banking is necessary but banks are not. I take that very seriously when challenging what we do as bankers to facilitate money management in people’s lives. Let’s talk straight, financial products are not sexy and we are only an enabler to improve our customer’s quality of life and serve as a mechanism to fulfill their dreams. Our job is to present financial solutions through an accessible and convenient distribution process that facilitate the customer’s interaction with money. In that process, we strive to attract, acquire and serve potential customers, but is not always easy considering that most trusted banks rely on not so modern processes and core banking platforms. Thus, reinvention and innovation have become key values for the financial industry, we need to be more intelligent and creative while complying all regulations.

Taking advantage of the FinTech hype, the PR financial crisis and the ownership of the Eloan brand, Popular embarked in the creation of a new FinTech startup under my lead. Eloan is a pioneer marketplace lender founded in California during the late 1990s and we acquired it for $300 Million in 2005. Transitioning Eloan’s 2017 referral model into a new business model was part of the task and the end goal was to create a new franchise for Popular. The route was a white canvas. In 18 months, Eloan became a direct lender of unsecured personal loans in the US market and with more than $100 million in a prime retail lending portfolio and a Trustpilot satisfaction score of 87%. Impressive results, yeah@!! This is thanks to the hard work and commitment of many supporters and my Rockstar group of 5 people. The value proposition for our customer includes the approval decision within 15 seconds and funds disbursed as early as 24 hours. And the value proposition for Popular is a new source of assets from the US market with a superior user experience leveraging on new technology and expertise provided by our FinTech partner.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We call our customers enthusiasts because we embrace the concept of being an enthusiast ourselves. We are a team of 6 and strive for everything simply smart. We work hard at providing effectively simple solutions that are educational, empowering and that improve our customer and employee’s quality of life. We like to leverage the power of technology and information without losing contact with human emotions and making sure that everyone around is happy and have fun in the pursuit of doing their jobs. Our values are simple & smart, human & believers and passionate & intrapreneurial. As a team we love adventurous activities like zip lining and kayaking, we are foodies and love the experience of having a great meal and provide each other emotional support when needed. I think the collaboration, integration, holistic skills and happiness represented in the humanity of our team stand out, are contagious and translates to our brand, our customers, teams and overall results.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

This change has been caused mainly by the bravery of strong women with loud voices across industries. Some of these trailblazers are Carly Fiorina, Sheryl Sandberg, Malala, Serena Williams and more recently Megan Rapinoe. Movements, like #metoo and #timesup have triggered rounds of debate and pressure about women’s rights, respect, equality in pay and the promotion of women into leadership roles. Subsequent to the raised awareness and debate, affirmative action and diversity initiatives, including underrepresented groups, have been enforced. LGBTQ sector has also taken an aggressive stand to promote equality.

There has been some progress across sectors, and there is still a lot of work to do, especially in Wall Street and Finance. However, this change shouldn’t come as a result of complying with a statistic, it needs to be nurtured out of education, respect and fairness. Woman and men selected to sit at the table should represent the leadership skills, values and the recognition to a job well done to move up the higher ranks. Women participation in Board of Directors, C-Suite, award recognition and speaker opportunities are still lagging behind.

I was recently selected one of the top 25 most innovative bankers of FinTech Americas and only one other woman colleague composed the woman representation in the group, only 2 out of 25. FinTech, Risk Management, and/or Credit conferences also showcase the unbalanced distribution in the industry. As a woman and more as a Latin woman, I feel like a rare species attending to these forums. The ratio of women to men continues to be severely skewed, regardless of the position in the hierarchy. Unconscious bias continues to be a topic; thus, the ongoing conversation is necessary.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

In my opinion, women and men should continue the open conversation. This should not be perceived as a movement against men, in contrast, it needs to be an educational movement together. Most of what we are seeing today is the result of many biases in the upbringing passing through generations.

As individuals, we need to step away from stereotypes and start parenting our children free of conventionalism. Teaching respect, how to differ and debate without underestimating other’s position, race, gender, ethnicity or preferences are key to have a productive dialogue that accelerates results.

As leaders we can continue promoting equality and diversity within our groups and foster the same behavior in the companies that we partner with, using it as requisite of doing business. Antonio Lucio, Facebook’s CMO, started this movement when he was working at HP and enforced some progress in their advertising agencies.

In companies, we need to monitor ratios and key performance indicators comparing men, women and other underrepresented groups in their positions, pay and performance. But this process starts with establishing clear goals and align those across functions to foster collaboration and support. Calibration is also needed to standardized performance criteria across leaders over unintended subjectivity. When roles and goals are clear, it is easier and fairer to monitor adequate performance. After these are implemented, companies can increase the visibility and transparency of these metrics to monitor progress.

As a society, we need to influence the educational process, the academia and all forums to embrace diversity, inclusion and equality not only to women, but to all groups that have been undermined and somehow segregated historically.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I have a strong passion for developing young talent. For this, I have developed high school programs to foster financial literacy and tech knowledge in high school seniors. This process has given me the opportunity to learn that kids are lacking general financial concepts and money management skills. This is not being taught at school and a high percentage of parents do not have the knowledge themselves to teach their kids.

1. Create a business — the lemonade stands, baking cookies to sell or the purchase of cheap inventory to sell, are common examples of things that help you understand the value of money and the relationship between cost of goods, hours of work, revenues and net income.

2. Play more monopoly — investing in real estate, building an empire, charging rent and selling properties while competing with others create a sense of how it could work in real world in the finance

3. Save money — it becomes a lifestyle. My grandfather used to say: “spend one dollar but save a dime”. Nowadays, information is all around and there are many offerings and prices to an item, look for ways to save.

4. Create a Stockpile account — start understanding the dynamics of the stock market early on. Explore different industry types, understand the relation of the price with economic principles, reputation and market news.

5. Understand your credit profile — setting your credit profile early on is super important to your financial lifestyle eventually. Paying on time, experiencing credit lines, credit cards etc.

6. Learn about financial products — understand the differences between deposits vs. credit products and the solutions within those categories.

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 about that?

I have been blessed by the countless opportunities I have been offered along my career and the endless support of many leaders and mentors, women and men, who have believed in me. I am particularly grateful to the leader that hire me at the Corporate Banking department at Banco Popular. Back then, I was pregnant and leading my career in another direction, switching from accounting and finance roles to administration, cash management and credit activities. He empowered me and believed in me more than I believed in myself at the time. He gave me a space to voice my opinion, promoted courage and foster strategic depth and mentality.

While at the Corporate Banking, we discovered a material fraud scheme perpetrated by an accounting employee. We found that this employee was disbursing fraudulent loans and repaying those with legitimate customers loan payments to then create new loans to repay the outstanding payments already being paid by the customer. It was a very unfortunate situation but from a career standpoint, it felt like the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. The investigation and reconstruction of the fraud scheme gave me the opportunity to develop internal controls, strengthen audit process and present new ideas and solutions to top management. The resolution of the case led to various opportunities that opened my knowledge to other functions like the management of digital channels, a 24 hour call center and banking operations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite’s life lesson quotes, more like a motto is “Dream Big, Work Hard and Stay Humble” by Brad Meltzer. It provides a holistic foundation of happiness through personal and professional growth.

Dreaming big is necessary to paint a vision, and to formulate aspirations that aim to personal evolution. It is the engine that gives you hope and keeps you going, it is what inspires a lifelong journey of self-discovery, reflection and continuous learning to be a bigger person, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Work hard! Aspirations and dreams do not become reality if they don’t come accompanied by hard work. Work ethics, integrity and commitment to put in the hours, dedicate time to learn, to produce and to collaborate is necessary to make the dreams come true.

Stay Humble — be mindful that no matter what position you occupy or how much success comes your way, staying humble keeps you grounded and connected to your roots, values, principles and what really matters, family!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

My dream is to lead and drive significant changes in education. High school and universities curriculum are outdated and in deep need to be transformed. Technology, Robotics, Information Security, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning requires a more integrated approach to learning. Kids are going through an academic process that does not prepare them adequately to face the life out there. They do not know how to become financially independent. And whether you want to pursue a career in art or science, the management of money and technology are underlying themes that will impact all aspects in life. Science, Mathematics, Design, analytical skills and visualization are areas that need to be invigorated in Today’s educational system. Let’s teach them how to master technology and make good use of it recognizing its benefits and risks. Let’s teach them values and that building a life requires much more than pressing a button, it is not one click away.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

About the Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders. Feel free to reach out to Tyler on LinkedIn HERE .

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Tyler Gallagher

Written by

CEO and Founder of Regal Assets

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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