Women Leading The Finance Industry: “Why you shouldn’t accept an increase on your credit cards’ credit limit” With Rochelle Gorey of of SpringFour

Tyler Gallagher
Oct 20, 2020 · 10 min read
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Don’t accept an increase on your credit cards’ credit limit. My first credit card, right out of college, had a limit of $500. I am so thankful that it did. Almost every month, my bill was near $500 and thankfully, I could pay it off. If I had been able to get a higher limit, I may have maxed it out on needless purchases because I didn’t have the maturity or knowledge to understand how dangerous that was.

a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rochelle Gorey.

Rochelle Gorey is the Co-Founder, President & CEO of SpringFour.

SpringFour is a Certified B Corporation and social impact fintech company located in Chicago. Used by leading financial institutions, employers, fintech companies, and nonprofits, SpringFour’s platform increases payment performance by connecting customers to financial health resources. With more than 18,000 curated resources available in all 50 states, SpringFour helps improve consumers’ cash flow and payment performance while saving subscribers millions in servicing costs and missed payments. Rochelle has more than 25 years of experience in public policy, government relations, homeownership and asset building fields.

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

began my career in the nonprofit world leading policy and innovation on housing and reinvestment issues. Later on, I consulted for a large mortgage servicer when I realized something: If servicers had the ability to look up foreclosure timelines in different states while on calls with delinquent borrowers, they could also benefit from being able to look up nonprofit and government agencies that could assist their customers.

My co-founder, Dr. J. Michael Collins, and I decided to build that technology. I knew from my experience working with community organizations that too often, people do not know about local organizations that can assist them. I also knew from my time working with a large servicer that lenders who have large portfolios of loans cannot always be the experts on every organization in every market. SpringFour would allow the financial services industry to identify and recommend vetted, curated nonprofit and government resources that could help their customers repay their loans and improve their financial situations.

I am drawn to this work because I grew up in a low-income household. My parents were both in the social services field, and money was always tight. We relied on outside sources to make ends meet — food stamps, free school lunches, the WIC program, and unemployment benefits. I applied for financial aid to attend college. Even though my parents were able to keep up with bills and eventually buy a house, I was always embarrassed by my family’s money issues. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized they hadn’t done anything wrong.They just didn’t earn a lot of money. Ever since, I have spent my career trying to erase the shame and stigma that is associated with financial challenges.

Since day one, SpringFour was founded on the belief that when people are experiencing financial challenges, it is because there is something happening in their lives that makes it impossible to pay — but they can and deserve to be directed to assistance. Too often, people experiencing financial hardship fall victim to scams and unscrupulous actors. I wanted to ensure that those in need would always be directed to reputable organizations. If we built this technology correctly, banks would benefit too: they would see repayment rates increase and delinquencies and foreclosures decrease.

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

In 2015, SpringFour received the Empowerment Award from the Promontory Financial Group, which was a huge honor and served as an outside validation of our work. Promontory was founded and is led by Gene Ludwig, who previously served as the head of the Office of the Comptroller of Currency in the Clinton administration. At the reception prior to the awards ceremony, I had the opportunity to reintroduce myself to Gene. We had met several times in my previous role as a community organizer and advocate for the Community Reinvestment Act, but I wasn’t sure he remembered me. Later that night when he was on stage introducing me, he told the crowd he had just realized who I was — the same person who had organized busloads of community members to demonstrate outside his office.

You never know when you will encounter someone again! Even though we had been entrenched on opposing sides of an issue in our previous careers, we had always respected each other’s convictions. When we shook hands on that stage, it was a full circle moment for both of us.

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

We were quick to respond to COVID-19 and offer SpringFour’s services to the financial services industry so they could offer more comprehensive assistance during this unprecedented time. Our team quickly researched and vetted local organizations around the country that could assist, and we built out three new COVID-19 service categories for our clients — financial assistance, food, and employment. Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve made over two million referrals to help people find assistance in their own communities. We’ve also increased our technology team’s capacity to help new clients get up and running faster.

We recently launched two new partnerships with major credit card companies, and it’s exciting to see our products used in that space. We hear from our clients that their customers are responsive and that their customer experience scores are soaring.

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

Since day one, we have structured SpringFour to never take money from a struggling consumer, never put ads in front of them, and never charge an organization that provides financial resources to be on our platform. We offer all of our clients unlimited usage because we know that people often experience multiple financial challenges at once, and that they can be ongoing. This was a huge benefit to our existing clients when COVID-19 hit.

We have always been intent on being a trusted source of information for the consumer. We have never strayed from this in fifteen years. Our clients know that this is a differentiator for us. It tells them that priority number one is driving impact for their customer and helping them become financially healthy.

SpringFour is one of only a few Certified B social impact fintech companies, and one of even fewer led by a woman. We have not needed to raise any outside capital. We continually hear from our clients that we exceed their expectations. We are a “win, win, win” partnership for them because we help them improve their bottom line, retain customers, and add to their brand value. There are not many companies that can deliver on so many levels.

SpringFour stands out because we began innovating in this space before anyone else. Our mission really connects with people, especially during this extraordinary time when so many people are hurting financially.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. 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?

I wouldn’t say that it has changed a lot at all, actually. We have seen movement and progress but it still hasn’t been enough. With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, we have all taken some time to reflect on the incredible work that has been done to level the playing field, but it isn’t over yet. There is still a lot of work to do.

Women, particularly minority women, are still disproportionately underfunded. Only three percent of women founders go on to raise capital, yet women-led companies consistently outperform male-led companies. Women-led fintech companies are still relatively rare and we are just now seeing a woman being named CEO of a major financial company with Jane Fraser at Citi. It’s 2020 — the numbers should be higher.

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?

  1. Provide opportunities for young girls to see women in leadership roles and be mentored by them.
  2. Change the unwritten rules by which women are evaluated and judged differently than men.
  3. Provide twelve weeks standard paid parental leave and offer free, nationwide childcare for working parents.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

I’d like to see high schools place a greater emphasis on financial literacy and financial education. Most high school students are recommended to take four years of math classes no matter the degree they intend to pursue at university, yet many go on to careers in fields that don’t require calculus, statistics, or algebra.

Regardless of the career you pursue, life requires you to understand the ins and out of finances — and if you don’t, it ends with poor credit scores and bad financial decisions. Financial education should be incorporated into math classes each year to drive home its importance and relevance in real life. Imagine if everyone understood the relevance of APR by the time they graduated high school.

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.

Do your best to pay your bills on time. Credit scores affect so much in our lives. They now even impact the hiring process.

Don’t accept an increase on your credit cards’ credit limit. My first credit card, right out of college, had a limit of $500. I am so thankful that it did. Almost every month, my bill was near $500 and thankfully, I could pay it off. If I had been able to get a higher limit, I may have maxed it out on needless purchases because I didn’t have the maturity or knowledge to understand how dangerous that was.

Pinpoint a person in your life whom you can trust to give you financial advice and guidance. Don’t be ashamed of what you don’t know. It’s pretty clear that we do not do a good job in this country of educating people about finances so it’s okay not to know but it’s important to seek out help and advice when you don’t.

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?

My first boss out of college, Gale Cincotta, a community activist and organizer. She is known as the mother of the Community Reinvestment Act. I know I would not be where I am today without her. I learned so much from her: how to be an authentic leader and a strategic thinker, how to organize and motivate for change, how to reach out and respect the wisdom of everyday people, how to look at policy change from the level of who that policy affects.

Gale took me to meetings with very influential people. I met senators and congresspeople, governors and mayors, and even Alan Greenspan, Former Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve. She provided me with an opportunity early in my career to see how things get done and how change really happens. I definitely was not qualified to be in those rooms yet, but with Gale’s guidance, I rose to the occasion. I use the skills she taught me every single day and work hard to empower others on my team.

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

“Be Kind.” This is not overrated. You never know when you might need to reach out to someone from your past, and it’s always easier to reconnect when you are confident you have always been kind to them.

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 big idea is what I have spent the last fifteen years building. I want to change the way the industry treats people in delinquency and create a better way to help people repay their debts.

I have always believed that we should treat people who experience financial challenges with decency. My radical idea is that when people can’t pay their bills, providers should not be calling to ask when they will pay. They aren’t paying because they can’t pay. Instead, providers should be bringing empathy, information, and resources to the conversation. SpringFour’s track record shows that when they do, it works — customers get back on track with their payments.

It’s been a slow road to change, but our work and impact have accelerated since the pandemic began. COVID-19’s financial and economic impact has shown us that we are all one disaster away from a financial emergency, and all of us deserve assistance when it happens.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

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.

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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