Where in the world is Tala? Zach Marks in Geneva & Nairobi

With offices in Santa Monica, Nairobi and Manila, the Tala team is global. Learning about the nuances of each market that we serve — from cultural views of money to preferred barbecue selection — matters. Zach Marks, our Director of New Products and Partnerships recently took a multi-continent journey where he did everything from speaking on a panel for the World Trade Organization to speaking to customers over tea and chapati in Nairobi. Here are his key takeaways.

My goal for this trip was…
To get feedback on new products from our customers. Banks have offered the same standard menu of financial products for the past few decades. It’s clear from talking to customers in Kenya that these products don’t meet their day-to-day needs or match their mental models around money.

After speaking with bankers at conferences in Geneva and Nairobi, I am convinced we are better suited to provide innovative new products that truly meet the needs of the global emerging middle class — we have the unique insights and data, the speed to innovate, and the customer relationships to do so.

This helped me grow because…
I got to speak on a panel alongside global leaders in technology and public policy on expanding financial access across the world. Tala has given me a platform to speak about these issues, and it’s a treat working at a company where those opportunities aren’t limited to the CEO. It’s always fun participating in a conference with a bunch of bankers in pressed suits and ties, and I show up straight from meeting customers over samosas in their roadside shops, with a little dirt on my shoes.

A memorable moment from this trip was…
I took a few days off to head to the Kenyan coast where I visited Lamu, the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa. A local fisherman named Hassan took me on a tour through the mangrove forests on an old wooden dhow boat. Hassan laughingly shared a story of getting captured by young Somali pirates while on a fishing trip but having nothing to offer them except ugali — a Kenyan dish made of maize flour. When we started talking about Tala, he got excited about using our credit product to repair his boat, which his father built with his hands, so he could earn more from tourism to supplement his fishing income.

My time with Hassan was an important friendly reminder of why I work at Tala — to expand opportunities for enterprising individuals to grow their businesses and improve their lives.

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