Wharton FinTech
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Raul Vazquez, CEO of Oportun — Democratizing Credit, Leadership Lessons, and Navigating an IPO

Miguel Armaza sits down with the very genuine Raul Vazquez, CEO of Oportun, a Nasdaq-listed company that provides responsible consumer credit. Founded 15 years ago, Oportun has extended more than 4 million loans and over $10 billion in affordable credit.

Raul has been Oportun’s CEO since 2012 and previously served as CEO of Walmart.com. Currently, he also serves on the board of Intuit and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders. He is also a proud MBA graduate of the Wharton School.

In this episode, we discuss:

Raul’s fascinating story and how the oldest son of Mexican immigrants became the CEO of a publicly traded company. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Raul grew up in between the US and Mexico. Crossing the border and visiting Mexico became an important part of his identity and he remembers spending summers and winters visiting his mother’s small mining town and adopting that “immigrant mindset” which is often lost amongst first-generation Americans. Through sheer determination and parents that placed immense emphasis on education, Raul got into Stanford Engineering for his Bachelor’s degree and later Wharton for this MBA.

“I got into Stanford and it was a very humbling experience for me. In retrospect, it turned out that although I thought I was really smart, I think more of it was just that my high school was fairly easy.”

Oportun’s digital and retail hybrid approach and the importance of being a mission-driven company. Raul joined Oportun in 2012 after having served as CEO of Walmart.com for over three years. Back then, Oportun was mostly a physical retail business serving customers through a wide network of stores across the country. Over the last decade, Oportun has transformed itself into a hybrid model, providing services online and offline. As of today, 68% of new customers interact with Oportun via mobile.

“Our mission is that we’re focused on providing inclusive, affordable financial services that fundamentally empower our customers and help them build a better future.”

The reasons why about 100 million people are not fully served by the US mainstream financial system and what Oportun is doing about it. Traditional financial institutions do not have a history of inclusion and millions of people (minorities in particular) have not had a chance to participate fully In the mainstream financial system. Oportun estimates there are 45 million people who are ‘credit invisibles’ and 55 million who are not being scored properly by the credit bureaus.

“Our customer is a hard-working, responsible individual that just hasn’t had a fair opportunity or the right opportunity. And we’ve now created an organization of over 2000 people that wants to serve that individual and wants to give them a fair product that leads to great outcomes.”

Reflections from Oportun’s IPO process. As a high-growth, credit-driven business, Oportun leadership always knew going public was a likely route. Being able to tap US capital markets while demonstrating the success of an inclusionary model, has been strategically important for Raul.

“The mission for us is the front wheel, it determines where do we go… But the profitability of the business is the rear wheel. It’s what actually gives us the power and ability to move in the direction that we want.”

The power of compassionate leadership, management lessons, and the hardest business decisions he’s had to make… And a lot more!

Raul Vazquez

Raul has served as Oportun’s chief executive officer and board member since 2012. His past experience includes leadership roles at Walmart, including three years as CEO of Walmart.com, and at high-growth startups. Raul currently serves on the boards of Intuit and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, and he formerly sat on the board at Staples. He has been a member of the Community Advisory Board at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and chaired the Federal Reserve’s Community Advisory Council. He holds a BS and MS in industrial engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School. In 2018, he was named EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year in financial services. Raul celebrates the good and bad, the small and big, with ice cream from Dairy Queen.

About Oportun

Oportun (Nasdaq: OPRT) is a financial services company that leverages its digital platform to provide responsible consumer credit to hardworking people. Using A.I.-driven models that are built on 15 years of proprietary customer insights and billions of unique data points, Oportun has extended more than 4 million loans and over $10 billion in affordable credit, providing its customers with alternatives to payday and auto title loans. In recognition of its responsibly designed products which help consumers build their credit history, Oportun has been certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) since 2009.

Full interview → Spotify | Soundcloud | Apple

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Miguel Armaza is Co-Host of the Wharton Fintech Podcast and Co-Founder of Gilgamesh Ventures, a seed-stage investment fund focused on fintech in the Americas.

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Miguel Armaza

Miguel Armaza

🎙Co-President/Podcast Host @WhartonFintech. Fintech investor @ Gilgamesh. 📚MBA/MA Candidate @Wharton/@LauderInstitute. Author of Fintech Leaders Newsletter✍️