Haiyan Huang, Vice President, Head of Credit at Prosper, sits down with TransUnion SVP of Consumer Lending, Liz Pagel, to discuss her career path, trends in the fintech space and financial inclusion.
Liz: You’ve got a great role at Prosper, but we don’t often see women in that particular seat at FinTechs. Can you talk about your position, how you got there and what has impacted your success?
Haiyan: At Prosper, my focus is on data science, credit risk and fraud. Prosper is a fast-growing company that has allowed me to focus on maximizing what I can manage to deliver business results vs. running into barriers based on my job definition — and I know my experience in the business development space has impacted my approach to serving customers. But I think what’s impacted me the most, even subconsciously, is thinking about the returns all the time — almost like an entrepreneur.
After I got my PhD in Decision Sciences, I was hired as a lead scientist at FICO. The job perfectly aligned with my interest in the financial world and allowed me to see firsthand the kind of value analytics could have for our clients. I was there for four and a half years before joining GE Global Research Center — although that was a very different role in business development. Soon after, I realized I missed the financial world and had skills and interests there I wanted to further develop — so I joined HSBC next, followed by Discover where I stayed for eight years. At Discover, I held various roles — first leading a very large analytics group covering risk, marketing analytics, operations and network services, and then managing the card credit strategy team.
Ultimately though, when I really think about my journey, I wouldn’t consider any of it a detour, even if some of it looks that way. Every piece has been so important in terms of how I’ve come to think and understand what kind of job I’m ready for.
Liz: In your experience, how does having a woman at the table change management in the FinTech industry?
Haiyan: I think it’s critical for leaders to really think about allowing paths to cultivate talent, whether the talent pool is male or female. Diversity really helps bring many minds together with a clear focus of growing the business, and that starts with recognizing the talent you have and the different kinds of views you need.
On an individual level, I believe in tying your personal goals with the business goal. In my experience, this motivates you to do your best and remove fear of bringing new ideas to the table — which is critical to driving the best business results. I believe business grows when individuals grow.
Liz: I want to ask you about financial inclusion since those words are popping up more and more at organizations throughout the financial services industry. How do you think FinTechs can help promote financial inclusion, and how do we make it a reality for people in this country?
Haiyan: At the end of the day, I think companies have different goals they’re trying to accomplish and visions they want to see through. This includes thinking about how to develop sustainable vision strategies
and understanding how to serve consumers within your risk tolerance — because ultimately, companies need to meet certain financial objectives for investors. So, companies need to be thinking about a number of things: How to be more efficient; how to better target and serve customers; and how to remove friction from the user experience. In terms of FinTechs, I do think they’re a few steps ahead in terms of digitalization and offering more of an one-stop shop.
I generally think FinTechs are trying to give these populations better access to credit so they can ultimately experience a level of service equal to what the prime plus population receives from mainstream lenders. At the same time, I think we’re also open to new ways of serving these populations based on consumers’ needs.
As Head of Credit Risk at Prosper Marketplace, Haiyan oversees all elements of Prosper’s credit strategy, including pricing, underwriting, fraud, loss-forecasting, model development and model governance. She also manages all credit risk aspects of new product development.