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Archie Puri Of Galileo On How They Are Helping To Promote Financial Inclusion

An Interview With Orlando Zayas

Identify your target customers. Are you targeting a specific segment of the underserved or unbanked population? What are their specific needs or pain points and do they vary depending on other factors?

Most of us take it for granted that we can open a bank or a credit card. But the truth is, according to the World Bank, close to one-third of adults — 1.7 billion — are still unbanked, and have no access to a transaction account. About half of unbanked people include women in poor households in rural areas or out of the workforce. What can be done and what is being done to promote more financial inclusion? Authority Magazine is starting a new series about Companies Helping To Promote Financial Inclusion. In this series we are talking to leaders of companies and organizations who are helping to promote financial inclusion. As part of this series, I had the pleasure to interview Archie Puri.

In her role as Galileo’s chief product officer, Archana (Archie) Puri is responsible for a team that defines the company’s product strategy, identifies and segments target markets, and develops the roadmap for key product capabilities — with the goal of delivering end-to-end product experiences to clients. Before joining Galileo in January 2021, Archie spent eight years at PayPal, most recently as general manager for Braintree (a PayPal service) and vice president of product and technology for enterprise and partner solutions. She has 20+ years of experience in product development and expertise in general management and product and technology leadership, and was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women in Payments for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India. We were a middle-class family of three children, and I was the change-of-life baby for my parents. My siblings are 11 and 13 years older than me. So it was like being surrounded by adults, and I was largely left to my own devices. My dad was a small business owner running a small moving and shipping company at the three docks associated with the Port of Mumbai. Despite having a humble beginning, he worked hard and built a successful life for himself. We spent countless hours together at his small office; he told me stories about his journey, his work ethic and the inflection points that had led to his life until that point. He was a significant influence in my early years, making me believe in myself and that I could do anything.

He passed away suddenly when I was 13, and most of my choices from that point were based on balancing a need for financial stability, a promise to live by the values of grit, honesty and hard-work that he taught me, and a dream to build something I could point to as my own. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I did know I would need to get creative to achieve the skills for it. That took me down a circuitous path to becoming a software engineer, and I have lived and breathed tech since then.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

For a college student of modest means, books were hard to come by. However, I was a voracious reader and would take a monthly hour-long train ride to go to the British Council Library in the financial district of Mumbai to borrow books. The trip was glorious, taking me into the heart of the city that beat at a frenetic pace with so much business booming at every turn that you could feel that energy pulsing. There were two very contrasting books that made an impression on me — one was an abridged analysis of the Sick Industrial Companies Act (SICA) of 1985 and the other was a gem by Dale Carnegie “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

SICA was an important piece of legislation that was created to combat a growing industrial sickness in India. The Act itself wasn’t interesting. For me, the fascinating part was the study on the detection of early signs of sickness and strategies outlined to combat it effectively. The need for decisive action and grit was evident.

In contrast, Dale Carnegie blew my mind with the simplicity of the principles he wrote that for the most part outlined basic human decency, which is often forgotten. My favorite quote was: “Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain — and most fools do.” This other one was: “Let him save his face. How important; how vitally important it is! And how few of us stop to think of it!”

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is your better and your better is your best.”

After my dad’s passing, I needed things that would help cultivate in me both the hope for the future, as well as the resilience I needed for the journey ahead. When I was in my undergrad program, I was the professional services director of a club called the Rotaract Club (part of Rotary International), and I had a chance to meet the renowned executive coach, Arvind Nadkarni. I had gone to his house to appeal to his good nature to conduct a free session for the students of our college, and I walked away learning so much more. He said, “It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, or you shouldn’t worry about who you will be tomorrow. Every day you have to be slightly better than you were yesterday.” He taught us this exercise where you wake up first thing in the morning, and you look at your palms and focus. You then say aloud: “Every day in every way, I will become better and better.” That was a very impactful thing for me. For the longest time, I had worried that I wouldn’t have enough to offer. For the first time, I learned that I’m not fixed in my abilities; I can grow, I can change and I can overcome odds.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, leadership is about courage and continuing to march ahead, even though you might be fearful. The odds might be against you. The path might not be clear, but doing what needs to be done, no matter how hard it is and inspiring other people to take that risk with you — that’s leadership. In that journey, it’s also about making sure you’re not only thinking about yourself but keeping the needs of those who follow you ahead of your own and catering to them before you cater to yourself. I would call that leadership.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’m not sure how interesting it is, but my path to living in the United States began with a resignation. We were living in India and my husband and I were both traveling across countries and it was difficult for us as a family. I was working at Yahoo! then. So when my daughter was about 3, I decided to leave Yahoo! to join my husband in the United States. When the leadership found out I wanted to move, they asked me if my decision to leave was about the work, the project or the people. It wasn’t; I loved the work I was doing and found it very rewarding. At the time, I was working on the strategic Yahoo-Microsoft Search Alliance. They were very keen to keep me on the initiative, and it was actually better for the initiative for me to be in California. So they offered me a chance to transfer to San Francisco. That’s how we ended up moving to California. It was a great step for us as a young family.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with a basic definition so that all of our readers are on the same page. What exactly is Financial Inclusion?

Financial inclusion to me is being able to get access to the financial services that are right for you no matter who you are and what your stage in life is.

What does it mean to be “unbanked”?

Unbanked people do not use banks, or banking institutions, in any capacity. They are invisible to the banking system because they don’t use traditional banking services, relying instead on alternate means and often cash. In my view, people don’t use a service because it doesn’t cater to their needs.

Underbanked, in contrast, means they have a desire to be a part of the banking system, but they don’t have access to the right products.

These are exactly the kind of problems that financial inclusion attempts to solve. Financial inclusion is about making sure people have access to the right financial products and services, no matter who they are and what their stage is.

For the benefit of our readers, can you explain some of the typical reasons why a person might be unbanked? Why can’t they just walk into the local bank and open an account? Why can’t they simply open an account online?

A good service needs to meet people where they are. People may not use traditional financial services provided by a bank for reasons ranging from physical distance, accessibility, ease of use, lack of knowledge and sometimes lack of faith.

First, there might not be a local bank near you, or the nearest branch might be really far. Second, they may not have the ability to get to that branch. They might be physically unable to do so. I can tell you that for a period of time, my mom was very sick and she wasn’t able to walk. She had no access to a bank and had various bills that were unpaid because they were all paper-based. We had to figure out a way for her to get access to online financial services. This highlighted that there are also barriers such as access to a working internet and access to knowledge of online services. We are assuming that digitization has reached all corners of the world, whereas it may not have.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your work to promote Financial Inclusion? Without saying names, can you share a story about a person who was helped by your initiative?

Galileo’s role in the ecosystem is to enable other dreamers and founders and fintechs to go live with the products that solve problems they’re passionate about. For many of the companies we work with, financial inclusion is core to their mission — whether it’s enabling banking for people who live paycheck to paycheck, contributing to combating climate change, making it possible for people to send money back to their home countries to help support their families, or supporting immigrants in their early days of settling in. Those meaningful value propositions and many more that expand access to digital banking, credit, investing and wealth management become possible because of Galileo’s technology platform and experience in the market. Fintech is changing financial services rapidly, and we see ourselves as the shepherds of that change.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for businesses to promote financial inclusion?

If you look at it from an egalitarian standpoint, there is an absolute need for financial inclusion. Every person deserves access to the tools to use their money. Access can lead to financial independence.

From my personal experience during my teenage years struggling to make ends meet, access to opportunities that lead to economic betterment are often gated by access to financial services. For the longest time, being able to break through and uplift our family’s circumstances depended upon my access to opportunities that would get me a decent paycheck. I wanted to learn computing. Initially, I couldn’t get access to that opportunity because no one would take a chance on me. Past experiences had left my family jaded and there wasn’t an option to get a loan to fund an education.

In the end, I got lucky because the educational institution I picked was new, and they had promotional offers that were designed to attract students with scholastic achievements. I had always been a good student and at the top of my class. I was able to get a 90% discount on the tuition. The 10% made it affordable for me, and it changed things for my family.

If you look at financial inclusion from a revenue and market expansion standpoint, if everyone is going after the same people who already might be well served or who have access to financial services they need, you’re making your cost of consumer acquisition much greater than they would be in going after a set of people who are underserved. Both from a business perspective and a human perspective, it is the right choice to invest in financial inclusion.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps Business Should Take To Promote Financial Inclusion”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

Financial inclusion means providing individuals, families and businesses access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs. These needs can range from day-to-day living to planning for everything from long-term goals to unexpected emergencies. For financial services providers who want to promote financial inclusion, you must:

  1. Identify your target customers. Are you targeting a specific segment of the underserved or unbanked population? What are their specific needs or pain points and do they vary depending on other factors?
  2. Build awareness/trust: How can you build not only awareness of your product with your target audience but also trust? Money is the №1 stress in people’s lives, and if they haven’t had positive experiences (or no experiences) with financial services providers before, then earning trust might be even more difficult. Consider partnering with organizations who can help you reach your potential customers and educate them about the benefits of using your services. And, make sure you’re delivering on all your promises.
  3. Break down barriers: What are the barriers that prevent potential customers from accessing your products? Are there technology barriers, such as lack of reliable internet? Or, if your online application doesn’t accept international character sets, for example, then you might be inadvertently rejecting customers who have special characters such as an apostrophe in their last names. Walk in ALL your customers’ shoes and make sure your mobile app, online interface or customer support are as easy to use as you think.
  4. Ask questions. Learn more about your customers by meeting them in person, in their environment to learn what it’s like to walk in their shoes and to understand the challenges they face everyday. Make sure you understand how and why they’re using your products and services (it’s not always as you intended) and learn what would make your products and services more useful to them.
  5. Put your data into action. Once you’ve learned more about your customers, act on it if you can. Expand your product set to meet more of your customer needs, particularly those that aren’t conveniently being met through other means. If you do that, you will not only create more opportunities for increasing customer loyalty and lifetime value for your business, but you’re also unlocking financial access and creating more opportunities for your customers.

For those companies who aren’t in financial services but who want to promote financial inclusion, there are several options you could consider for your employees, gig workers or contractors, and your customers — whether it’s payroll cards, early wage access, credit cards, lending or easy payouts. The key to any financial inclusion initiative is to see people, really look at them as individuals and listen to their needs. You must truly understand how people are using financial services today or why they’re not. Once you know what their challenges are, you can solve for them — or partner with a financial technology platform like Galileo. By doing so, you can improve access to financial services, which ultimately creates more financial independence and opportunities for everyone.

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

I am a huge believer that in supporting small businesses, we help build the economy in local communities and also enable greater job opportunities. According to the World Bank’s published data, the United States had a population of 329.5 million people of which 165.2 million were considered to be the working population. Imagine, if you will, that each person who works contributes a dollar per month to a corpus amounting to almost $1.92B that could be used for helping small businesses get up and running. Assuming that you give an average of $200K per loan, you could help almost 9,000 businesses in a single year. Imagine the potential for good, especially if the businesses who’ve been helped give back to this initiative as a company and as individuals.

IS there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many people in the world that I want to meet and learn from. One person who comes to my mind is author Douglas Abrams. You will likely know him as one of the authors of “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World“ with his co-authors being Nobel Peace Prize laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If I met Doug, I would love to know how the book came about, what the process was and what it felt like to be in the presence of such kindness and greatness. Douglas is also the founder and president of IdeaArchitects.com, which brings to life world-changing ideas from thought leaders and visionaries. I would love to learn about the genesis of Idea Architects.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.galileo-ft.com

https://www.linkedin.com/company/galileo-financial-technologies/

@GalileoFintech

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Archie Puri Of Galileo On How They Are Helping To Promote Financial Inclusion was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.