An Interview With Orlando Zayas
Support policies that promote financial inclusion. If you’re in a position to influence and shape local, state, or federal policies that create access and opportunity, do your part — whether that is time, money, or a platform.
Most of us take it for granted that we can open a bank account 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 James Giordano, CEO of Care Cap Plus.
James Giordano, Chief Executive Officer of Care Cap Plus, LLC, is an experienced entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of building specialty finance firms with a primary focus on complex and niche receivables. He started his career on Wall Street, where he worked for 17 years in both institutional and retail trading and sales. He is one of the pioneers in the litigation finance industry and a founder of the American Legal Finance Association. James has been involved in medical finance for over 15 years. In addition to his role with Care Cap Plus LLC, James serves as Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Medical Funding Group LLCm, a financial technology company that has developed innovative models in the medical finance payment industry. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Harvard College.
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’m from Staten Island, NY, and the oldest of three children. My father was an NYPD police officer, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. My parents always stressed the importance of academics and athletics, so I studied hard and played football. I was the first in my family to attend college, so when I was accepted into Harvard, my family was incredibly proud. I certainly learned that working hard pays off!
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?
In high school, my father gave me a book by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” Though it was originally published in 1936, the lessons the book imparts about building relationships and engaging with people are invaluable. No exaggeration, I’ve read the book at least 17 times. To this day, I credit that book with helping me successfully and confidently interact with people from all walks of life, both in personal and business settings. It’s had a profound effect on my life.
In fact, I credit it with helping me get accepted to Harvard.
Part of the admissions process included an interview with the Harvard Club of New York City Scholarship Committee. When I arrived, I was shocked to see 15 people sitting around a huge table. I almost keeled over, wondering how a kid from Staten Island who has hardly left his hometown was going to interact and engage with such a large group. Then I remembered the lessons from the book: listen, be humble, and explore mutual interests. When one of the interviewers asked me about Nautilus Fitness equipment — which was a new and trendy fitness craze and I knew well since I was an early adopter of the equipment — I thought bingo, a mutual interest! It opened a fantastic conversation about my skills and interests. Shortly after, I was accepted to Harvard and the Club sponsored my full scholarship — and even donated Nautilus equipment to the school, where I became the first instructor.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I have a few, but my favorite is from Winston Churchill when in the midst of the darkest days of German bombing implored the British people to “Never, never, never give up.” Life can be hard, and when things get tough, it’s easy to feel like quitting. But if you keep going, persevere, and believe in what you’re doing, it pays off.
Earlier in my career, I saw an opportunity to help impoverished plaintiffs in legal cases to live with dignity while waiting for their case to be adjudicated. I would go from law office to law office in Brooklyn and the Bronx trying to sell my idea. I was thrown out and yelled at more times than I can count, with lawyers telling me that my financing idea was illegal. Even Elliot Spitzer, who was the NY Attorney General at the time, told me to stop because it was illegal. But I knew it wasn’t, and the New York State Banking Commission backed me up, confirming that my idea was completely legal and ethical. I never gave up. As a result, I helped pioneer the financial litigation industry. About six years ago, I sold my financial litigation portfolio to a major hedge fund.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as showing the way by example. Leaders don’t tell people what to do or how they must do it. Strong leaders serve those they lead, taking care of them and putting their needs and success above their own. To me, it’s like being a father. My 14-year-old daughter knows I will always support her. Similarly, when I worked on Wall Street leading an institutional investment team, my sales team knew I would always fight for them. When the commission structure was going to change, I ensured that they would be taken care of and not slighted in any way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve been working a long time so there are a few, but the story I shared earlier about Elliott Spitzer, who at the time was by far the most powerful attorney general in the U.S., trying to stop me from pursuing my idea — that’s still one of my most interesting career stories.
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 is providing equal access to financial products and services to all individuals, regardless of their credit score and history. It blows my mind how much attention and weight is put on a credit score. A credit score is just one piece of a person’s creditworthiness and ability to pay. Denying people access to financial products and services simply because they have a lower credit score is terribly unfair. Too many variables impact a person’s credit score. As just one example, open a new credit card or close one, and your score goes down. Financial inclusion means looking beyond the credit score and looking at a person’s propensity to pay — and not penalizing people with lower credit scores by sticking them with higher interest and fees when they DO secure financing.
What does it mean to be “unbanked”?
An unbanked person doesn’t have a bank account or use traditional banking services. When I was younger and starting my career, I always wondered why check cashing places existed, and then I learned it was to serve the unbanked, because they didn’t have a bank to go to in order to cash or deposit a paycheck. People who are unbanked are at a serious disadvantage, and they’re often excluded from accessing many financial products and services. As the idea of financial inclusion gains more traction, I hope we see the number of unbanked individuals go down.
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?
There are lots of reasons why someone might be unbanked. These can range from having too little income to meet the minimum balances to maintain an account, to distrust of financial institutions, to a lack of accessible banks in their neighborhoods. For some others, it’s a lack of education and literacy.
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?
One of my company’s client’s is a learning and tutoring center that helps children and young adults. They had an individual come in who desperately wanted to learn how to read because he was illiterate and had trouble navigating those things you and I take for granted. He didn’t qualify for any of the tutoring center’s financing programs because of a low credit score. However, because our company (Care Cap Plus) looks at a person’s propensity to pay and not simply the credit score, he qualified. He had a good job and had some money in his bank account. He was at low risk for not paying. He just needed some help financing the cost of tutoring, which we were able to provide.
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?
Because it’s the right thing to do. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to live the American dream, which often includes attending college, enjoying a career, owning a home, purchasing a car, and saving for retirement. When businesses exclude groups of people from accessing financial products, services, and resources due to a low credit score or being unbanked, they crush people’s dreams.
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.
- Everyone deserves a chance or opportunity. Don’t place too much weight on a credit score. Look at a person’s propensity to pay and other factors that would make them a low risk. Think about the story I shared about the gentleman who wanted to learn to read and had the means to pay for tutoring but was blocked by a low credit score. He deserves a chance, and I’m so pleased we were able to give it to him.
- Everyone deserves a second chance. We all make mistakes. One or two late payments on a utility bill — or worse, on a promotional deferred interest credit card — shouldn’t result in accumulating more debt or lead to bankruptcy. Look beyond the obvious and give everyone an equal chance, especially when it comes to accessing financial products and services that will ultimately help lift them out of poverty or lower income levels.
- Promote financial literacy and education. Show people what’s possible. There’s the old proverb that says: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for life. Make the path to opportunity and financial security easily understandable and believable. It’s hard for individuals who haven’t been offered financial opportunities to believe it when they see it. Help them see it.
- Leverage and use technology to open access. Technology and automation allow hard working Americans to fulfill their financial responsibilities without stepping away from their homes, families, or work. Provide the infrastructure to allow this to happen even in communities that don’t currently have strong access broadband service.
- Support policies that promote financial inclusion. If you’re in a position to influence and shape local, state, or federal policies that create access and opportunity, do your part — whether that is time, money, or a platform.
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. 🙂
That businesses can do well by doing good. By this I mean that there’s a way for businesses to be successful and profitable and help people at the same time. This is why I pioneered the litigation finance industry, to help individuals who needed funds to support themselves and their families during the travails of litigation. It’s also why I created and launched Care Cap Plus. Care Cap Plus is a mission-based company. Our goal is to help people pay for essential or elective health care services without having to go into debt or pay exorbitant interest and fees on credit cards. We do this by looking at a person’s propensity to pay, not their credit score, and we never charge interest or fees. By doing so, more people can access the health care they need and want.
Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., 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. 🙂
I realize you might expect me to name a world leader or business leader or celebrity, but that’s not it. The number one person I would really like to have breakfast or lunch with is my dad, Nicholas Giordano. He’s 90 years old and still lives in New York while I live in Florida, so any time I can spend with him is precious to me. He was a New York City police officer by day and my football, basketball, and baseball coach with virtually all the free time he had by night. We never had much money, but discipline, integrity, and hard work was constantly instilled in me. I love sitting and talking with him and hearing about his adventures as a police officer, how much he loved helping people, and the many lives he saved. This inspired me to look at the world in a way to serve and help the less fortunate. He taught me to look beyond what already exists and to find a better way. He’s still my biggest champion and inspiration. If not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can visit carecapplus.com, where we post regularly.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
James Giordano Of Care Cap Plus 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.