Susana Ponce-Froment: Former Banker Turned Fintech Leader
Last month, we spoke to Amber Scott, founder and Chief Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Ninja at Outlier. Our latest installment features Susana Ponce-Froment, a former banker-turned-fintech leader.
With 17 years of banking experience behind her, Susana wanted a change. Specifically, she wanted to modernize credit and risk management processes to give entrepreneurs faster financing solutions. To do so, she decided to make the jump to fintech three years ago and became the VP of credit at FundThrough, where she led the Credit Adjudication & Risk Management function. She has recently created her own consulting company, The Fintech Lab, to advise Fintech Risk Executives on best practices to automate the End to End credit process and Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence credit modelling. She’s currently working as Executive Risk Advisor with iCreditWorks, an American FinTech firm that leverages mobile technology to transform point-of-care lending for health care patient.
Susana holds a Bachelor of Science in finance and marketing from Montana State University (where she was also a Fulbright Scholar), and a Master of Business Administration in international business from the University of Kansas and CIMBA in Italy (where she was an alumni scholar).
Keen to learn more about Susana, we spoke to her about everything from her foray into fintech, to her current goals, to who she looks up to within her industry.
Trulioo: You’re somewhat of an expert when it comes to the banking sector — how did you find yourself landing a career in banking, and what it is about working in the sector that excites you?
Susana: I started my career as a financial analyst working for the superintendent of the financial system in El Salvador. In that role, I had exposure to the global financial supervision framework launched by the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland. This spiked my interest in global commercial banking, which drove me to get a job as head of the credit administration department in Citibank El Salvador. After working there for three years, I wanted to shift my career path to focus on credit analysis, so I quit my job to get an MBA in Italy. This experience triggered a 11-year career at Scotiabank in El Salvador and Canada. During those years, I worked with international and Canadian teams to grow corporate, commercial and retail lending portfolios and launch new retail lending products.
What excites me about the financial products industry is the opportunity that fintech lenders and banks have to change the lives of entrepreneurs and individuals by offering loans, investments and cash management services. For example, working capital lines provide funding to start-ups to launch innovative products and to more mature companies to expand operations. This in turn, supports the life of thousands of employees. On the personal lending side, financial institutions can change the lives of entire families through the approval of a mortgage or a car loan.
Trulioo: Can you tell us more about your transition into the world of fintech?
Susana: While I was developing lending products for Latin America and the Caribbean at Scotiabank, my team and I researched innovation trends in lending products around the world. We were interested in the fintech sector and the automation of the loans’ adjudication to remove unnecessary delays in the funding process. That experience made me crave a firsthand experience in the fintech industry to enable me to shape the future of credit adjudication, risk management and lending modeling. To achieve that, I applied to a job as director of credit at FundThrough. In this position, I had the opportunity to revamp the credit team, design expert-based models to auto-adjudicate small and medium-sized business loans and launch, in collaboration with data scientists and data engineers, a machine learning model to auto-score the revolving facilities’ clients and assign credit limits.
Trulioo: What are your current goals and initiatives?
Susana: To collaborate with global banks to modernize lending through the automation of the credit processes, the implementation of data-driven decisioning engines and the streamlining of onboarding processes. Also, I’d like to enable innovators from different backgrounds to have a voice through the participation in a global lending innovation forum and in the future, create a digital bank for commercial clients to speed up the account opening processes and access to funding.
Trulioo: What is the biggest challenge that women are currently facing within the tech industry?
Susana: In my view, the biggest challenge is to become an authentic leader within a male-dominated field. As it happens in many other industries, women in tech have to learn how to be assertive without being perceived as aggressive; drive their careers without being perceived as selfish, lead teams without being perceived as pushy, among other behaviours. We invest valuable time strategizing to manage perceptions, which makes our career advancement more challenging. This is amplified when women are new in a society or industry and have a different cultural background. I am sure men also have their own challenges in the Tech industry, this is why I believe that women and men should collaborate to contribute to the success of their careers and the companies.
Trulioo: If you gave a TED Talk about fintech (or banking), what would the title be?
Susana: AI revolution led by TechFin companies and global banks in the financial industry.
To learn more about Susana and keep up to date with what’s she doing, follow her on LinkedIn. If there’s a female trailblazer that you’d like to see featured in our Women in Tech blog series, please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our previous posts here and stay tuned for the next installment!