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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Jennifer Tescher, President & CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Jennifer Tescher, President & CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation

Jo Ann Barefoot

Regular listeners of Barefoot Innovation will have noticed that we often mention the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and serve on its board.

This year, CFSI celebrated its 11th anniversary.

A decade ago there was nothing called Fintech. And yet Jennifer Tescher – who when she first entered the financial services industry couldn’t balance her checkbook – joined with former OTS Director Ellen Seidman and others who had a remarkable insight: that technology trends would create innovative ways to improve the lives of financial consumers. A former journalist, Jennifer became interested in financial services via reporting on urban poverty and inequality issues. That led to her to join ShoreBank, America’s first community development bank, where she explored ways to serve consumers who are deemed risky, in new ways that can be both sustainable and profitable.

Fast forward to 2015 and CFSI has become the nation’s authority on consumer financial health, and Jennifer, as President and CEO, leads a network of financial services innovators committed to expanding access to high-quality financial services in ways that are sound and profitable.

As you will hear in this episode, a majority of Americans are not financially healthy. Research by CFSI and others paints a “frankly disturbing” picture of the economic lives of millions of Americans. Studies also draw strong links between physical and financial health, including how stress affects decision making.  Jennifer says it best our podcast: “Wow, wow, wow, huge swaths of people are incredibly challenged!”

CFSI is aiming to change this, using a lot of tools.  One is seeding new ventures. It founded Core Innovation Capital, which is now an independent VC fund (see Episode 3, where we talked with Core’s Arjan Schutte). And 2015 kicked off a five-year innovation contest funded by JPMorgan Chase, in the CFSI Financial Solutions Labs competition. (See our podcast with one of the contest winners, Steve Carlson of Ascend).

Second, CFSI convenes people, including through its new membership model and by hosting the annual EMERGE conference, which presents cutting-edge thought leadership and features innovators, executives, and emerging companies in the financial services industries, including guests of this very podcast!

Third, CFSI helps identify standards and practices that can help both providers and consumer thrives, as with the Compass Principles for prepaid cards.

And fourth, CFSI is doing unique research in deeply understanding the financial lives of American consumers, including through the U.S. Financial Diaries project conducted with New York University.

Jennifer is a nationally known expert on all these themes, with a monthly column in American Banker, frequent interviews and articles in the financial press, and major speaking engagements at industry and policy convenings. I am so happy to bring to you my lively interview with Jennifer, showcasing both her prodigious knowledge and her passion for these goals, which, as she says, has so far has kept her from abandoning it all in favor of a Mexican beach!

To bolster your own optimism, here are links to the new data and trends spurring CFSI’s mission, and links their initiatives and research:

Please come to CFSI’s website for a wealth of further information. And now, enjoy my talk with Jennifer Tescher!

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