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

Episode 4 - Who will Win the Consumer's Trust with Susan Ehrlich

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Episode 4 - Who will Win the Consumer's Trust with Susan Ehrlich

Jo Ann Barefoot

When we recorded this short episode with Susan Ehrlich, she was head of global credit for Amazon. She oversaw the Amazon Rewards Visa and Amazon Store Card in the U.S., as well as Amazon credit programs in Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. Most of our conversation focused on this very unique perspective.

Susan has since left Amazon to take on a diverse set of roles as a financial services director and investor. One is as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Center for Financial Services Innovation (where I too serve on the board). She is also a director of BECU, the fourth largest credit union in the United States and largest in Washington State ($12B in assets and over 850,000 members).

Susan has a long and remarkable track record as an executive scaling growth and leading turnarounds across a range of businesses in payments, retail, banking, and financial technology. She was President of Financial Services for both H&R Block Inc. and for Sears Holdings Corporation.  At H&R Block, she built the Emerald Card program into Consumer Reports' #2-rated prepaid card in the industry in 2013.  At Sears, she re-launched Kmart layaway—turning it into a $1 billion-plus business--and expanded the company’s credit partnerships, generating $9B+ in annual retail sales on the Sears Card. Her earlier career included developing and delivering payment and credit solutions for JP Morgan Chase, WaMu Card Services (Providian Financial), and Citibank. 

American Banker magazine recognized Susan as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance three years in a row (2009-2011), and the Federal Reserve appointed her to its Consumer Advisory Council in Washington, DC. She holds a B.A. with honors in organizational behavior and management from Brown University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Our photo of Susan duly reflects all this gravitas, but she’s also an avid golfer, traveler, and wine enthusiast -- she founded the Bruce Cass Wine Lab and Ehrlich Vineyards LLC in the San Francisco Bay area. When we sat down to talk it was Superbowl Sunday (long story on why this is posted so late), and she joined me fully bedecked in Seattle Seahawks attire, hat included. We had to cut our conversation short for the kickoff.

The episode is only about fifteen minutes, and I think you’ll find it fascinating. One tidbit that intrigues me:  Amazon’s borrowers rate its credit services, publically, on the Amazon site – just like for a pair of shoes or a flat screen TV. Amazon actively learns from that feedback. Such high transparency must be a big motivator to fix issues that cause complaints.

Enjoy my quick discussion with Susan Ehrlich!  You can find her at sehrlich23@gmail.com.

And please also watch for Episode 5 next week, when our Barefoot Innovation guest will be Renaud LaPlanche, Founder and CEO of Lending Club.

Please subscribe to my podcast by opening iTunes or your favorite podcast player and searching for "Jo Ann Barefoot". You can also subscribe to my mailing list on my front page at www.jsbarefoot.com