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

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Filtering by Tag: Prepaid

Chuck Harris, President of NetSpend

Jo Ann Barefoot

My conversation with Chuck Harris, President of NetSpend, is our final episode for 2015. Thinking back on the brief eight months since we launched Barefoot Innovation, I’m struck by the enormous terrain we’ve covered. As we start into the new year, I’ll be sharing my own thoughts on what I’ve been learning from these discussions.  

For now, though, enjoy listening to Chuck Harris, who touched on many of the major themes we have explored so far: the rise of fintech, prepaid cards, mobile platforms, mission-oriented companies, non-bank providers, partnerships, financial inclusion the underserved and underestimated consumers, regulatory challenges, uncertainty, and most of all excitement. Like some of our other guests, Chuck Harris leads a young company in a field, prepaid cards, that didn’t even exist until well into his career.  He says he feels lucky to have “stumbled” into a role that combines good business with doing good, a mix that is both challenging and rewarding (a sentiment expressed by many previous guests).

It’s interesting that this episode follows on the heels of my discussion with the Comptroller of the Currency, Tom Curry, as it shares a common emphasis on the need for a new kind of collaboration as the financial sector undergoes disruption, including between industry and regulators. I think this kind of new dialogue is starting to emerge – a topic we’ll spend time on in 2016.

NetSpend was established in 1999 as a way for “college kids to spend money,” and has since grown into a leading provider of reloadable prepaid cards and related financial services. It focuses on consumers that Chuck calls “self-banked” – the people often referred to as un- or under-banked. NetSpend seeks to empower the self-banked with FDIC-insured offerings through its network of over 70,000 distribution locations and 130,000 reload points. They have helped more than 10 million consumers make purchases, pay bills and manage their money without needing a checking account or credit history. In addition to prepaid cards, NetSpend offers a range of services including P2P and standard bank transfers, online and mobile apps, and budgeting tools. You can learn more about them at www.netSpend.com.

Chuck joined the company 2010 after serving as general manager of the payment solutions division of Intuit. He previously held multiple positions for Electronic Clearing House, including President and CEO, President and COO, and as a director. He has also held leadership roles with Chase Paymentech, including as President and CEO of Merchant Link, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chase Paymentech.  He holds a B.B.A. in finance from the University of Texas at Austin.

We recorded this conversation at the Money 20/20 Conference in Las Vegas, where Chuck and I both were speakers. That fact prompts me to suggest a new year’s resolution for our listeners, especially those in traditional financial fields: attend a fintech conference in 2016. Money 20/20 is the biggest, absolutely packed with energy and ideas and about 10,000 people. And I always recommend CFSI’s Emerge conference, which uniquely explores how new technology can benefit both providers and consumers.   (remember that I serve on CFSI’s board of directors). People often ask me how to learn quickly about innovation. For most, the best first step is to immerse in in the excitement of a tech conference.

2016 preview….and please consider donating:

Barefoot Innovation will return in the New Year with a widening dialogue and extremely interesting guests. The early lineup will include one of the architects of Dodd-Frank; a primary author of America’s consumer financial protection regulations; a credit counseling leader; a top bank’s chief innovation officer; our first talk with a company built around Bitcoin, the founder of one of my very favorite startups; and a large bank’s compliance officer with detailed suggestions on how to design a “regulatory sandbox.” The sandbox concept -- the idea that fostering financial innovation will sometimes require a regulatory safe space for experimentation – is generating increasing dialogue among both industry and regulators (in fact, I’m heading today for London for a round table with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority on a sandbox proposal they issued this fall.) We’ll explore it in the coming months.

The above list of early 2016 guests includes only the episodes we’ve already recorded! They are full of insights and surprises (I’m even rating one of them PG-13). We have many more people set to talk with us, including leading regulators, bankers, non-bank executives, tech experts, compliance experts, policymakers, and many, many startups and other innovators.

The robustness of the schedule reflects the fact that Barefoot Innovation has been growing far faster than I expected, and has in fact evolved into a major undertaking for me and the two young people who help me produce it.  If you’re enjoying the series and want to keep more episodes coming, let me encourage you to provide support for it, in any amount you like. 

Meanwhile, I wish you all a holiday season filled with peace and joy, and will look forward to connecting in the New Year.


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Green Dot CEO Steve Streit and Professor Dog on no-bite Banking

Jo Ann Barefoot

Professor Dog provides inspiration for Greendot Bank's effort to create financial products that serve and safeguard consumers' financial lives.

Professor Dog provides inspiration for Greendot Bank's effort to create financial products that serve and safeguard consumers' financial lives.

Once known as Streiter the Heater, Steve Streit is now often called the Prepaid Card King. He is the founder and CEO of Pasadena-based Green Dot Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary bank, Green Dot Bank, described as a “pro-consumer financial technology innovator with a mission to reinvent personal banking for the masses.”

In this episode of Barefoot Innovation, I spoke with Steve about the former disc jockey’s pioneering foray into the re-loadable prepaid debit card industry and how his “highly curious mind” keeps him at the forefront of financial services innovation. As someone who created radio stations with names like Easy 105 and Country 103 (many of which still thrive in today’s fragmented broadcast market), Steve is known for bringing simplicity to his platforms, which now include the Green Dot prepaid card and its award-winning GoBank mobile checking account. Speaking of financial products, Steve believes: “If you have to have an owner’s manual, you messed up.” It is easy to see how he translated his connection with radio listeners into serving bank customers with an affordable product and cutting-edge technology that did not require opening a bank account.

Conceived in 1999 as iGEN, a company offering teenagers a pre-loaded debit card so that they could make purchases online, the company was re-branded as Green Dot when Steve realized that his product was primarily used by under-banked adults. Effectively tapping into a 73 million person “niche” market, Green Dot has since built a large-scale "branch-less bank" distribution network of more than 100,000 U.S. locations at retailers, neighborhood financial service center locations, and tax preparation offices,as well as an online presence in leading app stores and through providers of online tax preparation. Its MoneyCard partnership with Walmart was recently renewed for five years.

In 2011, under Steve’s leadership, Green Dot became a bank-holding company with the purchase of Bonneville Bank in Provo, Utah.  The subsequent acquisition of mobile geo-location start-up Loopt led to the development of GoBank, the first bank account designed from scratch to be opened and used on a mobile device. This past Tuesday, Green Dot announced the official opening of Green Dot Shanghai a high-tech facility that will bolster its “follow the sun” strategy to deliver high-scale, high-quality, and efficient technology services around the clock.

Steve has won numerous awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 award for Southern California, as well as its National award winner in the Financial Services category in 2011.  He has been honored with the Prepaid Industry Leadership Award in 2008 and recognized as the 2011 recipient of the Technology Leadership Award from Los Angeles County Technology Week. 

The father of seven grown children, Steve also works to improve the lives of children in need. In 2009 he founded Patti’s Way, a charitable foundation providing grants to single mothers and their children. Steve also volunteers in mentoring LA County Foster children and supports the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Police Athletic League (PAL).

Not one to be left out, Steve’s schnauzer, Professor Dog, was on hand as I interviewed him by phone at his California home. Listen to this week’s episode to find out how Professor Dog became an inspiration for Green Dot Bank in our lively discussion on how innovators and banks can best create products that serve and safeguard financial consumers’ lives.

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