Highlighting FinTech Leaders: Judith Erwin (Grasshopper Bank)

“There are brilliant people across the US and the world, but too often the ones that receive support are part of a fairly narrow network or fit a predetermined pattern”

 

 

 

JUDITH ERWIN

(FOUNDER & CEO)

 

 

The digital world continues to offer a reprieve from the stormy waters of financial upheaval. Long touted as competition to brick-and-mortar banks, digital banks are poised to surge in the wake of our present woes. Have no fear: all-digital banking is here (and here to stay).

Grasshopper Bank is an NYC-based digital-only bank catering to a select clientele: entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and incubators. Named for a famed American computer programming pioneer, this mean-green-banking-machine banked over $131M to democratize access to capital for innovators.

Our admiral on-deck for this digital voyage is Judith Erwin, Founder and CEO. Judith’s banking prowess and steady hand are sure to steer the ship towards new (and profitable) waters. Her famed success at Square 1 Bank and commitment to diversity has attracted a crew of the best and brightest.

We welcome you on board for what is sure to be a refreshing and engaging interview with Judith

 

Tell us about Grasshopper Bank in a few words?

Grasshopper is an OCC and FDIC chartered commercial venture bank that supports innovators, entrepreneurs and the companies that support them.

 

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

I’m a military brat, so I attended 12 different schools between Kindergarten and 12th grade.

 

What keeps you up at night and why?

Right now I’m thinking a lot about two issues. First, the idea that while talent is widely distributed opportunity is not. There are brilliant people across the US and the world, but too often the ones that receive support are part of a fairly narrow network or fit a predetermined pattern. Second, I’m watching the regulatory environment and any changes that might come about that could impact competitiveness.

 

What (other) bank, FinTech, or VC do you have the most admiration for and why?

Square. They have succeeded by thinking holistically about their clients’ needs and about ways to bring solutions to underserved communities. More than that, they’ve managed to drive real change in the way businesses operate in a positive, constructive way. In doing so, they’ve brought value to a lot of underserved areas.

 

Why did you decide to start or join your startup?

I was on the founding team at Square 1 Bank, and stayed there through its IPO and eventual sale to Pacific West. That was a positive experience, but at the end of it I felt like there were things we didn’t get to do as a bank. So when I was approached with the idea of founding Grasshopper Bank, I jumped at the opportunity. Right now, my biggest goals involve expanding access to top quality financial services and supporting entrepreneurs. If you look at the leadership teams at most banks in the US, their CEOs and C-Suite don’t look like me. That lack of diversity can extend to the companies they support, and really limit the sorts of founders who are able to achieve success. We’re working to solve that problem – both through our banking services and with programs like Grasshopper Grants.

 

What is the coolest thing happening right now in FinTech, in your opinion? Who is doing it well?

The growing focus on data privacy, security, and portability. Banks are starting to understand the risks of letting third party providers access data without controls or guardrails. For example, there have been issues with apps asking for customers User IDs and passwords. That’s basically giving away the keys to all their financial data with no visibility into how they’ll be used.

This is an issue Grasshopper has been focused on since we launched. We don’t share customer data and our customers own all of their data. So it’s great to see more banks starting to focus on this challenge.


 
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