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MAF’s Emerging in LA

MAF is setting the stage for the future of Social Lending

I recently started working at MAF and before I got in the door, Daniela, our COO, asked me if I wanted to attend a conference in LA. My reply was an emphatic yes! I’d only been to L.A once, so I looked forward to learning more about MAF’s work in L.A. communities and the great city. Before I knew what was going on, my colleagues, Mohan, Nesima and I were bleary eyed and on a commuter flight to attend EMERGE, a conference organized by the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

The goal of the EMERGE conference is to focus on how the financial services industry can reach low to moderate income individuals.

Since MAF focuses its innovative social loan products and programs in communities that are invisible to the mainstream financial system, it was natural for us to attend and be ready to bring our innovations to the table. Personally, I wanted to get a glimpse of what this sector of the financial services industry was all about and the impact it was making.

MAF’s own CEO, Jose Quinonez, was a panel speaker for the first pre-conference session, “A Primer on Consumer Financial Challenges and the Underserved Market.” Hearing about the industry’s approach to innovation (more mobile access to fee based financial products, more innovation with pre-paid cards, to name two).

It became clear to me (and I may be a little partial) that MAF had a highly unique and innovative take on both the consumers being discussed and on providing access to an affordable, fair financial marketplace.

I found two sessions particularly interesting. The first was a data analysis and review by LexisNexis on the population dynamics of the underbanked consumer after the recession. Lots of (propriatary!) data was shared, but one piece really struck me: relative to their financial health before the 2008 recession, the underbanked under 30 years of age were still much worse off than those 31 and over. Hmmm…

The conference’s final session was a presentation on the U.S. Financial Diaries research project. The preliminary research found, amongst other things, that folks that were low to moderate income tended to lend and borrowed money to each other as an alternative to conventional financial markets.Who knew? Why, MAF did! In fact, MAF was referenced several times in the presentation as being a driving force of innovation and scale in this area.

For me, the key moment was when a slide during the presentation told me the story of these communities and how MAF’s been ahead of the curve for years.

It was a great conference week, finishing with a whirlwind (but very moderate) meal with a few allies & partners  at La Costa, with some great people and awesome leather booths. Thanks, L.A., for a great trip!