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Episode #37: Monisha Chakrapani

Episode 37

Monisha Chakrapani is well-versed in the fintech world.

As co-host of the Fintech Café podcast, Chakrapani talks with innovators in the financial industry on a weekly basis. And that’s in addition to her 15-year career in the banking industry.

Chakrapani discusses what she’s learned from her podcast guests, inclusion in the financial sector and the future of embedded finance.

Featured Guest: Monisha Chakrapani

Monisha is a podcast host for Fintech Cafe which is a Fintech show that reaches an audience in Financial services, product management as well as startup communities. By day she manages product strategy for consumer deposits at a big 5 Bank.

She also sits on the board of food shelf PRISM to bring awareness to food insecurities in lower income communities.

Becca Hoeft

As a marketing, public relations and corporate communications leader, Becca (only her mom calls her Rebecca) started her career in consulting and has been involved with six startups ranging from film, fashion, technology and food, with her first startup being a social enterprise importing leather fashion accessories made by single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. Speaking across the country, she is known for leading award-winning teams and has received recognition from the Cannes Film Festival for Best Media Campaign, Hermes, MSPBJ Women in Business, and most recently, the Top Women in Communications awards. When the day is done, you’ll find Becca behind a good travel book planning her next adventure, plunking a tune on the piano or laughing with her blended family.

Bryan Toft

Bryan Toft is Sunrise Banks’ Chief Revenue Officer. In this position, Bryan oversees commercial banking/lending, treasury management, mortgage and fintech partnerships. He has been with Sunrise Banks for more than a decade. From 2014-2017, he served as president and CEO of Community Bank Owatonna.

Bryan has held a variety of roles at Sunrise Banks including credit analyst, commercial loan officer and EVP regional manager of commercial lending in Minneapolis.

Bryan received a B.S. in Computer Science from Buena Vista University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He is a board member of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Twin Cities Metro CDC and Charter School Property, Inc.

Featured Music

The Sweet Sorrows

"Coober Pedy Opal Mine"

Listen Now

Episode Transcript

0:00 – [MUSIC PLAYING]

0:01 – Monisha Chakrapani

The fact that we’ve got financial solutions that are going to make their way into various ecosystems, it almost makes a product owner at a technology company be a banker. It also makes a product owner at a rideshare company be a banker. So, I think the concept of a banker has become a little more universal.

0:29 – Becca Hoeft

Welcome to the NextGen Banker Podcast where we explore what’s next in banking and talk with the innovators responsible for creating positive change in the financial sector. I’m Becca Hoeft, Sunrise Bank’s chief brand officer. And I’m here with my friend and colleague Bryan Toft, our chief revenue officer. I am just thrilled to have Monisha Chakrapani on the show today. I’ve got to know her, gosh, over the last six months and just tickled to have her on the show today.

1:01 – Becca Hoeft

But before we get started, just a reminder to stick around to hear our musical feature at the end of the episode. Each NextGen Banker episode showcases one new artist from somewhere around the globe, representing a wide range of different genres. So, check it out.

1:19 – Bryan Toft

Let’s hear a little bit about Monisha. Monisha is a 15-year veteran in the banking industry, experienced in consumer deposits and credit cards. She’s also the co-host of Fintech Cafe which is a live podcast that features leaders in the fintech industry. And we’ll be talking more about that today. Monisha, thanks so much for being on the podcast.

1:38 – Monisha Chakrapani

Thanks for having me, Bryan and Becca. Nice to see you both.

1:42 – Becca Hoeft

Yes, likewise. So, I have to ask, 15-year banking veteran, how did you do that? How did you fall into banking and fintech?

1:53 – Monisha Chakrapani

That makes me seem a little bit older than I probably am.

1:55 – [LAUGHTER]

1:57 – Monisha Chakrapani

Banking was something that I got into accidentally but continue to stay engaged and have found a really good fit in terms of the things that I want to do. Financial solutions is so close to everyone. It’s like health care. Everyone needs that. So, there’s always a need for solving for some of those customer jobs to be done.

2:22 – Monisha Chakrapani

My career has always revolved around product management and whether it was credit card products and now deposit products or analytics which is related to products. And one of the leading branches for innovation early on when we think about fintech is primarily the payment rails, how can we move money faster. So that’s one of the areas which has always intrigued me.

2:51 – Monisha Chakrapani

With Amazon powering e-commerce, there also came a need to drive payments equally fast. And that’s pretty much the payment rails which brought me into the whole fintech landscape or rather the awareness of it, though I know fintech as a term has been used much longer than that.

3:14 – Becca Hoeft

Yeah. It makes me think, Bryan, of– Bryan runs our fintech area and all revenue at the bank. But it reminds me like so many people started with payments. That was the initial for soaring into the fintech industry.

3:34 – Bryan Toft

Yeah. And we’re, a lot of times, accidentally into banking and accidentally into finance. We’ve, I think, probably had a consistent pattern there for both the co-hosts here and our guests on this podcast. So that’s been really interesting to see. And we can add you to that list.

3:50 – Bryan Toft

So, you were the host of– co-host of Fintech Cafe with Ambika Sharma. And Ambika lives in the West Coast, it sounds like. And you live here in the Twin Cities, actually not far from me here in Minneapolis, we found out as we met at Money 20/20. How did you two meet and what made you decide to start the show?

4:11 – Monisha Chakrapani

So, Bryan, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this, but the pandemic really made a lot of us rethink the way we do things. And human beings, we are a pretty resilient race. Just because there was a shutdown, that didn’t prevent us from doing the things we needed to do or wanted to do.

4:29 – Monisha Chakrapani

There was definitely a need for community, a need for contact with people. And right around the time, Clubhouse, the app, the audio– social audio app came into being. Ambika is based out of the West Coast. I’m based out of Minneapolis, like you said. And the way to share common interests in common communities, we were able to achieve that through the Clubhouse app.

4:55 – Monisha Chakrapani

One of the things we also noticed, there was a need. In Minneapolis, we do have– we are the home to some financial institutions. But trying to build the kind of presence that you may see perhaps on the West Coast, Silicon Valley, or in New York City is a little harder given the geographical constraints.

5:16 – Monisha Chakrapani

And so Ambika and I decided to start this community of conversations, actually not even starting with the intent to have a podcast, just like-minded people wanting to chat and wanting a community to bounce ideas off of, and then notice that there was definitely a need both on the people who were telling the stories as well as the people who are listening. And so, we decided to step into that space and provide that bridge, so to speak. So yeah and, it’s been about a year and then some and had some 50 plus companies represented, mostly startups, where we’re just trying to understand what the story is and inspired by them.

6:00 – Bryan Toft

Yeah, I was looking at the roster of your guests. And that’s very impressive. And I highly recommend our listeners, check it out, Fintech Cafe. How do you find your guests? And I’m curious to what have you learned doing the podcast, listening to all these guests talk about their story. And are they accidental bankers, too?

6:20 – Monisha Chakrapani

Well, it depends. Some of them have taken the technology route with the fintech, the technology component. And then some of them have actually had a pain point. I think it was true where the owner had pain point. The owner was in the country from– for studies and was trying to figure out some alternatives around financial solutions and realized there was a gap there.

6:44 – Monisha Chakrapani

So, there was definitely a lot of personal stories where they were trying to validate and solve for. And then some of it was just based on customer pain points that they– very clearly So there was a need to solve for, and technology could. So definitely, the range.

7:00 – Becca Hoeft

So, one thing I know about Monisha is that we have a shared interest in elevating and uplifting women along their career journey in the finance industry which is primarily has been comprised of men in the past. So, it made me think of one of your episodes, Moshina, where you talked with a crypto executive. And you mentioned in the podcast that she was one of the few women in crypto. So, from your perspective, what do you think the finance or fintech industry needs to make sure its products and services are providing for and are indicative of the diverse consumer market?

7:43 – Monisha Chakrapani

I think the executive, Becca, you may be referring to is Lule Demmissie. She’s the CEO of eToro. What a personality. We were completely floored by everything she brought to the table. And she does come in with the intersection of many identities which tells a story in a very different way.

8:03 – Monisha Chakrapani

And it was fascinating how she’s continuing to be successful in her industry. It does seem like the level– at the CEO level and even with Sunrise Bank as an example, there’s a courage at the leadership level to do something different. They choose to make the change from that leadership level. And that seems to be a big driving force in some of the inclusivity that we are starting to see in the financial space.

8:32 – Monisha Chakrapani

And also having representation at every level is important. We’ve heard of some infamous examples around products that are being built by a certain group for another group. And they’re being a complete mismatch like face recognition. And the engineers are not really taking inputs from all the different diverse groups and that resulting in some very disastrous results. So, it is important to also have that representation at every level, whether it’s at the leadership, the builders, the product managers across the board.

9:04 – Bryan Toft

Yeah, it’s interesting in banking and in finance in general, well, particularly in banking, to take a big risk and have a reward is great. But to take a big risk and have that fail, the consequences are massive. And so, it’s really difficult to be entrepreneurial in the heavily regulated industry of banking. And what’s been interesting is to see fintech push that along and trying to stretch that. And I’m sure you’ve seen that with some of your guests that you’ve talked to and the use cases they’ve come up with for how they could be different and change things.

9:40 – Bryan Toft

And I think that’s true with fintech in general, seeing a problem, as you mentioned, and then trying to go and solve it. And there’s a lot of different niches that fintechs try to solve. And I’m wondering where you’ve seen some of that potential fintech to be especially impactful.

9:59 – Bryan Toft

We care a lot about financial wellness here at Sunrise and trying to make a difference in people’s lives in terms of where is that– where is that need in terms of that small dollar loan or that account that has no fees, those things like that. So, what are you seeing– what trends are you seeing in fintech to help solve some of those problems, and where do you see it going?

10:23 – Monisha Chakrapani

We’ve done the range of companies which in one of your earlier answers around what do we gain out of it, it is those trends that we tend to see as a part of these conversations. Because some them are early series B plus companies that are still working through their scaling process. And we see them serve needs. We’ve worked with those who are in the small business space.

10:49 – Monisha Chakrapani

So, they basically are Camino Financial. They’re working to provide really small businesses the financial solutions that they need and catering the banking process around them, so having the right rails to be able to cater to that. So that was fascinating. As we know, a small business is a driving engine of our economy. So that was really enlightening to see that they’re trying to help that used case.

11:16 – Monisha Chakrapani

We also see some international used cases. We had new bank on our show, the Brazilian Fintech. And they serve the underserved markets The growth was primarily by serving the underserved. And I think, whether it’s no fee banking accounts or credit cards with low fees, it’s trying to, again, meet the needs of underbanked community that they seem to have done well and also became a win-win both for them and their customers through the process.

11:49 – Monisha Chakrapani

So those are some of the potential used cases that have really been– getting our attention. The other thing is also that we’ve seen– and as recently as Money 20/20 is there’s a lot of laying the groundwork for infrastructure. As you know, with the CFPB announcement that came right in the middle of Money 20/20 with a 1033 and following up on that for next year, it’s really opening up the space for open banking which is the jump off platform for embedded finance.

12:24 – Monisha Chakrapani

And that’s going to be really interesting. And Becca, you’re going to say something on that?

12:30 – Becca Hoeft

No. I was just like– I know Bryan and I before we had jumped on the podcast or record with you, we’re talking about embedded finance and how that has transitioned over time and what role it could have in the future as it begins to build.

12:46 – Monisha Chakrapani

Yeah. Some fairly obvious used cases, the one that’s often used is with our rideshare drivers, where they don’t have to work with a bank. They have that payment embedded within their rails and also get paid more frequently than the biweekly that we are used to. But I think it’s going to be interesting to continue to watch how– because we saw everywhere from identity verification to being able to issue cards to checking accounts, everything that you can do without having the full weight of a bank are needed.

13:25 – Monisha Chakrapani

It’s also going to be interesting to see how that evolves. But because as we know, banking is highly regulated, so when you start creating these simpler solutions, are we going to be able to move much more rapidly in the advancement? And that, that I think is to be seen. But what we know is they’re building the infrastructure right now for it to happen.

13:51 – Becca Hoeft

And I think that’s the exciting part, right, that this technology is changing the possibility of what can happen.

14:00 – Monisha Chakrapani

Right. And it’s opening up a lot of used cases.

14:04 – Bryan Toft

Yes. I’m wondering your opinion on that. I did see that at Money 20/20 as well with embedded finance and the infrastructure behind that. It seems like, as we’ve talked to people that are involved in that world, that companies that want to have some kind of wallet or some way for their customers to store money in their business want a turnkey solution. They want to be able to go to somewhere and say, OK, can you make sure all the banking stuff is taken care of because we don’t have banking expertise, we have our product expertise.

14:36 – Bryan Toft

So, I’m wondering your opinion. Do you think that we are going to see lots of different companies, establishing wallets, or bank accounts in that embedded finance future, where you’re going to have your grocery store account maybe, where you have money on your grocery store account, or are you going to have your money with some online shop that you like to go to? What is your thought on that?

15:00 – Monisha Chakrapani

I think the other big part of the 1033 is the fact that it’s about customers and how they want to be able to share those information. As a customer, it does make me nervous to know that there are going to be all these entities with my information. At the same time, I think we need to approach it in a way that customers are feeling comfortable with the privacy being respected and maintained. So, I think it’s going to be definitely a balance of those two. And if we’re able to check those, then it’s going to be tremendously successful and useful in terms of the growth.

15:37 – Monisha Chakrapani

Apple has been a very– it’s a bigger used case. But I don’t know about you, but I have my Apple Card. And it has definitely become the top of wallet product. And I say product not just card because now they have savings as well as an option that they’re going to– but you can redeem your rewards into a savings account.

15:58 – Monisha Chakrapani

And again, that’s an ecosystem that I didn’t consciously think about. But the fact that I changed my phone recently and the only card that carried over seamlessly was my Apple Card. All my other cards required another step in the process.

16:14 – Monisha Chakrapani

So, in my phone ecosystem, embedded finance, Apple has done that really seamlessly and well. So, I think there are some very good possibilities. And the only reason I would be willing to do that is because of the confidence and the trust I have with what Apple is going to do with my information. So that’s the whole balance to be aware of, but exciting possibilities, for sure.

16:35 – Becca Hoeft

It is It is really exciting. And we’re coming up at the end of a year and entering into 2023. And it will be exciting as we see what changes technology can bring, the responsibility that, that technology brings us as well, and the potential to help close the financial wellness gap.

16:57 – Becca Hoeft

So, Monisha, we always ask this last question at the end of our podcast. You’ve seen a lot of change in banking. We talked a lot about it today. And it might be hard to predict. But what do you think that next gen banker looks like?

17:17 – Monisha Chakrapani

It’s– we’ve kind of hit on maybe what I was thinking about in terms of the next gen. It’s almost not next gen. It feels like it’s at our doorstep. So, it feels a little closer than the next generation. So, I don’t know if at some point you’re going to change the name of your podcast.

17:36 – [LAUGHTER]

17:37 – Becca Hoeft

We might have to.

17:39 – Monisha Chakrapani

But the fact that we’ve got financial solutions that are going to make their way into various ecosystems, it almost makes a product owner at a technology company be a banker. It also makes a product owner at a rideshare company be a banker. So, I think the concept of a banker has become a little more universal. Yes, we’re always going to have the main companies that maintain and are the gatekeepers. But at the same time, the role has really going to be evolving, if it hasn’t already, into the other ecosystems where we’re seamlessly embedding.

18:24 – Monisha Chakrapani

So embedded finance is definitely something that I am keen to watch. And I think a lot of these– the next generation of bankers is going to be shaped by how accelerated the growth is in that space.

18:41 – Becca Hoeft

Well, Monisha, it’s been so awesome talking to you today. If people want to find Fintech Cafe, where can they find the podcast? Yeah.

18:49 – Monisha Chakrapani

Thank you for letting me plug this in. But we do have a website fintechcafe.org. And we’re also available on all platforms. So, while your listeners are out there looking at NextGen Banker Podcast, definitely feel free to check this out as well.

19:03 – Becca Hoeft

Yeah. Please do. Like Bryan said, just a great array of guests, heavy hitters as Bryan said. Monisha, can’t wait to see what you’re going to do in the future and thanks again for being on the podcast. And to all of you, thanks for listening to the NextGen Banker Podcast. We’ll see you next time.

19:22 – [MUSIC PLAYING]

19:25 – Becca Hoeft

For this episode’s musical feature, we’re showcasing the Sweet Sorrows. The Sweet Sorrows are a veteran Irish singer songwriter Sammy Horner and his Australian wife Kylie. They globally tour their acoustic folk and Americana music, delighting audiences with their humor and vocal harmonies. Here is “Coober Pedy Opal Mine” by the Sweet Sorrows.

19:49 – [MUSIC – THE SWEET SORROWS, “COOBER PEDY OPAL MINE”]

20:33 – Becca Hoeft

That was “Coober Pedy Opal Mine” by the Sweet Sorrows. You can find the Sweet Sorrows’ music at the sweetsorrows.com and on Spotify. If you would like your music featured on the NextGen Banker Podcast, just email nextgenbakerpodcast@gmail.com with a link to your music and website. Thanks for listening to the NextGen Banker Podcast. We’ll see you next time.

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