The FinTech industry is evolving more quickly than ever as businesses are trying to keep up with necessary changes due to COVID. In this discussion with Payactiv’s SVP, Business Development, Kranthi Meka, and UC Berkeley Student, Kusuma Gosala, hear what Gen Z and Millennials are looking for when choosing a place to work and how they play a role in the future.
This podcast was originally recorded on December 14, 2020 for MKR.
Kusuma Gosala: We’re so excited to have you as part of our podcast initiative. We always try to connect with individuals who are inspirational and are doing great work in fields that we college students are extremely interested in. Having your insight is extremely valuable to us and so we’re so glad that you’re here with us on this podcast today.
Kranthi Meka: My pleasure, Kusuma. Thank you for having me here. I’m very excited to be with MKR and be part of this conversation to speak to your audience.
Kranthi Meka: First, I want to applaud the work Mitti Ke Rang is doing, especially helping women who are widows. Your initiative isn’t just about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but it’s a social cause that’s about financial inclusion. Someone like me who has worked in FinTech knows what it means to bring women into our enterprises, making them financially independent. I think that’s something Mitti Ke Rang is doing an amazing job with that. I applaud and thank you so much for having me here.
Kranthi Meka: So now to talk a little bit about me, hello everyone. I’m the typical early ’90s made engineer from India. In my 22 year career, what transitioned me from an engineer to a business executive is I was always up for a challenge. I was curious, wanting to learn things and raise my hand when all bets were off, signed up for assignments that were with troublesome clients, or solving complex technical problems. I have a background working in both Fortune 500 companies as well as startups. Working for a startup gave me an opportunity to grow more because in a startup you have to wear multiple hats. So that gave me an opportunity to be forefront with clients, and with our sales and account executives even though I was an engineer and architect at that time.
Kranthi Meka: And that’s why I joined FinTech and that FinTech career at Visa put me into more specialized sales and client partnerships in real-time payments. I was introduced to Payactiv when I was working on a segment called Earned Wage Access, which helps workers access money in between paychecks. I’d been varying my career between Fortune 500 to startups, so I wanted to spend the next phase of my career as an executive in a startup making a tremendous amount of difference in society and supporting financial inclusion and that’s how I joined Payactiv.
Kusuma Gosala: At the end of the day, it all depends on how you decide to shape your career for yourself and how you push yourself. I think you have done that for yourself coming from a very technical background and then going into business. What are your views on the current digitalization and how do you think that the whole pandemic has impacted the job market specifically in FinTech?
Kranthi Meka: Digital transformation has gained so much momentum and businesses have been adapting because it enhances visibility and eliminates inefficiencies. People may think that digital transformation has cut jobs, but I feel that digital transformation has created more job opportunities. Jobs have transformed, so security guards who were literally on the premises are now watching through the digital systems, the monitors, and all.
Kranthi Meka: It’s all part of the digital transformation and I think more people are tending to work on-demand. They choose to pick the work they do, which is the gig economy, like driving an Uber or delivering food. All of these things are possible because there is a tremendous digital system making it easy for someone at home to access these services.
Kranthi Meka: Millennials and Gen Z don’t think of banking like brick and mortar banks. They operate with digital wallets and peer-to-peer payments. They want to deposit their checks on their phones or be able to get the money instantly pushed into their bank account.
Kranthi Meka: Everything moving online has created jobs. they are just less traditional jobs. Someone who has a boutique needs people to actually sell their products. The products are being distributed worldwide through an online eCommerce platform. So they go hand in hand. You have artists, but the art has to reach other parts of the world. eCommerce really makes it possible. The same is true for FinTech that’s through mobile phones and you’re able to access everything online, making financial systems more accessible to people.
Kusuma Gosala: I was thinking about how this whole online digital age of business has just made it easier for consumers to get access to things. You mentioned the word instant gratification. I resonate with that on a personal level, using Uber, GrubHub, all these online platforms to get clothes, food, and packages. The amount we’ve grown just in quarantine. And I think that just calls for another discussion on a very interesting topic that is digital natives. You are from the Bay Area and you obviously know a lot about digital natives seeing as you worked in startups and you’re in that atmosphere, in that realm. So please do expand on them, are they essentially calling the shots, and do you see Payactiv hopping on that trend and progressing that way.
Kranthi Meka: Payroll hasn’t changed much since it was invented in the US especially after the Second World War, where income taxes were introduced. There has to be some way to deduct taxes from the wages. That’s how payroll was introduced. And then a biweekly paycheck was introduced where literally a paycheck was issued to people in hand. I remember working my very first job at Bangalore where the admin would walk around our cubicles, hand out paper checks, and I would go to the bank to deposit it.
Kranthi Meka: Direct deposit came in the 1960s, and 60 years have gone by and nothing has really changed that keeps me exciting. Accessing unpaid income, working additional shifts, or withdrawing shifts so someone else can work them is not really possible in existing payroll systems. And especially for digital natives, this can be very frustrating because it’s an instant gratification generation. Everything is done on mobile and digital natives are so technologically savvy that it’s important for organizations to think about ways to keep the digital natives engaged in the work environment. Whether it’s financial wellness benefits or work engagement that happens through an app that they’re able to instantly access.
Kranthi Meka: So with Payactiv, it’s a FinTech transformation. We transform payroll. Payactiv invented Earned Wage Access about eight years ago. Workers are able to see and instantly access their earnings within our mobile app. All of this also benefits employers, because it’s keeping employees engaged, and they’re able to access their earnings. Payactiv has transformed, modernized, and digitalized how pay is accessed. By offering Payactiv, you are able to provide not just access to wages, but a whole financial wellness platform where workers get financial education and have access to financial counseling services.
Kranthi Meka: Payactiv, is helping workers access the money they earned. So it’s helping many, including the underserved community of unbanked and underbanked workers. It’s also helping digital natives who don’t like fees or the minimum balances imposed by banks. Digital natives like to play by their terms, which is what Payactiv enables them to see and access the funds instantly. Digital natives are an important part of the digital transformation in all areas, including FinTech, because they are the ones that are dictating the terms of the advancement in technology and all other industries because they are the next generation of workers.
Kusuma Gosala: Well, thank you so much. I think you mentioned some very intriguing and great points. And I think that just gives a lot of college students hope about not sticking to particular firms that they set their eye on, but rather explore startups and new companies. Because from where I go to school, Berkeley, I see startups all around me. Students are brainstorming ideas and all these cool startups tackling very unique problems. It’s a great opportunity for people to tap into because at a young age there is a variability of risk associated with it. So it really depends on the person. Personally, I would venture into something like this as long as there is some kind of benefit that is addressing a community in a larger sense, which I think Payactiv is doing.
Kusuma Gosala: Suppose you were a recruiter, what do you want to see in candidates when they’re applying for jobs in FinTech?
Kranthi Meka: Even if students do not have much experience, it’s important to:
Kranthi Meka: Soft skills, such as communication skills, and teamwork skills, are also important because FinTech initiatives are cross-functional, with both internal and external partners. Show how you take complex things, broken into smaller pieces, achieve the end results, and measure success.
Kusuma Gosala: When my friends and I are applying for intern positions, we always have to create a specific cover page, especially to target a certain recruiter and we have to write a short paragraph. Often we tell ourselves that we need to have our own unique position, and we learned that in business as well. So we are marketing ourselves to a recruiter and telling them, “These are our credentials and skills, but this is what we can add to your team, to your firm.” And I think that’s essential for people to understand because part of that process is also reflecting upon your own self and understanding where you are and what you’ve accomplished and what more you possibly have to do to get where you want to be.
Kusuma Gosala: The sudden shifts in the way that businesses have responded to COVID in the organizational structure side as well as recruiting. A lot of people are suffering from the anxiety of being uncertain about what they’re going to do with their degrees because they don’t know what the job market looks like and how businesses have reshaped their stance. So please do expand on that.
Kranthi Meka: I think COVID has put us into a challenging position, but it has also given us opportunities. People have to transform the way businesses are operating, many have moved online and remote. Part of the digital transformation was the initiatives getting people on the online support side, whether it’s customer support, delivery, branding, and consulting.
Kranthi Meka: COVID has given people and businesses opportunities to transform. First and foremost, organizations’ top priority was to make sure that their employees were safe. Employees are working from home and they are given flexibilities so they can still take care of their families, especially with younger kids. And I think everybody transformed, I think there were perks given in some organizations for setting up a home office or upping your wifi speed.
Kranthi Meka: Employers have taken care of the employees. Employees are working harder than ever because they don’t have other distractions. While productivity has gone up, work-life balances have been disrupted because people now are more mentally stressed than ever. With workers going through challenges, some organizations have provided additional employee assistance programs or wellness programs.
Kranthi Meka: Students, workers, and organizations have transformed. While the system can provide you the tools and your support system can provide you the support to transform, one has to be resilient to the transformation and the change that’s happening around us. Be resilient, take life by the horns, look at the positive opportunities that the transformations provide, latch on, and shine.
Kusuma Gosala: Thank you so much. I think that’s a great thing that people must take away is to look at the positive aspect of this. I think people have to come to terms with what everyone’s calling the new normal and there’s no point in ruminating over the fact that we can’t go back to how life was pre-COVID but I think humans are great in the sense that we learn to adapt.
Kusuma Gosala: I love that organizations are doing extra outreach with their employees by doing more community events, even if it’s over Zoom because we can’t physically meet. So I thank you so much for that response. I just wanted to ask a final question about how you have enjoyed our podcast today because we’re almost concluding and I just wanted your thoughts on MKR and again, we just want to thank you so much for part of our initiative because this is very important to us to reach our audience and to help them about their opportunities and just awareness in certain fields that they’re interested in.
Kranthi Meka: I have really enjoyed it. Thank you so much, Kusuma. I think you’ve done a wonderful job. When you reached out to me, the motivation behind the organization and what you’re trying to do is something I found applaudable. Coming from an organization, that’s a Public Benefit Corporation, I really admire the work that you’re doing.
Kusuma Gosala: I think you’re definitely part of the family and this initiative solidifies that. On a personal note, I’m very passionate about equity in education, health care, and access to basic human rights. The reason I have dedicated my time to MKR is that I feel like their initiative is a step to achieving that, especially in disadvantaged communities because they do address single women widows. MKR is trying to get women out of the cycle of dependency and financial literacy is a big aspect of that, which is what they’re empowering these women to do and developing their skills. Both interpersonal and hard skills allow them to be financially independent and sustainable in the long run.
Kusuma Gosala: It’s not holding their hand throughout, it’s giving them the tools and resources they need to be stable. And I think that is a great initiative and the fact that we are so widespread over several countries across the world is incredible to me. So yes, this initiative, although I am new to MKR, it is very personal. It is very heartwarming. And I obviously admire the work that they’re doing. So thank you for being part of this team. For obviously contributing to our cause and for being a very awesome guest for our podcast.
Kranthi Meka: My pleasure. Thank you, Kusuma.