Tech People in the Know: Highline Technologies’ Geoff Brown
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus will profile interesting and intriguing tech professionals who are positively impacting the credit union industry.
For this issue, we visited with Highline Technologies’ Co-Founder and CEO Geoff Brown. The Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-based company provides a payment method that ties a consumer’s paycheck to repayment of a loan or other bill.
By W.B. King
A self-described “data geek,” Geoff Brown spent this first 10 years of his career at Capitol One working as a data science manager and later as its director of corporate strategy. At this juncture — during the noughties — he was tasked with developing application fraud defenses in what he called the “early days” of online card originations.
“I’ve always been an obsessive problem solver, which lends itself strongly to data and technology-based companies,” said Brown, who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in mathematics and physics. “This is particularly true in the fraud prevention space as it is an ongoing battle against organized fraudsters on the other side.”
Brown went on to work at Santander Bank as a senior director of card products and later head of pricing and analysis. After that eight-year stint, and before co-founding Highline Technologies in 2020, he served for two years as head of credit risk at Salary Finance.
“Technology today is much more core to what a business is, even in banking. It isn’t a separate support function but often the primary driver of distribution and service,” Brown said, referring back to when he entered the space. “In turn, this means tech companies often take a developer focused sales strategy, courting the technology teams with elegant application programming interface (API) platforms rather than trying to win over business line owners.”
Ease of Implementation
Highline Technologies currently works with several “leading independent lenders spanning personal loans, early-wage access, lease-to-own, retail, credit card and auto loans,” Brown noted.
When Finopotamus asked about his process for investigating new technologies, Brown said there is often a “conflicting point” based on how much complexity the service requires versus the ease of implementation.
“Modern technologies tend to get about 80% of the use cases right in a phenomenally easier solution. If that covers everything a business needs, then it’s usually the superior choice,” he continued. “However, the legacy players have solved numerous edge cases over their time, and at scale, this becomes a massive advantage, causing many companies that start on modern services to convert to legacy platforms.”
The financial services space, he added, is currently experiencing “some clearing out of many overhyped companies and sectors.” This purging, he believes, will “ultimately help those more grounded, solid companies stand out in the market for customers and for attracting top talent.”
Roughly half of Highline Technologies’ 30-plus staff is IT-facing, working diligently on enhancing the company’s tech stack.
“We have 15 people in product and engineering, and growing. We also have several positions we’re actively looking to fill, as well,” Brown noted, adding that the company is currently seeking two senior software engineers and a vice president of product.
New hires will join a team that operates on four continents in over nine countries. The current roster is predominately millennial-driven, though Brown noted there are a few Gen Xers and Gen Zers, but no boomers.
As CEO, he “heavily encourages empowered decision making.” This approach, he explained, allows team members to “own their decisions,” opposed to being “forced to take everything” through a series of approvals.
“The key to this is hiring people who are smart enough to make those good decisions but also responsible enough to seek the right advice and input they need beforehand,” he said. “This is especially important at Highline as we are remote-first with staff — we need to be very particular about who we hire. Additionally, it is also important for our people to be trusted to make mistakes, recognize them and then adjust accordingly.”
The Credit Union Model is Unique
While Highline Technologies, which raised $13 million in Series A Funding in August 2022, hasn’t formerly announced any credit union or bank clients, in Brown’s view credit unions have a “stronger sense of mission” and often a “much greater degree of focus.” Banks, he added, “Tend to be more generic as they often broadly serve whatever community lives near their branches.”
This empirical difference, he explained, provides credit unions with a distinctive focus, which can translate to offering unique products and services. And while this attribute checks an important box, Brown said credit unions are not without challenges.
“Generally speaking, credit unions are more constrained than banks from a resourcing perspective; the top 100 banks are all over $20 billion in assets, while only three credit unions are currently over this size,” he said. “This lack of scale often equates to a lack of IT, project management and the operational resources needed to effectively partner with outside fintechs.”
A way for many credit unions to overcome the noted obstacle is by embracing credit union service organizations (CUSOs), Brown offered. “I believe CUSOs are, and will continue to be, such an important aspect of the credit union landscape.”
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