In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we visited with equipifi’s Chief Financial Officer Colleen Shannon. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company provides banks and credit unions with a white label Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) solution.
By W.B. King
Although she double majored in accounting and computer science at Boston College, when Colleen Shannon graduated, she decided to focus on the former, becoming an auditor at Ernst & Young. The second part of her major, she soon realized, would also come in handy.
“One of my audit clients was CyCare Systems, who developed and sold software to hospitals and larger clinics to help them manage their medical billing. They offered me a role as their controller and I thought this would be a great use of both my majors,” she told Finopotamus.
“That was my first job in tech and I have never looked back,” she continued. “I’ve worked in 10 different software/SaaS companies, which have encompassed the areas of cyber and network security, medtech, IT systems management and edtech.”
Indeed, over the course of her 30-plus year career, Shannon has held a host of senior roles in finance. And before joining equipifi in August 2022, she served for five years as the chief financial officer of CampusLogic (acquired by Ellucian in April 2022), a SaaS provider in the edtech space.
“While at my last company, my team and I created the company’s first data warehouse. We tracked all our customer related data along the journey from sale to onboarding to off-boarding, giving us so much visibility on the customer journey,” she said.
She further explained that CampusLogic’s key customer metrics were initially being reported out of the warehouse using SQL reporting. This required her team’s support in creating reports.
“Later, we implemented PowerBI so that it would be more self-service in accessing this data. The fact that we had built this capability when we were only a six million business and enhanced it over time made it super easy to prepare information for our leadership, board, and potential investors,” she offered. “equipifi is on the cutting edge of flexible payments technologies, so it’s even more exciting that I now get to be a part of the future of finance in addition to leading the financial side of the house.”
Since Shannon has primarily worked in the finance department of tech companies, and not directly in technology departments, she has a different perspective on shifts in the industry.
“From the outside looking in, the changes in the development methodologies have been the most noticeable. Software releases used to be only twice a year,” she said. “Now developers can release new code into production multiple times a week based on lean development methods.”
Understanding Goals in Order to Reach Them
Sixteen employees at equipifi are categorized as technologists, Shannon explained. Five of those are 50 years or older, four fall between 40 and 50, five between 30 and 40 and two are in their 20s. And while there is one female in the group, she feels that across the boards more women are entering the tech space.
“I think the numbers keep growing every year. I have two friends’ daughters who are both in tech programs in college, one to be an electrical engineer and the other to be a software engineer,” she said. “It’s great to see more and more young women being steered towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at earlier ages.”
Mentorship also plays a significant role in career development, she added. At one of her first jobs, for example, Maria Cascante became her champion.
“She was the vice president of finance and I reported directly to her. She was one of the best communicators about her expectations and really helped you problem solve. She also was a huge advocate for her direct reports,” she shared. “I believe her support and guidance was one of the factors in my progressing from a manager to a director, and eventually being promoted to a vice president/controller position in our sister entity.”
Among lessons Shannon learned was the importance of having great team members. “Smart people who can do their jobs well will challenge everyone to do their best and make for high-performing teams.”
The most efficient way to challenge employees, she noted, is to understand the goals they have set for their careers and help them achieve those goals through training and mentorship.
“Knowledge and experience sharing is a vital part of mentorship. Even though it is hard, sometimes mentorship also means letting those folks move onto another company because there is no room to progress any further, is an important part of paying it forward,” she added.
Increased Financial Flexibility
As Shannon looks forward, tech that excites her include Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) platforms, which makes it “much easier to get to market more quickly” as a startup.
“Many of the services that you’d have to build from scratch are now offered as a service from these providers,” she said. “Platform as a Service (PaaS) enables you to develop and deliver cloud-based solutions more quickly.”
While Shannon is new to the bank and credit union space, she is thrilled to be a part of an “outstanding team” that is building a “market leading” BNPL solution.
“As costs of goods and services continue to increase nationwide, consumers want increased financial flexibility more than ever before,” she said. “equipifi is partnering with financial institutions to provide that in a way that centers consumer financial health.”
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