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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Women in Technology: Goalsetter’s Tanya Van Court

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 Goalsetter’s CEO Tanya Van Court. The Brooklyn, N.Y. company works with credit unions and banks to provide a youth banking solution that is based on a holistic financial education and empowerment platform.


By W.B. King


While studying at Stanford University in the early 1990s, Tanya Van Court had a portal into the latest innovations Silicon Valley had to offer. These technological changes — from early Mac computers to email to cellular phones — changed the manner in which the world operates today.


“Being an early adopter is inevitable when you’re coming of age in the bastion of technology and venture capital. I don’t know that I was drawn to technology in particular,” she told Finopotamus. “I was just raised in a technological ecosystem in which technology was seen as an enabler to do the things that were important to you.”


Tanya Van Court

After obtaining her degree in industrial engineering from Stanford in 1994, she entered the workforce holding various titles, including: Qwest’s director of field operations and customer experience; vice president of business development and integration at Covad Communications; VP at ESPN Video Products; and SVP of preschool and overseeing digital strategy of Nickelodeon’s preschool and parenting websites: NickJr.com, Noggin.com, ParentsConnect.com and NickMom.com.


“What has always been important to me was education, advocacy, closing gaps, and building bridges for people,” she said. “And tech was the means to the end, with the end being impact.”


Before founding Goalsetter in 2016, she held a number of other roles, such as SVP of marketing and education partnerships at Discover Education. The manner in which tech is viewed and integrated across departments has changed quite a bit over the years, she explained.


“Today, technology is a universal language that everyone on the team is expected to be somewhat conversant in,” she continued. “The engineering team is where the hard-core building happens, but if your overarching organization does not have comfort and facility with technology, you’ll never be able to innovate.”


Whether someone works in marketing, product development, sales or business development, technology, she added, is the cornerstone of innovation. “So, every team member is in some form or fashion a technologist.”

 

Mentorship Creates World-Class Organizations


Along with the changing dynamics regarding how tech is integrated in cross-departmental business operations over the last few decades, there have also been changes in how women operate in the space, said Van Court, who recently appeared on an episode of Finopotamus LIVE!.


“I see more women working in fintech because women managers, leaders, founders, and CEOs are actively bringing more women into the fintech ecosystem. There are times when we have a large meeting with nine to 10 people invited, and there is only one man on the call,” she shared. “It makes me chuckle because fintech hiring practices are clearly in the eyes of the beholder. And when we behold amazing women, we hire them.”


Van Court is inclined to help eager professionals up the company ladder because of mentors who once championed her, including former president and CEO of Covad Communications Robert Knowling, Jr.


“He taught me that feedback is a gift, so it should be regarded as an opportunity to grow rather than a criticism. He taught me about working alongside my team members rather than above them. He taught me how to set audacious goals and relentlessly pursue them,” she said of her former boss who currently serves as chairman of Eagles Landing Partners. “He taught me that problems are best solved by the people who are closest to them — not by executives who are furthest from them.”


Creating leaders, she added, is far more important that being a leader as this process helps to construct the blueprint for executing current and future business goals. “People who thrive at the highest level create world-class organizations,” she noted.


Hyper Automation


Banking digitization, including implementing artificial intelligence (AI), is essential for credit unions as it empowers them to work smarter and more efficiently without significantly increasing employee count, Van Court offered.


“Digitization tech includes onboarding automation (AI for document collection, risk assessments, fraud detection) and feature integrations with fintechs like Goalsetter, Zelle, and credit bureaus,” she continued. “The utilization of social media has become a tech tool. It’s become a primary tool for customer acquisition and engagement.”


With 55 employees, 40 of which are tech-facing, Goalsetter’s interactive financial literacy app is utilized at financial institutions (FIs) and classrooms across the country.


Generative AI, she added, can and should be used for content development that can provide new insights that inform “tailored experiences” for members. “Hyper automation in banking [is critical] — the ability to verify customers and get them into products that meets their goals and objectives.”


Win the Day


With 10 FIs as clients, including credit unions, what excites Van Court about the latter space is the mission-driven ethos of this standalone industry.


“Most FIs in the world are driven by profits with an ancillary focus on doing good,” she shared. “Still, credit unions view their bottom line as people served, lives impacted, families who can secure home loans, parents who get reasonable car loans that enable them to get to and from work, and kids who get financial education so they can start building wealth the moment they get their first paycheck, retirees who can make their retirement savings meet their needs.”


When organizational success is measured by “lives impacted instead of revenue attained,” she said that credit union leaders can “attract different employees, drive different behaviors, and have an outsized and meaningful impact” on membership.



Credit unions, however, can’t achieve this all-important and overarching goal alone. To realize success, credit unions must carefully select fintech partners, she noted.


“Every fight I’ve ever seen has clear allies and clear opposition. There are certainly fintechs that are competing against credit unions and venture capitalists are funding them to usurp the millions of members that credit unions are serving today and/or the future generations that they will serve tomorrow,” Van Court said.


“Without [like-minded] fintechs who are enabling credit unions to launch new technologies and serve the next generation of members, credit unions will struggle to compete,” she continued. “But [working] hand-in-hand with these fintechs, credit unions can form powerful alliances that allow them to win the day.”

 

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