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CNote’s CEO Speaks at UC Berkeley – FinTech For Good Panel


FinTech For Good Panel: Digital Financial Inclusion, the business opportunity of serving the underserved in a digital world

The Fintech Club at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business invited thought leaders in the Fintech space to discuss how innovation, technology, and user-centered design can change the way we serve the financial needs of underserved consumers.

The panel included CNote’s CEO Catherine Berman, along with Jackie Hyland from Silicon Valley Bank, Wendy De La Rosa from Common Cents Lab, Jessica Eting co-founder of Flourish and Billie Miric Leader Social Innovation Strategy at PayPal (program link).

From left to right, Billie, Jessica, Catherine (speaking), and Wendy

The panel covered a range of topics from what financial inclusion is and why students should care, to the financial health of households in the US and worldwide, and ways to leverage technology to increase overall economic well-being.

The panelists have extensive experience building new products and shared some of the core product design lessons they’ve acquired along the way.

The Panelists’ tips for entrepreneurs in FinTech

For entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies the panelists shared a few key points:

  • Deeply care about the problem you’re working on (otherwise you will burn out).
  • Work with people you like.
  • Before starting a company work at a startup and see if that sort of lifestyle is right for you.
  • Have the right motivation–if your goal is to be a CEO of a company there might be easier routes.
  • Choose a co-founder wisely. Starting a company is like having a child and you have to have a good partner to “raise” your company together.


From left to right, Billie, Jessica, Catherine (speaking), Wendy and Jackie

Big problems that need solving right now

The panelists also addressed some of the big problems they see in financial services right now.

The list included: bail reform, increasing savings, improving auto loans, and financing end-of-life costs.

Listing these problems led to a robust discussion about how to develop a profitable business model serving low-income segments, and how stakeholders, including governments and policymakers, can play a critical role addressing these problems in partnership with startups.

Wendy brought up a significant long-term problem she sees: that most Americans lack a safety net. She pointed to the fact that roughly 1/2 of America is employed by a small business and has no pension or retirement plan. The public and private sectors’ ability to address this issue will likely significantly shape American society for decades to come. Hint to students: this is a big problem that needs solving.

Looking Internationally

The panel also discussed international trends, like cash vs. mobile payments in emerging markets. They also discussed the impact of volatility and political unrest on a region and its corresponding adoption of technology, and the means of exchange they favor.

The challenge of expanding internationally, which Cat did multiple times in her last startup, was also discussed at length. The quick summary: every country has its own unique challenges and you typically should only enter one new country at a time.

Cat Berman, CNote CEO

The students from The Haas School of Business finished with some insightful questions and had the opportunity to meet with the panelists at the conclusion of the event. Many thanks to all the panelists who were generous with their time.  It was also inspiring to see a panel full of women representing two industries, finance and technology, that are often dominated by men.

Thanks again to UC Berkeley and the Haas Fintech Club.

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