Staff Spotlight: Laura Kvalheim, VP of Technology and Project Management Office

Laura Kvalheim, Vice President of Technology and Project Management Office, brings 30 years of financial technology experience to Accion Opportunity Fund. She shares her thoughts on Accion Opportunity Fund’s community, what she loves about working at Accion Opportunity Fund and leading her team in digitizing the client experience.

A headshot of Laura Kvalheim, who is smiling and facing forwardHow long have you worked with Accion Opportunity Fund? What is your favorite thing about working here?

As a Latina, I’m thrilled to be working for an organization that serves my community. I understand, very deeply and personally, how hard the communities we serve struggle. My great-grandparents worked in the fields. My dad was a garbage man and my mom was a school secretary. Having watched my parents and grandparents struggle financially, it makes me incredibly honored to do something that makes a difference for people who are very likely members of my family.

What do you love about working here?

I know that we are doing our best to help entrepreneurs who are being overlooked. I feel like every step of my life, every step of my career, along with a lot of guidance from God, has led me here. What I do has real purpose. There’s no other feeling like that.

And I get to work with brilliant minds—the inventor of the FICO score, the former head of BBVA’s open platform, and many others. All these people are extraordinarily committed to giving people access to credit and their level of intellectual curiosity is inspiring.

What prompted the idea for the inclusive cloud lending platform?

Previously, our loan origination process was incredibly manual; people were working on notebooks and spreadsheets and it wasn’t very efficient. Our overall product vision is to digitize our borrowers’ entire experience, making the loan process easy and efficient for everyone. By doing so, we can capture the datapoints that help us understand the needs of our clients and react quickly to changes in the market.

What will this mean for our clients?

Clients can now apply for loans online, using their phones when they need to. Having the lending platform online means that within four pages, clients will know if they’re prequalified. The entire process is digitized: Clients can submit an application, upload documents, select a final offer with the portal, sign digitally with DocuSign. This creates a very secure and efficient workflow for customers to get through. It’s up and running for our partnership with Lending Club and soon to be for all customers. Ultimately, the experience will be in both English and Spanish.

What’s next for the IT team?

I believe technology enables strategy. We work very closely with our business partners to deliver value so that the strategy can be realized. To do this, we’re moving toward a more customer-centric, service-focused technology. My philosophy on customers and technology is that we want to meet people where they are, and always move from that customer-centered view. As we are designing our customer journeys, we want to be sure we start from the client’s point of view. If customers want to call us and talk to us—great! We’ll have that option available. But if our clients prefer to “self-serve,” we’ll now have that option as well.

In addition to migrating all our products to our inclusive lending platform, a big part our roadmap is to advance the data platform. That includes a state-of-the-art reporting environment that will enable us to gain performance insights on people, products, and operations. Eventually, we’d like to start experimenting with machine learning so our analytics team can find new ways to manage our portfolio and products.

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