Feb 23, 2021 | News
In the world of finance and financial tech, Adrienne Harris is a dynamo.
Harris has spent most of her career working on financial inclusion, and how to transform the financial services industry into something that can be a force for good rather than socially, environmentally, and financially extractive.
Her personal mission to reshape the financial industry is what led her to Beneficial State Bank, joining the bank’s Board of Directors as its newest member.
“The bank's mission really resonates with me. It's something I've long believed in,” Harris said. “The financial services industry often gets a bad rap, some of it deserved. I've always felt like the way we approach financial services from a policy standpoint is, ‘here's the list of no-nos’, but rarely does anyone come at it from an affirmative standpoint—what do we want this industry to look like, how do we want it to serve consumers? Beneficial State does that, and the opportunity to join a financial institution already thinking that way and proving out that case is incredible.”
Harris started her career as a lawyer, representing financial institutions in complex regulatory proceedings, before being tapped to serve as an advisor to numerous local, state, and national political campaigns and transitions.
That work eventually led her to Washington, D.C., and the White House itself, where she worked as Special Assistant to President Obama for Economic Policy at the National Economic Council. Her portfolio included financial reform, financial technology, cybersecurity, consumer protection, and housing finance reform.
Her experience in financial services practice and policy has served her well in her current roles at the University of Michigan as a Professor of the Practice as well as a Gates Foundation Senior Research Fellow with the Center for Finance, Law, and Policy.
Her students’ curiosity, excitement, and inquisitiveness, especially in the field of fintech—a burgeoning segment of the financial industry—keep her spirits buoyed and hopes for the future strong despite the racial disparity and environmental harm that often runs rampant through the financial system.
“Hearing young people passionately discuss ways to make our financial system more inclusive and use the banking system to address climate change—it’s really uplifting,” Harris said.
Through her work with Beneficial State, Harris wants to see more financial institutions create products focused on women and people of color, in particular. From the more basic products—no fees, mobile apps, improved accessibility—to finding ways to leverage financial institutions to better help small businesses, especially now, in a time of great need.
“People’s financial lives don’t all look the same. For instance, the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs is women of color. Thinking of those varied requirements is something banking needs to get ahead of. We need to meet customers where they are. There’s a lot of work to do,” she said.
Yes, there is. And with Adrienne Harris on the team, our ability to get it done is much stronger.