Mission: ZestFinance was founded to bring fair and transparent credit to everyone.
We believe that credit today is unfair. Since the modern credit system was created in the 1950’s, the world has changed. Technology has changed. So should credit.
Today, 40% of Americans don’t have credit cards — or they’re forced to borrow at the whim of abusive credit companies. And, in emerging markets, billions of people don’t have credit histories, leaving them out of the system entirely.
Credit is the problem that Zest was designed to solve. Our technology platform is transforming consumer lending — it helps companies make smarter credit decisions to expand the availability of fair and transparent credit.
Today, the majority of lenders use the same approach to credit decisions that was developed 50 years ago. That approach is predicated on the assumption that it’s hard to get large volumes of data, expensive to store it, and nearly impossible to use it.
All three assumptions are wrong. It’s not hard. Nor expensive. Nor impossible. Nevertheless, most lenders use very few data points to determine whether a person should receive a loan. This approach means that people who have incomplete or incorrect credit files can’t get fair credit.
|“ZestFinance underwriting models offer a 40% improvement over the current, best-in-class industry score.”|
Zest is one of the fastest growing financial technology startups in the United States. Founded by Douglas Merrill, former CIO at Google, Zest is a tech platform that applies Google-like math to credit decisions.
This new technology is able to consume vast amounts of data to more accurately identify good borrowers — enabling higher repayment rates for lenders and lower-cost credit for consumers.
At ZestFinance, there is no human interaction of any kind involved in underwriting. Instead, we rely on several mathematical models running in parallel to make underwriting decisions. While many creditors take hours, or even days, to make credit decisions, we make them — accurately — in less than 10 seconds.
We’re using machine learning to disrupt consumer lending and meet the financial needs of people around the world.
We license our financial technology platform to companies across many industries globally. We enable other companies to more accurately predict the ability to repay so they can, in turn, extend fair credit to more people.
We’ve partnered with China’s largest online direct-sales company, JD.com, to expand consumer credit. There are more than half a billion people in China with no credit history. This lack of data makes it incredibly difficult to determine credit risk. Our platform turns shopping data into credit data, creating credit histories from scratch.
We also use our platform to make loans to deserving, responsible borrowers that other lenders overlook. With our Basix product, we provide online loans to middle-class Americans whose credit scores won’t allow them to qualify for a bank loan. We are talking about roughly 50 million Americans.
ZestFinance's mission is to make fair, transparent credit available to everyone. We're doing that by re-inventing underwriting as the world has always known it.
As it stands today, good people are being denied credit because old world processes don’t take advantage of today’s data rich environment. In our world view, big data is the new normal and we should use it to make better underwriting decisions.
That’s where you come in. To achieve our mission, we need crazy smart, creative thinkers who are passionate about finding new ways to address “old” problems.
Founder & CEO
I started my career with a Ph.D. from Princeton and have done lots of different things since then. I worked as a researcher at the RAND Corporation, a security consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Senior VP at Charles Schwab. I joined Google in 2003, and spent 5 (great!) years there as their CIO and VP of Engineering. I’m a technologist and data junkie at heart, but also love motorcycles, tattoos, and ’80s music. I care deeply about people and animals and support a variety of charities related to drug rehabilitation and animal rescue.
I graduated from Duke University with a degree in economics and began my career as a U.S. Army Ranger. After the military, I was fortunate to spend eight great years at Capital One where I held various roles, notably General Manager of Customer Segments. I then spent several years helping startups and financial services companies with direct marketing and credit risk management. At ZestFinance, I've found a unique blend of analytical rigor, advanced technology, and amazingly talented people all focused on making fair and transparent credit available to everyone.
I have a diverse array of litigation and transactional experience, spanning both private and in-house practice, specializing in technology, entertainment and retail. After graduating with a JD from USC, Order of the Coif, and a BA from UCLA, Cum Laude, I began my career clerking for the Hon. Manuel L. Real in the Central District of California. I'm often found keeping busy with two rambunctious toddlers, two dogs, five chickens, a hive of bees, growing food, and making craft beers on my “urban farm.” In my spare time, I volunteer with my family to prepare and serve meals to shelter residents, and I represent victims of domestic violence pro bono.
Sonya Boralv Merrill
I’ve been in technology since its dot-com heyday, at startups and huge companies alike. I spent more than 4 amazing years running product and international communications for Google and was ecstatic when the opportunity to help found ZestFinance came along. It’s an amazing feeling to go to work every day and know that you are simultaneously changing the game for average Americans and the technology sector at large. At Zest, my primary focus has always been to build a corporate culture where people can grow and thrive — both at work and where it matters most — in their personal lives. Zest rocks and the people here are incredible. What more can I say?
Finance and Operations
After graduating from Santa Clara University, I went into public accounting with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In my 18 years there (yes, 18), I had the opportunity to work with a lot of fantastic companies, meet tons of amazing people, and obtain an MBA from UCLA. ZestFinance is different from any company I've worked with. We truly want to make fair credit available to as many people as possible, which isn't something you see everyday in financial services. Outside of work, I love to spend time with my wife and four children and cook from my grandmother’s Italian recipes.
I love to form game-changing partnerships with amazing companies. I've spent many years creating the go-to-market business development strategies for early stage technology companies, identifying new markets for large companies, raising funding, and selling companies. After receiving my MBA from Harvard, I worked for companies in numerous tech sectors — search, monetization, gaming, education and social media — including Amazon, Yahoo!, Overture, Junglee and Kosmix. I love my job because I get to help major companies take advantage of Zest's financial technology platform to transform their credit operations. The more companies that use our platform, the more people will have access to fair and transparent credit.
I have been working at ZestFinance full-time (More than a year)
Genuinely nice and respectful colleagues who are incredibly intelligent.
The work is engaging because it's challenging and innovative.
Lean and fast
Benefits and perks
Lean and fast isn't for everyone so this is not a place to just hide or "get by"
Advice to Management
Continue the culture of transparency as the company grows
I applied online. The process took 3 weeks. I interviewed at ZestFinance (Los Angeles, CA) in January 2017.
1 HR call, 1 technique phone interview, 1 onsite of 5 rounds: 3 technique, 1 business case, 1 culture. Everything happened extremely efficient and organized. Working space is awesome. Given a takehome project 1 week before onsite. Most technique questions are based on the presentation of the takehome project.