An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Own it. Don’t try to hide your experience to blend in. Your experiences in life, good or bad, could make your voice, opinion, and presence especially important to someone going through a similar struggle. Being transparent about your life experiences can introduce you to the right people to help you learn and grow.

As a part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Fischer.

Lisa Fischer became Chief Lending & Growth Officer at Mission Lane in April 2020. In this role, Lisa is accountable for the growth, credit performance, and profitability of the credit card business. She regularly speaks on macroeconomic trends and the Fed and is happy to share her economic outlook for the rest of 2022. She works with credit subprime customers every day and can also confidently speak to spending and savings tactics for consumers to combat rising prices.

Prior to joining Mission Lane, Lisa was the Head of the Digital Bank for Barclays US Consumer Bank where she managed the $5B branded credit card portfolio, decision science, credit, checking, installment loans, and $15B of digital deposits.

Prior to joining Barclays, Lisa spent 20+ years in the credit card industry, holding various senior roles in marketing and credit with a deep focus on data and analytics. Lisa was Managing Vice President at Capital One for 12 years, where she held roles leading credit card acquisitions across mail and digital channels and the Credit Recoveries business. Prior to Capital One, Lisa was Senior Vice President at JPM Chase accountable for credit card marketing and originations. Lisa began her career at Providian Financial, departing at Senior Vice President of credit card portfolio management.

Lisa has a Bachelor of Science from Duke University and a Master of Science in System Engineering from the University of Virginia. She lives in Reston, Va. with her 16-year-old daughter.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up with an individualistic and unstoppable mindset from frequently pursuing opportunities outside of my comfort zone. Growing up, I spent much of my time playing high-impact sports on men’s sports teams. So, when I went to college at Duke University, I didn’t find it odd or a barrier that I was the only woman graduate in math and computer science my year. Similarly, when I went to the University of Virginia for graduate school, I was the only woman in my class of systems engineers. These experiences sparked my independent leadership style, and my ability to confidently break through glass ceilings throughout my career.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After graduate school, I took a position in consumer finance. I saw this field as a way to combine my math and computer science skills in a way that could help people directly. After spending a chunk of my career at traditional financial institutions that were only catering to specific populations, and having a daughter interested in robotics (who was frequently the only female at her robotics camps) I realized that I wanted to pursue a career centered on inclusion and advocacy for underrepresented individuals. So, when I came across a job at Mission Lane, a fintech company that caters to individuals who are financially underrepresented by traditional banks, I knew it was the job for me. I joined the fintech world and haven’t looked back since!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

At Mission Lane, we have close relationships with our customers and have the privilege of hearing their amazing stories all the time. We recently heard from one of our customers who had dealt with setback after setback that impacted her finances. She fought cancer (and won!) but amidst her doctor’s appointments and subsequent medical struggles, lost her job. Once in remission, she found she was unable to find another job in the same field because her skills had become outmoded, so she had to go back to school. Along the way, she racked up a lot of bills and debt — including medical debt, credit cards, and student loans. Then things got even worse when, unfortunately, one of her children got diagnosed with cancer and her own cancer came back.

Despite these enormous challenges, she kept battling. She finished school, got a better job, and started chipping away at her debt while getting herself and her child healthy. She knew she needed to rebuild her credit as part of her journey back but wasn’t able to find any banks willing to give her a chance until she discovered Mission Lane.

Here’s what she told us, “Believe it or not, I couldn’t have done it or gotten where I am if I didn’t have one credit card, the Mission Lane credit card, to build it all back. And that’s the truth. I am so happy Mission Lane took a chance on me — and I believe I am on the right path.” This is what makes my job at Mission Lane so special, and why I do what I do.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, I had my first opportunity to present my research to our CEO. An hour before the presentation, I realized that I included an incorrect variable in the analysis, thus rendering the research inaccurate. Although terrified, I went to the meeting and shared the truth, as well as a request to come back a week later with an update. I vividly remember walking out thinking that my career was over. However, the same CEO promoted me six months later. He said that my honesty bred his trust in my leadership. While this was terrifying in the moment, I can look back at this experience and laugh now. This helped me learn that behind the formal presentations and diligent research, we’re all humans. Moving forward, I try to uphold the same standard of bringing a human-first approach into the workplace.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

A quote I live by is “if you don’t understand, you don’t have all of the information.” I pride myself on being someone who asks a lot of questions, because I find that by talking things out, you can often find a path forward. So, when I don’t understand a problem, or am struggling to find a solution, my first step is to gather more information to figure out what I’m missing. Everyone should empower themselves to ask questions and exchange information with others to find creative solutions to their everyday problems.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

There are lots of exciting projects in the pipeline! All aim to help people improve their financial lives. Most recently, Mission Lane released new capabilities for Earn, an app that helps gig workers discover new jobs and aggregate their earnings data across all jobs into one convenient dashboard, helping them track where they are earning the most money so they can optimize their gigs for increased earning potential. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 16% of Americans engage in gig work. To reach this growing population, Mission Lane is rolling out this product to help serve them as their dynamic income streams often make it difficult for traditional financial institutions to provide them with quality, affordable products.

Mission Lane also recently released a credit builder loan product to help people build credit even if they may not be able to qualify for a credit card yet. Unlike a regular loan, a credit builder loan has a shorter repayment timeline, and the loan is deposited into a secured savings account where it remains until it’s fully paid off and reports these payments to all three credit bureaus. This product furthers our goal to help our customers succeed in their financial lives, no matter how many roadblocks or setbacks they’ve faced.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

No one ever plans for a divorce, right? My divorce was costly in many ways, but also in a literal sense. I left the relationship pinned under my ex-husband’s accumulation of debt that I didn’t know existed. He had hidden a severe gambling problem that came to light when our house was foreclosed upon. On top of that, all of our savings and investments were gone, the credit cards were maxed out and taxes were not paid. As a result of my divorce, I was approximately $800,000 in debt, with no additional cash flow.

Despite my background in banking, my divorce opened my eyes to the reality that many financial institutions, like ones where I’d spent the decades of my career, are not equipped to properly serve or empower people who face substantial financial setbacks. I realized that traditional financial institutions were getting something seriously wrong — many credit-challenged individuals are people who have faced tough life situations and want to build a stronger financial future. They aren’t just people who don’t want to pay their bills. Above all, this experience forced me to realize that life can be unpredictable, but how we move forward with our actions can define us. I was determined to pay back this debt and did so by being organized, independent, and focused on the future.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

Because going through a divorce is an overwhelming experience in many ways, a common reaction can be to shut down. Despite this urge, I would advise women going through a divorce to ask as many questions as possible. Often as women, we tend to shy away from questions because we’re afraid of appearing uninformed, but the consequences of not understanding should outweigh these fears. Part of what contributed to my financial situation around my divorce was not asking questions and leaving financial decisions for my husband to handle.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positives that come out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

Amid many negatives, a positive that came out of my divorce journey was the realization that I had been perpetuating this financial stereotype as a woman not involved in my family’s finances. This led to a subsequent pledge to take control back of my money, enabling me to be empowered and confident when building a future for myself and my daughter.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

After going through difficult life situations like divorce, it can be especially hard to regain confidence and courage to start a new beginning. One of two considerations have motivated me to move forward. The first is to look at where I am today, and what more I want in the future. The second is to think about my daughter Kylie, and what life decisions would have the most positive impacts on her. Personally, I want to make the most of my life, but that hasn’t always pushed me past my fears. What has is the realization that setting for less in my daughter’s life is unacceptable. So, for other people in a similar situation, I’d suggest instead of just thinking about yourself and your future, also consider the futures of your loved ones, and how they also deserve a new beginning.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

Their mindsets when it comes to making long term plans and looking towards the future! For me, this was mainly related to my finances. While it may be scary at first, it’s crucial to take control and develop a plan to become financially independent early on. Before my divorce, I never thought about finances in a meaningful, long-term way. Now, I’ve changed my outlook to become as organized and knowledgeable as possible.

I created an Excel spreadsheet for myself and began tracking my expenses, outlining what I anticipated for costs, and distinguishing between luxuries and necessities. I started to set goals for myself on how much debt I could pay off in a certain time period. This helped me visualize my cash flow and cut down where needed, and before I knew it, I was surpassing milestones faster than the timeline I had laid out for myself and developing long-term financial goals for the future.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Firstly, own it. Don’t try to hide your experience to blend in. Your experiences in life, good or bad, could make your voice, opinion, and presence especially important to someone going through a similar struggle. Being transparent about your life experiences can introduce you to the right people to help you learn and grow.

If you had a bad experience that sticks with you, do something to make a difference. After my divorce, when an opportunity came along to work at a fintech company that is focused on helping people build back their finances after facing setbacks, I didn’t think twice. I found peace in having the power to make a difference for women and all people who find themselves in similar situations, need support getting back on their feet or simply getting started, and need to know the financial options available to them.

On the financial side, if you don’t have credit cards or financial resources in your own name, apply and start building credit. For those who have trouble qualifying for a card, there are options such as applying for a secured card, retail store card, or credit builder loan. Find a financial tool that works for you and stick with it as you work to regain your financial footing.

If legal fees or other divorce payments have left you with sources of debt, make a plan. Aim to tackle your debt with the highest interest, a.k.a. the most “expensive” debt, first. However, everyone’s financial situation is different, so if you can, find a trusted professional who can help you determine the best plan.

Start planning for the future and be bold! When creating your financial plan, it may seem that savings is paramount — and it is. But many, especially those who are risk-averse, tend to stick to savings accounts where their money isn’t doing any work for them. While savings accounts are excellent vehicles, be sure to take advantage of your 401K and other investment opportunities that can help money grow over time.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

My biggest suggestion is to pour your passion and energy into a worthy effort to connect with others. I realized my desire for independence when going through my divorce and poured this energy into mentoring women inside and outside of Mission Lane to help them fight workplace stereotypes, promote continued learning in STEM, and break societal norms when it comes to women communicating their wants and needs. My experience sparked my passion for educating women on financial literacy. Pouring my time and energy into mentorship brought hope and light into my life when going through my divorce, even on the darkest days.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

While on the move, I love to listen in on the latest episodes of Freakonomics and NPR Marketplace to stay up to date on the latest finance and economics news. When I have the time to sit down and read something, I check out our Mission Lane Junction page. Junction is a platform where Mission Lane customers can highlight their stories of financial resiliency and share their voices, and it helps me stay close to our customers and the industry.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Across all industries, but especially those that have been traditionally male dominated, it’s not enough to just have women in the room. We need to make sure they also have a voice and access to the mentorship and leadership opportunities that can help drive their careers forward. Now that I serve in a leadership role, I try to serve as a mentor to share my experience, be a soundboard and advisor, and most importantly, a friend to new women in the fintech world. While the finance and tech industries still have strides to make towards equal representation, women serving as mentors to other women looking to start their careers in the industry is a key way to jumpstart empowerment. I advise all women to seek out peer-to-peer networking, mentorship, and sponsorship opportunities from the outset. Establishing relationships with other women in the industry early on can equip you with the support and knowledge that will benefit you throughout your career. I want to create a world where women like my daughter Kylie can do anything that they want to do and can be happy and comfortable while doing it. Establishing equal opportunity for women to share their voices in the workplace is the key to achieving this success.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!

Lisa Fischer Of Mission Lane On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts