Introduction to Sequin

Welcome to Sequin! Learn about how we're getting women the credit we deserve.

Video Transcript:

Tori:

You applied for a card that you built and then were rejected. Did they give you a reason behind that rejection?

Vrinda Gupta:

That's the worst part of it, right? When you get rejected all you see, it's this instant rejection. Two weeks later in the mail, you got this kind of generic, letter that says, "Well, it could be one of these four reasons." And later on, I learned, it was because my debt to income ratio, which now I understand what that means. But at that point, I had no idea, right? I was a new grad, I was just getting on my feet. And I think the piece that I felt the worst about was that credit felt like a very important test, and no one had taught me how to study for it. And so when I applied, and I got rejected, I said, "Had I known I would have been building my credit, and I just didn't." And ultimately, what I realized was that I had been spending primarily on a debit card. And I've been spending on my dad's credit card, which I thought was building my credit, but it really was building his credit more effectively than mine.

Vrinda Gupta:

And so even though I had a high income, the credit decisioners don't really take that into account. And so I applied, I lacked credit history, and I got rejected. And so that was kind of the beginning of me starting to think about credit and the industry for the first time. And just realizing that if this was something that was impacting me, as someone who is actually building these products and writing the rules for these products, what was happening to so many other people, and that led me down a long rabbit hole of now realizing that the system truly was not designed to center women, but really anyone outside of this prototypical heteronormative-

Tori:

Cisgender white male.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly.

Tori:

So you said the words debt to income ratio. Can you explain for my listeners what that means?

Vrinda Gupta:

Absolutely. So your debt to income ratio is basically how much a creditor is willing to give you in relation to your income. And so essentially, at that point, in addition to my income, I hadn't built up credit. And so the amount of debt that an issuer was willing to give me was not proportionate to the amount that they were willing to.

Tori:

Because they're basically kind of placing, not a bet, but they're saying like, "Hey, we're trying to figure out how responsible you are, right? And the likelihood that you will pay something back. So they're coming up with kind of this arbitrary number. And you can tell me if it's not so arbitrary, but like seemingly arbitrary number of how much they're willing to bet on you or how much the flexibility they're willing to give you. And so it sounds like, for you, it was less about your income or how much salary you were making and more the fact that you had not built credit up to that point.

Vrinda Gupta:

Absolutely. Yes, that's right. And, ultimately, it does come out to this number, which is your credit score, right? But there's so much more to it than meets the eye. So I'm excited to talk about all of that. But it really is this black box that credit affects every aspect of your life. And every single goal that we have as people, as women, as whoever is usually tied to a financial goal. That is usually tied to credit. Yep. And so, what I always like to say is your credit score is the only grade that matters after you graduate because-

Tori:

I say it's your adulting GPA.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly, I love that. Because you need credit for literally everything and even things you don't think about, sometimes if you go to apply for a job, your employer actually might pull your credit.

Tori:

Which is some bulls*** in my opinion.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly. I don't know, maybe that's a conversation we'll get into today.

Tori:

We should.

Vrinda Gupta:

So credit is central to everything.

Tori:

You need to have it to rent, trying to buy a house, buying a car or opening a credit card.

Vrinda Gupta:

Absolutely. Anytime you need a loan, anytime you need to borrow something, your credit score, credit history is going to come into that. And so making sure that you're good, gives you the options in life to be able to pursue whatever huge goals that you have for yourself.

Tori:

In previous interviews you've mentioned, and of course, it's obvious once you do a second of digging, that the credit card industry caters to men, specifically cisgendered, straight white men, right? And that there's so much implicit bias kind of baked into this industry. I just want to talk more about that. So when you were creating cards for Visa, what things were you considering to like entice high earners into applying for these cards? And then was it kind of just left unsaid that these millennials that you were trying to entice were just men, right? They were just straight white men.

Vrinda Gupta:

So the way that we were thinking about building out the Chase Sapphire Reserve was a product that was similar to the success of the AMEX Platinum, but with a little bit more around a young urban millennial lifestyle, and the idea-

Tori:

A little more accessible.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly, and slightly more accessible. And so the idea was that we could actually create this kind of black card centurion card experience for a younger population, and that actually would have, the lounge access that we all like, right? What one thing that's really interesting about the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that the value actually doesn't necessarily come from the cashback rewards, right? It comes a lot from the different perks and the benefits. And so, really creating this card that felt aspirational and really elevated you as this young professional traveler was the idea behind it. And actually, a fun fact is, even everything was meant to feel very aspirational and premium. So even the weight of the card.

Tori:

Yes, that was the first weighted card I'd ever gotten. So for those of you who don't know with credit cards, typically, it's just plastic, right? You're going to have plastic with some numbers on the card. But with the Reserve, that was the first card, and then I now have the AMEX platinum, but that was the first card where it actually like you set it down on the table to pay, and you hear an audible like, literally, and it makes you feel powerful. And you're like, "Oh, my gosh. Who am I? This is the height of luxury." I imagine 100% of course, a decision that was very intentional.

Vrinda Gupta:

Absolutely. So we actually, in the Visa rules that I helped write, we would say the weight that it needed to be and the types of material that it would be. And it was actually interesting, because this is a travel card, and so it would sometimes beep in the metal detectors. So during our tests, we would have to make sure that the metal that we use wasn't beeping in a metal detector.

Tori:

Sh** you don't think about.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly. So it was a really interesting experience. And I think the important distinction to make with women in credit and the industry was up until 1974-

Tori:

You could not have a credit card in your own name.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly. Women could be rejected from a credit card without a male co-signer and for business loans that was until 1988, which I was thought of to be in this world at that point. And so, since then after 1974, RBG's work with the ACLU made it illegal to say if women then. However, what we're seeing with the credit industry today Is that because the system truly was never designed to center women, or let's just say-

Tori:

Any marginalized group?

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly, any marginalized group. The downstream impacts are there. You think about end to end. You think about credit scoring and how that reflects systemic bias, which is a whole conversation. You also think about the way that advertising is working is that banks are advertising to men 13 times more than their advertising to the rest of these groups.

Tori:

Which can I pause you there? So they're advertising 30% more to men?

Vrinda Gupta:

13 times more.

Tori:

13 times? But women hold the majority of the buying power?

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly. And I'm sure you know the stat. But by the end of this decade, women are slated to hold 75% of discretionary spend.

Tori:

So is that because they're not stupid people, obviously, that are running these. So where's the disconnect? Is it the bias? Is it the bias? Is it the expectation that the man in a heteronormative relationship is owning the financial decisions? What? I'm sure it's an onion layered problem. You start peeling back the onion layers, but what do you see as the disconnect there?

Vrinda Gupta:

So there are multiple pieces, I think the first one is that men traditionally are the financial or have been the decision makers at the household. And so what we see actually is that women are twice as likely to be authorized users on a parent or on a partner's card. And so it's these men that are getting the products, whether that is because they actually can qualify for them. Or it's because-

Tori:

They're the ones actually being marketed to.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly, so there's so much around that. And then women end up being the ones making the purchasing decisions, but as these authorized users, which brings the problem full circle, where women are actually building credit for their male counterparts and earning rewards for their male counterparts. So that's the second piece is kind of this marketing understanding issue.

Vrinda Gupta:

The third piece is education, one of the things that we saw was that women are half as likely to have received an education on credit by the time they reach high school. And we all know that we're not taught about credit in school, we don't know where to learn about it. And so there's this education gap that never really closes. So that's the third piece of this onion layer is that if you don't know the rules of the game, you don't want to play. So that's kind of the third piece.

Vrinda Gupta:

And the last piece is actually the rewards. They are much more catered towards where men are spending most of the time. So if you look at these travel, rewards cards, that, again, I was building at Visa, they are rewarding where these male dominated categories like dining, like travel, and again, I love to travel as much as the other person, but what we're seeing is that women are spending significantly more in fundamentally different categories like retail, household goods, pharmacies, beauty, all of those categories. We're spending a lot and then that's not being rewarded on traditional products today. So it's kind of this slew of marketing, education, legacy, rewards, and it turns into this kind of just whole system that truly does not center a population that to your point, holds the spending power in this country. What has been really inspirational for me is seeing young women who are coming into the workforce at greater rates than ever before, and having incomes higher than ever before, and really-

Tori:

more college educated.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly. And really saying that, we want to know, and we don't want those things to be true. So I think the intention is there. And of course, everything that you're doing here proves that. This group of financial feminists who are just like, "I want to know, and I want to be able to play. I want to learn the rules." And so I think the industry hasn't really caught up with that in creating products and services that are actually centering women. And I think a lot of that is also because the financial services industry is so male dominated. You don't see as many women as we would like to that look like you and me. So there's so much work to be done, but I think we are on an upward swing.

Tori:

And the stat that I think about all the time, which is the one you cited of like credit card couldn't have one in your own name until 1974. My mom was born in 1962. She was in middle school by that time. It's not that long ago that there was this huge gap. And yet, we wonder, "Why aren't women able to take advantage of these things? And why aren't women able to build credit?" And then we remember all of these statistics. Basically, yesterday, women didn't have the opportunity to do any of these things.

Vrinda Gupta:

Exactly. There was actually an interesting interview that I heard from Hillary Clinton, and she was saying that even after this law was passed, she still experienced discrimination when it came to getting a credit card. And they had asked her to have Bill as a co-signer, and she said-

Tori:

Can you imagine?

Vrinda Gupta:

"I make more money than him."

Tori:

"Do you know who I am?"

Vrinda Gupta:

I know. I know. Yes, there is a certain thing as laws being passed. But I think history time and time again, has showed that that's not enough. There needs to be so much more that needs to be done.

Source: Her First 100k

Rewrite women’s credit history with us.

Join the movement with Sequin Rewards Card today.
Join Sequin Today

** $1440 total value is based on average American spend. Actual total value may vary.

Sequin Rewards Cards are issued by Evolve Bank & Trust, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A., Inc. Visa is a registered trademark of Visa International Service Association.

If the cumulative rewards paid to an individual in one calendar year exceed $599, then Form W-9 may be required to be completed prior to funds disbursement. You are responsible for any applicable federal, state, or local taxes associated with receiving the bonus offer; consult your tax advisor to determine applicable tax consequences.

Sequin is not a Bank. Sequin Rewards Cards are issued by Evolve Bank & Trust pursuant to a license from Visa. Rewards are not offered by Evolve Bank & Trust and are instead offered and managed by Sequin.

Stilt Inc. is the lender for all credit products available through Sequin. All lines of credit loans and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions including application review, loan amount, loan term, and lender approval. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. NMLS #1641523, list of state licenses

Increase in credit score is dependent on on-time payment behavior and not guaranteed. Credit score is impacted by many factors and a Stilt loan is one of them. Stilt reports credit to Equifax, Transunion and Experian.

Copyright © 2022 Sequin Financial, Inc.