Pedro cropped for featured image and social.jpg

Using an MBA and fintech to empower underserved communities

By Eileen Jacob

Oportun product manager Pedro Moura works to create scalable solutions to the financial challenges faced by underserved communities. A third year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley HMBA program, he spoke with us about his MBA and FinTech work and about what led him to Berkeley Haas.

Immigrant experience fuels the desire to serve low income communities

Berkeley MBA student Pedro MouraI immigrated with my family to the U.S. when I was 15. We left Brazil to escape financial hardship. My mother, who was a business owner in Brazil, came to America hoping to build a new life from scratch. She cleaned houses, worked as a babysitter, and did everything she could to accomplish the goal of giving her children a better education.

She eventually moved back to Brazil when things improved economically. However, I stayed in the U.S. in order to enroll in an undergraduate program and to play Volleyball at UC Davis.

While studying economics and international relations at Davis, I took a class with Professor Steve Boucher where I was introduced to the academic side of both microfinance and microinsurance. The idea of providing small dollar loans to underserved communities was planted.

From traditional finance to fintech—and alignment with personal goals

Although I initially tried a more traditional finance career, interning at Morgan Stanley and subsequently taking a job at JPMorgan Chase after earning my undergraduate degree, I eventually realized it wasn't my calling.

In 2011, I was lucky enough to bump into Oportun, the organization where I have worked for the last six years. We focus on providing affordable loans to individuals with little to no credit. Oportun is a company with a mission that is much aligned with my personal goals.

Haas seemed like the perfect fit for me...Berkeley’s focus on entrepreneurship and social impact were definitely important drivers in my decision.

Working at Oportun for about four years during a rapid growth period has been quite rewarding. We grew from a company of less than 300 people to over 2,000 and from 60 retail locations to 200+ locations and online operations. So for me, it was time again to maximize personal growth and think more broadly about the impact I wanted to have on financial services for underserved communities.

I wanted to build on previous experience with new skills, meet and collaborate with individuals who care about the cause, and take innovation and entrepreneurial classes to better understand what other products could be designed for underserved communities.

After evaluating a number of other programs, Haas seemed like the perfect fit for me and a place where I could achieve all of these goals. Berkeley’s focus on entrepreneurship and social impact were definitely important drivers in my decision.

Why he chose a part-time MBA program

My organization was in a pre-IPO stage when I decided to get an MBA. Although I valued the opportunities offered by the full-time MBA program, foregoing the work experience and my income did not seem like the smartest decision for my career.

Instead, I built in some flexibility at my job to reduce my workload and enrolled in the Evening & Weekend MBA program. I went from a full-time position at the company to a part-time position with different responsibilities. This has really allowed me to spend more time on campus and get involved as well as reflect on my experiences.

Applying MBA lessons to real life (while still in school)

While completing core classes in my first year, I participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, such as the Haas Impact Investing Network (HIIN), which allowed me to look at a lot of early-stage start-ups within financial empowerment to get inspiration and ideas. It also helped me to see the other side of things and learn what venture capitalists look at and think about when deciding to invest in companies.  

I have also been able to directly add value to Oportun by leveraging class learnings and immediately applying it to projects I directly work on or influence.

For example, Applied Innovation (an innovation class that uses lean methodology and design thinking) has really helped to facilitate a project I am working on that involves identifying customer needs in a new market and designing a digital customer experience.

And, I’ve been able to use class projects, such as pricing projects, to do work related to Oportun. That really is one of the key benefits of doing the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program—I don't have to wait until the program ends to begin applying what I have learned.

Making sure individuals have the proper tools to succeed is important to me.

Like many other immigrants who move in pursuit of a better future, my family and I have endured financial hardships. I was fortunate enough to move to the U.S. and get a great education. This background has shaped a personal philosophy built on the desire to give back to people who are facing similar experiences and adversity. There aren't a lot of financial services companies out there thinking about ways to design responsible services for low-income communities. Making sure that individuals have the proper tools to succeed is important to me.

Hence, I decided to dedicate my career to spearheading innovation and creating scalable solutions to tackle financial challenges experienced by underserved communities.  At the end of the day, I get inspired by knowing that the people I interact with and the products that I design can truly make an impact in lives of individuals.

Are you focused on giving others the tools to succeed? Learn more about how the Berkeley MBA can help you have the social impact you seek.

New Call-to-action

Posted on July 5, 2017
Themes: Technology  |  Social Impact
Eileen Jacob
Eileen was Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2017-2019. She enjoyed meeting prospective students and helping them explore the benefits of an MBA, and hopes these blog posts provide valuable insight into the Berkeley MBA experience.