5 Questions with Wil Lewis (Experian)

This past month, VantageScore participated in the panel "Financial Inclusion and Consumer Credit" at CBA LIVE. We were proud to share the (virtual) stage with Wil Lewis, Experian's Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer. After the panel's audience Q&As, we were grateful to Wil for taking the time to answer a few questions of our own for this month's newsletter:

1) As Experian’s first-ever Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, can you tell us about your role and what are some goals you have for the company?

As Experian’s first ever Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, my role is ultimately to ensure that we are being equitable and creating a sense of belonging in everything we do. There are three primary areas of focus:

  • Building a company where inclusion fuels collaboration and innovation to develop products which enable financial inclusion for all. We need to ensure our products and how we approach the market place supports everyone from all walks of life, especially underserved communities.
  • As we work to make an impact, we must take care of our own backyard. We need to ensure that every employee feels emotionally connected to the company in an environment that is safe and supportive. We call it a sense of belonging. We know this will lead to attracting, developing and retaining talent that represents the communities in which Experian operates.
  • We will institutionalize processes that will increase the number of diverse suppliers, disability accessibility tools and enhance the impact of external diversity partnerships.

Ultimately, it’s about making our world a better place than the one we have right now.

2) As part of Experian’s “Inclusion Forward” initiative, the company just released its first Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Report. Can you tell us about Experian’s latest DEI efforts and its implications for the wider credit industry?

As I think about Experian’s DEI efforts, our goal is to ensure we give fair access to credit to all who want it. One of the opportunities we have in the credit industry is to ensure we’re speaking directly to underserved communities, providing education and resources to those who may not have been aware of financial literacy or financial inclusion, or haven’t had anyone teaching them this before.

My role is as an accountability partner; not only within Experian to ensure that we are we doing all the right things to support those who may have previously been shut out of banking opportunities, and also using my influence with our industry peers to drive positive change in the world.

3) Experian’s United for Financial Health program empowers those who are underserved through various avenues of credit education and grants. What are some key lessons from this new endeavor that you can share for other financial services companies looking to initiate conversations about financial health?

Our United for Financial Health initiative is led by Abigail Lovell, our leader in global corporate social responsibility. The program helps educate and empower vulnerable consumers around their finances and minority business owners around financial health. This is done through social media, podcasts, using influencers and online education portals with selected non-profit organizations.

One of the biggest lessons in a program of this type is to scale community impact. To do that, we need to partner with like organizations with similar goals and that also service these populations. So far, we’ve reached over 35 million consumers and we aren’t stopping there.

4) COVID-19 has shed light on a different type of pandemic: the socio-economic inequality of minorities in America. What are resources that banks and lenders can use right now to help drive equity for their customers?

COVID-19 shined the light upon some of disparities that exist in our society. They were always there, but not everyone was aware of them. This gives us an opportunity to provide tangible solutions for lenders in support of the consumer. We recently launched Inclusion Forward – Experian Empowering Opportunities™ which is our initiative to ensure there is opportunity for, and exposure to, tools and information for banks, lending institutions and consumers that didn’t exist before.

Another example is Experian Boost, which launched a couple years ago. Consumers can contribute positive payment history from utilities, mobile phones, even video streaming services accounts to give a fuller, more accurate picture of their financial responsibility. This can help lenders make meaningful decisions about loans to directly support those individuals from diverse communities.

Also, Experian Lift is available to banks and lending institutions, providing data to give them a better understanding of consumers. Frankly, it also directly helps these consumers as well, to help institutions support their financial inclusion goals.

5) Do you have recommendations for minority-owned and/or women-owned businesses on how to prepare for starting their own business?

In addition to consumers facing a financial crisis during the pandemic, another segment of society we can help is minority and women-owned businesses. Almost half of black-owned business owners consider credit availability to be a challenge, and did not apply for capital because they didn’t think they would be approved. Experian has an entire business unit focused on small businesses and we can help small business owners understand credit. Different than mainstream entrepreneurs, many women and minority-owned businesses use their own personal credit to get their business of the ground. We can help them shore up their own personal credit history and help lending institutions with data so they can both make informed lending decisions to support women and minority-owned businesses.

BONUS: How have your personal experiences with credit shaped how you approach your role at Experian?

When I was in college, I was offered a credit card just for signing some forms. To a college student, having a couple thousand dollars to spend was liberating. And a responsibility that quickly caught up to me. I didn’t have the exposure to credit education that would have helped me make better choices at that young of an age; they’re lessons anyone can learn at any age. At Experian, I’m looking forward to leveraging this kind of personal experience and our commitment to financial health and inclusion to make a difference in our communities.

About Wil Lewis

Wil Lewis is the first-ever Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Experian. In this role, Wil strives to build on the company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, institutionalize inclusive processes as a key to innovation, ensure every employee and key stakeholders feel connected to the organization, culture and that talent represents the communities in which Experian operate.

Prior to this role, Wil was Diversity & Inclusion Executive and Head of Bank of America’s global disability LGBT+, and military strategies. Wil also had responsibility for the firm’s Global Employee Networks and D&I recognition. In this role, he was responsible for 11 networks with more than 350 chapters in forty countries with 180,000+ memberships. Additionally, Wil served as a market HR generalist.

During Wil’s tenure at Bank of America he served as head of D&I for the bank’s Consumer, Merrill, Global Wealth management and Business Banking businesses, which encompassed more than 120,000 of the firm’s employees. Before joining the Diversity & Inclusion team, Wil was head of Talent Acquisition for Bank of America’s Consumer Bank. Wil’s team drove recruiting activity for Bank of America’s nearly 5,800 banking centers across the US with over 27,000 hires a year. Wil joined Bank of America in 2006 from the LaSalle acquisition where he held the position of Head of Talent Acquisition for LaSalle Bank and ABN Amro North America.