Jeff LoCastro: A Next-Generation Leader Changing Things from “Good” to “Great”

 

Automation is changing the way businesses work today. Automation helps in achieving cost minimization, greater efficiency and streamlined procedures. It shouldn’t be a surprise when we see financial risk decisioning processes being automated too. Neener Analytics has automated financial risk decisioning to 1-click of the consumer social media profile OR in as little as 3-minute chat with ARIA, the world first augmented AI chat-based risk decisioning tool. This is perfect for those thin-file, no-file, or credit-challenged consumers that risk-based businesses mis-decision, mis-price, or simply reject because good decisioning on them is unavailable or unreliable.

A Game Changer

Jeff realized long ago that he loved building things. And he especially loves shaking-the-frame, creating dots before they become lines, and engaging in a daily assault on conventional wisdom; embarking on a quest to fundamentally rattle an industry, doing something different, and build teams that share his vision.

Jeff started his first company when he was a sophomore in college, the second one when he was a junior. Also, he was a member of the initial executive team of the inventors of the online social network: Classmates.com.

Driving Risk Assessment

56% of US consumers alone are thin-file, no-file and credit challenged. 88% globally. These are the invisible consumers; invisible not because they are high risk, but rather because current risk assessment systems simply don’t work for them. Neener Analytics contends that this is the biggest problem in the world. You cannot build a middle class or improve the standard of living for society or individual without access to financial products and services. And you cannot deliver that access if the risk of the engagement cannot be assessed.

Getting ‘banked’ is great. But the problem is not being simply “unbanked” or “underbanked” because being “banked” still doesn’t solve the underlying problem of financial risk invisibility. If the risk is not understood, no one is delivering services to these consumers that improve their life.

Being Contradictory

A successful leader has a combination of massive ego, enormous humility, tremendous patience, enormous impatience, great vision, and the innate ability to communicate that vision to others to inspire action. All those qualities seem contradictory, but in his experience, a successful leader is a bundle of contradictions.

Jeff’s own personal journey has been simply “owning” these contradictions, staying true to his vision, and “listening.”  That is to know which direction to go, course-correcting when needed, and keeping an eye on what works and what doesn’t work.

Awards and Recognitions

Neener Analytics won the Best of Show at Finovate Silicon Valley in 2017 for its click-based solution, won Best of Show at Finovate in 2019 for ARIA, for its chat-based solution. Also, at the Global Finovate Awards in NYC, Neener Analytics was selected as the #1 Solution in the World for Financial Inclusion & Top 10 in the World for their AI/ML.

Further, Neener Analytics is also a FIS Global portfolio company, as they made an investment earlier this year.

Focusing on Core to Drive Disruption

According to Jeff, the biggest challenge has been at the core of its innovation. “No one is doing what we are doing, and we don’t differentiate ourselves based on the color of our t-shirt or “we are the ______, of _______.”  We don’t sell “efficiency” yet that is certainly a by-product. We sell revenue; quantitative, measurable results”, said Jeff.

Anytime you sell revenue, it not only disrupts a market, but it creates internal disruption with our customers. Jeff loves that. But when your product is seen as authentically disruptive, it creates a different kind of conversation. Longer sales cycles, but also, longer customer relationships.

Acceptance to Challenges

According to Jeff, it wasn’t that hard for them to connect the problem and solution for their clients. Its customers know that they have a problem. The hardest part is getting them to admit it. Most do want to admit that they have only been engaging with 44% of the market (100% – 56% = 44%).  They know they have the issues but just don’t what to come out and say it. Jeff knows that as soon as its clients say, “ya, you’re right. We are only engaging with a small part of the market, we are not maximizing our potential, and we don’t know how to solve it. Help us.” Then things move significantly faster.

Lead your Way

The truth is not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. The even greater truth is almost no one is. And that’s a good thing. If everyone was the coach then who’d be the players? And Jeff speaks from the perspective of entrepreneurship. Jeff encourages budding entrepreneurs to find something to lead: a small project (or a big one). Own that project. Build your team. Live that project. And love it and hug it until culmination. Learn from it. And do it again.  Learn from it. And do it again and again.

The Future Ahead

Jeff is really pioneering the idea that the consumer is their own data. And the consumer as their own source of data is the future of all consumer engagement. Neener Analytics is currently in 11 countries and Jeff sees owning specific market regions in the next 10 years. Neener Analytics has already built out 2 product lines, each delivering 5 decisioning products. Jeff has another line slated for 2020 and is on track for a new line each of the next 5-years while continuing to expand its decisioning capabilities.