We’re excited to share that Ciara Burham has joined Blend’s board of directors and will be part of the audit and compensation committees. Ciara is a seasoned executive, investor, and operator with over 20 years of experience building growth businesses. We caught up with Ciara to get her perspective on how leaders in cloud banking software like Blend can help financial services providers meet the challenges of any market.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What led you to work in financial services?
I grew up in Washington, D.C. and always thought I’d work in the foreign service. I ended up working in business after graduating college, and I just fell in love with the financial services world. The industry has this fascinating combination of being rigorously analytical, a little bit complicated, and too big and important not to change. There’s just so much opportunity for innovation that I think you can spend your whole career in it and have fun.
I got my original training as a consultant at McKinsey in the Financial Institutions Group and as a buy-side equity research analyst at Sanford Bernstein. I covered financial institutions, which was actually enormously helpful training. That’s where I first learned about mortgage and title companies and how to model the economics.
Why do you think there is so much opportunity in this space?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the banking world and have seen the enormous challenges that these incumbent institutions have with existing systems. The market is ripe for fundamental digital innovation. Blend’s products and business make a ton of sense. Technology providers can innovate at a speed and scale that many banks need in order to stay adaptable. It’s not the biggest or the strongest banks that will survive, it’s those that are the most adaptable — so they need to partner with innovators like Blend. I just see so much opportunity for Blend with the expanding ecosystem in the banking world and the opportunity to integrate with other players.
I was really excited to see Blend acquire Title365. Title insurance is also a business that is ripe for digital innovation. And it’s obvious to me that this move is an important step in making the entire homeownership process more frictionless. Title is buried in the homeownership process and it’s a huge cost. In my mind, reducing that cost ultimately improves inclusion and affordability in a way that’s really important. That’s part of what makes Blend so exciting. You’re re-engineering the process which reduces friction, reduces cost, and increases access. And that’s really important.
What are you excited to bring to Blend?
I’ve spent my entire career building growth businesses in financial services as an investor, director, and operator. At Evercore I led the buildout of most of the major lines of business from scratch. And that’s really exciting to me, to be at a company right at the inflection point of its growth curve, when you see things start to compound from a shareholder value perspective.
So having done that several times, I’m hoping to help Blend build that growth trajectory. I like to think the board’s job is to help see around the corners slightly — when to expect challenges, when to look for opportunities — so I’m excited to bring some of that perspective to Blend.
I also have a lot of experience with regulated financial institutions. At Evercore I started and launched our first OCC chartered bank (the OCC is an independent bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that regulates banks). We were the first startup bank to get approved by the OCC after the financial crisis, so I’ve spent a ton of time with regulators and understand how to operate a highly regulated financial institution. And I think that’s enormously valuable to Blend because that represents a lot of your customers. Understanding how those businesses need to operate and what they need at the partnership level is key.
You spent a large part of your career at Evercore. What was that like?
I joined Evercore when it was still a very nascent company. We had five employees and one client at that point, and I remember my first job assignment was to bring in another client. I ended up spending about 20 years building the company, launching different businesses, taking the company public, and expanding globally.
What is the best piece of professional advice you've received?
I love this question! I’ve been super fortunate to have high-quality, impactful mentors in my life that have been really influential. Something I was told early on in my career is that the best strategy you can have is to hire the best people. Because if that works, everything else will get figured out. And that’s what I saw in Nima. He’s got an outstanding vision, he’s totally committed, and he’s hired top quality people. Those are the things you want to focus on.
Can you talk about your work with How Women Invest? How do you translate this to your work as a board member?
This is something that’s very important to me. Having worked in Wall Street for the past 20 years, I’ve seen first hand how predominantly male it is. Being one of the relatively small number of female executives in the industry, I could see that there was all this talent that wasn’t being incorporated into the ecosystem. So as a world, I feel like we’re missing out. We are misallocating capital. I’m a huge believer in what I call the fundamental value of diversity, where different people with different perspectives produce better outcomes.
And that’s why I became a founding investor in How Women Invest. I want to pay it forward, help women grow, and make the path maybe just a little bit easier. So at Blend, I hope to be supportive and visible. It’s just too important.
The blog post contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These statements generally relate to future events, future performance or expectations and involve substantial risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements in this blog post may include, but are not limited to, our expectations regarding our product roadmap, future products/features, the timing of new product/feature introductions, market size and growth opportunities, plans for future operations, competitive position, technological capabilities, and strategic relationships, as well as assumptions relating to the foregoing. The forward-looking statements contained in this blog post are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual outcomes to differ materially from the outcomes predicted. Further information on these risks and uncertainties are set forth in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements in this blog post are based on information available to Blend and assumptions and beliefs as of the date hereof. Except as required by law, Blend does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments, or otherwise.