Ah, banking and borrowing — a tale as old as time, and one that often leads to headaches and heart palpitations.
But, it’s a tale that fintech company Affirm hopes to rewrite.
With a talented team of product managers and engineers, the company has sought out to disrupt how credit products work by hiding the “hard stuff” and turning it into an honest, easy-to-understand, simple-to-use service.
And, with thousands of merchants on its platform and millions of customers, Affirm continues to reimagine the possibilities of finance through leading innovation.
We connected with three Affirm leaders from their growing NYC office to learn more.
EMPLOYEES: 600; 25 locally
WHAT THEY DO: Consumers can choose Affirm at the point of sale to buy now and pay over time through thousands of retailers both online and in-store. Through their transparent payment terms and ease-of-use tech platform, Affirm hopes to make credit more honest, transparent and user-friendly.
WHERE THEY DO IT: NYC
STIPENDOUS: Employees receive a monthly wellness stipend toward fitness classes and memberships, as well as a stipend for purchases with Affirm’s platform.
MR. WORLDWIDE: Affirm’s workforce is made up of employees from more than 35 countries. As a show of pride, their office hangs a map where people mark where they are from.
Nik Koblov, Head of Bank Engineering
Nik leads Affirm's bank engineering team. He’s responsible for Affirm’s financial engineering department that operates out of both NYC and San Francisco. It’s his goal to make finance easy for the rest of the product and engineering teams, and ultimately, Affirm’s users.
MOUNTAINEER: Nik soaks up as much of the outdoors as he can while out of the office and prefers to be in the mountains. He’s been on more than 10 expeditions to Alaska.
How has the product changed and improved since you first started three years ago?
The two most exciting things for me are our product evolution and scale. We now do as much business in a month as we used to do in a whole year before. Meanwhile, regarding product evolution, we now make products for our internal users just as passionately as we do for our consumers. We have our capital markets team and accountants using world-class products, built in-house, to run our business.
What projects or challenges will your team be tackling this year?
It’s interesting that what attracted me most to Affirm was their single-pointed focus on the core product — becoming the household name in point-of-sale lending, not unlike Airbnb in hospitality and Lyft in car-hailing.
This year, however, is when we are embarking on a number of new product dimensions that branches out beyond Affirm’s core point of sale offering presenting new engineering challenges as the company expands beyond its traditional ecosystem. For engineers, these are some very exciting times, as we are looking to bring in better tools to tackle these challenges, including new programming languages.
What attracted me most to Affirm was their single-pointed focus on the core product — becoming the household name in point-of-sale lending, not unlike Airbnb in hospitality and Lyft in car-hailing.”
We also learned you were instrumental in the co-creation of Affirm’s Parent Employee Resource Group (ERG). Tell us more.
I’m very proud of what Affirm’s D&I program has accomplished by creating the ERGs that foster a sense of community and belonging. Initially, a few parents got together to share tips about parenting in the Bay Area. I found this essential as a resource for finding things like a good school, summer camp or sports club to join for freshly relocated families like my own.
When you spend an equal amount of time and energy at work as at home, recognizing and embracing our hardest working employees doing two jobs — one at home and one in the office — is paramount. One of the highlights from this program was when my son was telling his friends at school about “the coolest team at Affirm,” our risk ops team, that he and his classmate spent a day helping investigate potentially fraudulent transactions during “Bring Your Kids to Work Day.”
Niki Sri-Kumar, Group Product Manager
Niki has been with Affirm for nearly three years. She started with the team at their San Francisco headquarters and recently relocated to their NYC office. Throughout this time, she’s had the opportunity to work on pure greenfield products, scale more mature businesses, work on both B2B and B2C product strategies, and build a team.
MORNING ENERGIZE: To come into work each day with a clear mind and new energy, Niki carves out time for a workout in her daily morning routine. She keeps it fresh by rotating running, boxing and weightlifting into the mix.
What is the culture like at Affirm, and what steps has the NYC office made to make it an even better workplace?
It’s a little cheesy, but I think the culture of the Affirm New York office is the best of so many worlds. We have the scrappiness and camaraderie of an early-stage startup and get to be part of this much larger, and quickly growing, company at the same time. As the New York office has grown, we’ve tried to be very intentional about how the culture develops. We’ve planned great dinners and events outside of the office, invested in the office space — the things that matter to me: lots of La Croix and good Zoom connectivity with SF — and are founding local chapters of our employee resource groups.
What’s the most challenging part of your role? What’s the most rewarding?
Innovating in a highly regulated space is hard, which makes working through detailed legal and compliance requirements both the most challenging and most rewarding part of my role. Figuring out what to build, and how to build it, in a way that all of our stakeholder teams feel good about is no easy feat, but it’s what we do every day. We’re so well supported by these teams, but we do approach problems with different perspectives. When you’re able to partner across tech and risk management functions to design a product that will provide new and real value for your users with a financial opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise — that’s the reward.
We have the scrappiness and camaraderie of an early-stage startup and get to be part of this much larger, and quickly growing, company at the same time.”
How have you grown in your career since joining Affirm? What other opportunities does Affirm provide to support professional development?
At Affirm, I’ve had opportunities to work on pure greenfield products, scale more mature businesses, work on both B2B and B2C product strategies, thrive as an individual contributor and build a team. Managers at Affirm encourage employees to take responsibility for their own professional development, but they also support them through regular feedback cycles, learning and development resources, and openness to internal mobility — including transferring between offices!
Jon Kayne, Senior Capital Markets Manager
Jon, who previously lived in NYC, returned to the city a year and a half ago as one of Affirm’s first two employees to grow the local team. He regularly interacts with Affirm’s external investors to support their lending business and is responsible for strategy, deal structuring, negotiation, and execution of capital partnerships.
CAPTAIN CRESCENDO: A piano player since he was five years old, Jon complements his day job by playing music on his full-size keyboard or acoustic guitar. He said music immediately puts him in a different world where he can be creative and expressive well outside the box he operates in at work.
How is Affirm making strides in establishing itself as a technology-forward banking company?
There are many answers to this question, but I’ll speak to something I’m particularly proud of related to the world of capital markets: our funding platform. Banks and most other online lenders tend to build large operations teams to handle the complex process of frequent loan funding, using massive Excel spreadsheets and repetitive manual processes.
At Affirm, capital markets and bank engineering work side-by-side to automate almost 100 percent of non-discretionary funding processes. This allows us to easily scale the platform with technology as we grow funding capacity without building a sizeable operations team, and it also ensures consistency and accuracy of data, which is of utmost importance to our capital partners.
All the information I could ever need to do my job is readily available, but it’s more about how we build consistent, sustainable processes and structures around using that data.”
What makes working at Affirm unlike any other prior working experience?
Immediately prior to Affirm, I worked at a large alternative asset manager on the credit investment side. I spent a significant amount of time digging to get as much information as realistically possible about the companies we were investing in, and even then usually we could only see limited financial models, public filings, management presentations, or canned answers to diligence requests. Sometimes that was enough to get us over the line on an investment, but often it wasn’t.
At Affirm, it’s the opposite — all the information I could ever need to do my job is readily available, but it’s more about how we build consistent, sustainable processes and structures around using that data. So all that, plus the fact that I can wear t-shirts to work. Wearing suits in the heat of summer is no fun.