My dream dinner guest would be: Michelle Obama My favorite car is: Austin-Healy 100
Meeting financial services at the intersection of innovation, technology, and regulation
A CREATIVE MIND AND A SHARP EYE. From a young age, David Ehrich was surrounded by creativity. Raised as a Quaker, his family worked in the arts across various disciplines: his mother was an interior designer, his sister a performance artist, and his brother a musician. On the face of it, David embarking on a career in financial services seemed like an unlikely path. Still, by leaning into his creative disposition, he has propelled significant change in the financial industry.
"Creativity has always been an essential part of being an entrepreneur. Someone creative is looking around the world and saying, 'wait, why is it that way? What can we do differently?' As I charted my life, I've always had this sense of personal accountability, my role in the broader question of our society, and how can we change society for the better?"
Before 2000, David had no intention of working in corporate America. His first job out of college was as a tour guide, where he picked up valuable skills for a budding entrepreneur. "I learned how to manage people, in some cases very difficult people, and I learned how to manage with compassion." In the early 1990s, he worked for the pioneering gay market research firm Overlooked Opinions, where he established a panel of 50,000 LGBTQIA+ households and regularly published their survey findings to amplify positive messages about the community in the media. It was a key driver in helping to create the concept of the gay market.
In 1994, David helped launch the highly influential OUT Magazine, where he was the first Marketing Director, and used his position to facilitate a path for corporations to talk directly to the queer community. As the role bridged into the corporate world, David returned to school to get an MBA with the goal of "making a larger impact. If I could understand how to influence business systems, I could use that leverage for good."
David spent the next 15 years on what he calls a "tour of corporate America." Working at McKinsey & Company, American Express and JPMorgan Chase, he sought out intrapreneurial roles to effect positive organizational change. "I became aware of how financial institutions take advantage of low and moderate income people, and I learned about issues of financial inclusion — around 10% of Americans don't have bank accounts, and about 30% are under-served by the existing financial services markets. I asked myself “what's wrong here, and how do you change that?"
CHAMPIONING FINANCIAL INCLUSION. After establishing the National Account Standards for bank accounts with no overdraft fees, in 2016, David co-founded Petal, a product that helps consumers who don't have a credit history to gain safe and affordable credit access by using the cash flow data in their bank account. As a serial entrepreneur, in 2019, he also co-founded AIR, the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, a non-profit which helps central banks and financial regulators understand new technologies driving transformational changes in FinTech and RegTech.
Throughout his successful career, David remains grounded in his affinity with the LGBTQIA+ community. "I'm someone who grew up in the 1970s, and I always knew that I was gay. I really understand what it's like to be on the outside, to not feel included or not feel safe. That has significantly informed my trajectory as an entrepreneur."
Beyond his work in financial services and startups, David has served on several LGBTQIA+ non-profit boards. Perhaps most notably, he was a founding committee member to establish The Stonewall as the first LGBT National Monument, created by President Obama in 2016. "For me, this was an extraordinary transformational event, marking that change is possible, that we really can reframe the future."