About ZestFinance

Meet the ZestFinance Team

Our team members are machine learning experts from Google and other high-tech companies. We built the best team to create the best tech.

Douglas Merrill

Douglas Merrill

Founder & CEO

I started my career with a Ph.D. from Princeton and have done lots of different things since then. I worked as a researcher at the RAND Corporation, a security consultant at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, and Senior VP at Charles Schwab. I joined Google in 2003, and spent 5 (great!) years there as their CIO and VP of Engineering. I’m a technologist and data junkie at heart, but also love motorcycles, tattoos, and ’80s music. I care deeply about people and animals and support a variety of charities related to drug rehabilitation and animal rescue.

Sonya Merrill

Sonya Merrill

People Operations

I’ve been in technology since its dot-com heyday, at startups and huge companies alike. I spent more than 4 amazing years running product and international communications for Google and was ecstatic when the opportunity to help found ZestFinance came along. It’s an amazing feeling to go to work every day and know that you are simultaneously changing the game for average Americans and the technology sector at large. At Zest, my primary focus has always been to build a corporate culture where people can grow and thrive—both at work and where it matters most—in their personal lives. Zest rocks and the people here are incredible. What more can I say?

Mike de Vere

Mike de Vere

Chief Operating Officer

I find joy in transforming organizations large and small, public and private, and love nothing better than figuring out how to use technology to solve strategic business issues. Whether reimagining Nielsen’s global insights business as a SaaS-based model or identifying new avenues to monetize the Harris Poll web traffic, I continually lean on my ability to craft a vision and motivate teams to execute. As the chief operating officer for a financial services start-up and in various roles over a decade at JD Power, I found success usually comes from looking at situations through the lens of the customer. I’m a Southern California native all the way (MBA from the University of Southern California) and thrilled to play a role at one of the great local startups on a mission to do some good for the average person.

Steven Fernald

Steven Fernald

Finance

Before joining Zest, I spent 20 years as a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and UBS Investment Bank advising specialty finance companies on how to efficiently raise, structure and restructure over $100 billion of capital. Now at Zest, I work to drive value creation and organizational efficiencies across our business. I earned an Economics degree from the University of Utah where, most importantly, I became an avid skier. When I’m not on the slopes I’m loving life with my incredible wife and three remarkable children.

Michelle Sangster

Michelle Sangster

Business Development

I love to form game-changing partnerships with amazing companies. I've spent many years creating the go-to-market business development strategies for early stage technology companies, identifying new markets for large companies, raising funding, and selling companies. After receiving my MBA from Harvard, I worked for companies in numerous tech sectors—search, monetization, gaming, education and social media—including Amazon, Yahoo!, Overture, Junglee and Kosmix. I love my job because I get to help major companies take advantage of Zest's financial technology platform to transform their credit operations. The more companies that use our platform, the more people will have access to fair and transparent credit.

Jay Budzik

Jay Budzik

Technology

I find great satisfaction in inventing new technologies, particularly in data mining and AI. While earning my Ph.D. in CS at Northwestern, I founded a company that brought AI-based search to enterprises. In my career, I’ve helped major media organizations apply AI & machine learning to expand their audiences and grow revenues, and developed systems that process tens of trillions of data points. I’m one of those people who thinks data is cool and that more data is always better, so Zest has been the perfect home for a guy like me.

Kareem Saleh

Kareem Saleh

Executive Vice President

I've spent my career working at the intersection of finance, technology, and government. I cut my teeth as the consigliere to business leaders and senior officials in the Obama administration working on finance and green energy issues. I came away from that work convinced that machine learning could ignite a credit revolution around the world and serve as an important driver of financial inclusion and poverty alleviation. Now I help the world's most prestigious financial institutions expand access to credit by transitioning from conventional underwriting techniques to artificial intelligence-based ones. At Zest I'm fortunate to work across a variety of functions including sales, marketing, legal, and government affairs.

Patrick Cadic

Patrick Cadic

Sales

Before joining Zest, I spent 6 years at Equifax managing one of the largest alternative credit data sources, building credit analytics products and leading an enterprise sales organization. At Zest, I am focused on helping our partners manage change and transform how they underwrite consumers and small business owners. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Landscape Architecture, where I gained a passion for design and problem-solving. The best part of being at Zest is seeing how our data-driven, crazy smart and background diverse people create game-changing business results for our clients.

Bruce  Upbin

Bruce Upbin

Strategic Communications

I joined ZestFinance for the chance to work with brilliant technologists on a mission to make the trillion-dollar credit industry more fair and profitable. I also love being in the arena, after 20 years reporting from the cheap seats as a business reporter. I worked my way up from fact-checker to managing editor at Forbes, covering enough industries, heroes, and scoundrels to earn the equivalent of two MBAs and a handful of journalism awards. Before joining Zest, I led strategic communications at Hyperloop One, taking an out-there, world-changing transportation idea and making it credible to global audiences. When I’m not explaining what a leaky variable or boosted tree is to the layman, I’m playing tennis, working the BBQ, or reading.

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