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 PricewaterhouseCoopers, 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.
Since then, the team has grown to more than a hundred crazy smart data geeks, mathematicians and computer scientists, all working together to make fair and transparent credit available to everyone.
I graduated from Duke University with a degree in economics and began my career as a U.S. Army Ranger. After the military, I was fortunate to spend eight great years at Capital One where I held various roles, notably General Manager of Customer Segments. I then spent several years helping startups and financial services companies with direct marketing and credit risk management. At ZestFinance, I've found a unique blend of analytical rigor, advanced technology, and amazingly talented people all focused on making fair and transparent credit available to everyone.
I have a diverse array of litigation and transactional experience, spanning both private and in-house practice, specializing in technology, entertainment and retail. After graduating with a JD from USC, Order of the Coif, and a BA from UCLA, Cum Laude, I began my career clerking for the Hon. Manuel L. Real in the Central District of California. I'm often found keeping busy with two rambunctious toddlers, two dogs, five chickens, a hive of bees, growing food, and making craft beers on my “urban farm.” In my spare time, I volunteer with my family to prepare and serve meals to shelter residents, and I represent victims of domestic violence pro bono.
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?
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.
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.
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.
After graduating from the University of Missouri, I spent six years as a compliance examiner at the FDIC and CFPB. From there, I built the FinTech Advisory practice at Treliant Risk Advisors. My passion is to protect consumers and make sure they’re treated fairly in financial services, which is really what my compliance work—and Zest’s mission—are all about. Outside of work, I love to feed my “old soul” by working on my ‘64 Chevy truck, collecting Dr. Pepper memorabilia, unsuccessfully trying to lower my golf handicap and jamming out to Jimmy Buffett.
The solution to this problem lies in reinventing the process of giving loans, usually called underwriting. Underwriting really hasn't changed since the 1950’s when William Fair and Earl Isaac emerged from academia using a new piece of math called logistic regression. It changed the world. Credit availability more than doubled in 10 years. Default rates dropped. They changed the world.
But logistic regression has its limitations. The limitations mean that most lenders use less than 50 data points to determine creditworthiness. If even one piece of data is missing, it can drop a borrower from prime to subprime. Errors in an applicant’s data have even greater impact.
In an era of infinite computing and storage, why not use thousands or tens of thousands of pieces of information, resulting in almost no chance that missing or erroneous data could create inaccuracies in people's credit histories? When I was at Google, we developed math that used thousands of pieces of information to rank web pages. Why isn’t credit using these modern technological breakthroughs? It should be.
That’s why I started ZestFinance. Our company’s mission is to make fair and transparent credit available to everyone. The brilliant Zestians I’m fortunate to work with everyday are making this lofty idea a reality.
We’ve built a financial technology platform that uses Google-like math and tons of data to reinvent how credit decisions are made. Our Zest Automated Machine Learning (ZAML™) platform is helping lenders lower default rates and provide better financial products to consumers. And even though our technology sounds complex, it actually makes lending simple. While many lenders take hours, or even days, to make credit decisions, we’re helping others make them — accurately — in less than 10 seconds.
I am extremely excited about the opportunities we see ahead for ZestFinance. By making our ZAML Platform available to all lenders, our lofty mission feels pretty close at hand.
Cheers, Douglas Merrill Founder & CEO, ZestFinance
P.S. If you want to be a part of what we're doing or have ideas on how to help, don’t be shy. I always love hearing from smart people with big hearts and great ideas. firstname.lastname@example.org