Prodigy Finance: Transforming Global Education Financing

Neha Sethi, Chief Financial Officer at Prodigy Finance, shares insights on the company’s journey and impact on international student loans.

Prodigy Finance has revolutionized the way international students access funding for higher education. With a mission to democratize access to quality education, this fintech company has disbursed over $2.09 billion to more than 40,000 students from 150+ nationalities. In this exclusive interview, Neha Sethi, Chief Financial Officer of Prodigy Finance, shares insights into the company’s journey, challenges, and future aspirations.

  1. The Origin of Prodigy Finance: Could you take us back to the inception of Prodigy Finance? What was the defining moment that solidified the need for a fintech solution in the international student loan market?

I can tell you that the company’s origins stem from a personal experience. Cameron Stevens, our CEO, along with our other founders, who were all international graduates at INSEAD, faced hurdles in securing funding for their MBA program. It wasn’t just the financial challenge; the whole process of a traditional loan application was disadvantageous to international students.

Recognising this challenge, Cameron, along with his two fellow graduates, founded Prodigy Finance in 2007 as a solution. The aim was to democratise access to quality education to all, irrespective of their background and traditional geographic borders. They started with a community funding programme for INSEAD students, which has now expanded into partnerships with many universities and graduate schools worldwide. The company has since disbursed over US $2.09 billion to fund more than 40,000 students from over 150 eligible nationalities. We are proud to be changing who can access career-changing degrees in fields like Engineering, Business, Law, and Policy across 1,600+ graduate schools. 

  1. Challenges and Innovations: As CFO, you’ve navigated Prodigy Finance through various financial landscapes. What were some of the significant challenges in building a borderless lending model, and how were they overcome?

Prodigy Finance operates with the aim that every person should have access to life-transforming education that helps them uplift themselves and their communities. Being able to operate across multiple countries means navigating financial regulations. We had to ensure continual compliance with local regulations, while still maintaining a streamlined application process for students. We have established a strong compliance and legal framework supplemented by partnerships with local experts. This approach ensures that we comply with relevant regulations and also build trust through transparency.

  1. The Role of Impact Investors: Prodigy Finance is unique in its reliance on impact investors. How has this strategy influenced the company’s mission and operations? Can you share a success story where this model made a substantial difference in a student’s life?

Impact investors play a unique role in our company. These investors understand the value of what we do and share our mission. This synergy helps us formulate a future-oriented strategy where financial sustainability goes hand-in-hand with social progress.

Let me tell you about Saumya Yadav, a remarkably brilliant and ambitious student. She later went on to be a co-founder & CEO of an edtech startup. Saumya, like many other international students, faced a hurdle in financing her MBA at one of the top-ranked business schools in the USA. Traditional banks in her home country offered loans with high interest rates and required collateral, which wasn’t an option for Saumya. US banks demanded a US-based co-signer, another obstacle she couldn’t overcome.

Fortunately, the university’s financial aid office introduced Saumya to Prodigy Finance and she was able to secure the funding she needed to pursue her MBA.

Saumya’s MBA experience proved transformative. During her second year, she launched an edtech company that works for the educational empowerment of underprivileged children. Today, her company is a thriving organisation with over 200 employees and has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of children.

By finding financial help for deserving students like Saumya, we aim to create a positive change in the world, one loan at a time.

  1. Expanding the Horizons: With the announcement of the Prodigy Finance Scholarship Programme, what new objectives does Prodigy Finance aim to achieve? How does this align with the company’s long-term vision?

Our scholarship programme furthers our mission of increasing access to high-quality education for international students. It is a very novel venture for us because it lets us extend a helping hand beyond our loans. We all know that there are incredible students out there who might simply need a little extra support. This scholarship programme allows us to recognise talented individuals who demonstrate exceptional academic potential and helps us create a more inclusive space in education.

  1. Fintech and Education: How do you see the role of fintech evolving in the educational sector, especially in postgraduate financing?

You see, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for postgraduate financing. There are a number of variables involved such as the choice of the programme, university, and future career and income outcomes. Fintech steps in by offering a digital solution that intelligently streamlines and automates the entire system. You can create custom loan options with tailored repayment schedules as per the student’s specific requirements. This transparency builds trust. Our borrowers are set for success in their degrees, career transitions and a comfortable repayment. We’re incredibly proud of our data driven model. At Prodigy Finance, we’re at the forefront of this exciting evolution. There is more than can be done with AI which we are keen to explore and make part of our fintech journey.

  1. Advice for Aspiring Leaders: Your journey from a BA in Economics to a leadership role at Prodigy Finance is inspirational. What advice would you give to young professionals aspiring to make a mark in the fintech or education finance industry?
Thank you! My path to Prodigy Finance wasn’t exactly a straight line, but it’s definitely been a rewarding journey. One piece of advice that I would like to share is to “embrace lifelong learning.” Be curious about the industry’s latest advancements and be willing to learn. Fintech is a booming industry with its new tech and disruptive business models. Regardless of your specific degree, focus on building a strong foundation in finance, accounting, and data analysis. Early in my career, I took on projects that required learning new skills. It pushed me but ultimately helped me advance quickly. 
The education finance industry is a purpose-driven industry. Find what ignites your passion – is it increasing access to education? Empowering underprivileged students to achieve their dreams? Or perhaps designing the next big loan app? Find your sense of purpose and keep working towards your goals.
  1. Future of Prodigy Finance: Looking ahead, what are the next big steps for Prodigy Finance? Are there new markets or products we can anticipate?
We’re committed to continuously improving our technology platform so that we can make the entire loan process even more user-centric and accessible for students across the globe. It goes without saying that we’re constantly evaluating new markets and keeping close to the ever changing landscape of higher education. At Prodigy Finance, we recognise talent is global, and we’re constantly striving to create a truly borderless support system for international aspirants.
We are aware that for international students seeking a top-class education, financing is just one piece of the puzzle. That’s why we forge strategic partnerships with top institutions across the globe. It is all about creating a collaborative ecosystem. 
  1. Personal Insight: Beyond the financial metrics and success stories, what does working at Prodigy Finance mean to you personally?
Working at Prodigy Finance is about something much bigger than myself. Every loan we approve, and every scholarship we award, represents a dream coming true. These students hail from every corner of the world, from every background imaginable. Reading about their aspirations, their resilience, and their ultimate achievements is incredibly inspiring. I get to witness the transformative power of education firsthand. 
Sure, the financial results matter – they quantify our impact and growth. But for me, it is the positive change we ripple out into the world.
  • Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United   Kingdom. 
  • Prodigy Finance loans are offered to eligible borrowers and these loans are governed by English law.
Prodigy Finance continues to break barriers in the world of education financing, making quality education accessible to students worldwide. With a commitment to innovation, impact, and inclusion, the company is poised to shape the future of global education. As Neha Sethi highlights, the journey is about more than financial success—it’s about empowering individuals to achieve their dreams and create a better world.
Prittle Prattle News composed this article as an Interview.
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