Marina Gracias knows that staying curious—and being willing to take a risk—can translate into life-changing career moments. In 2005, when Providian Financial offered her a chance to head a new group that would handle sourcing and procurement, it meant that she’d be pivoting away from law practice and into the business world. But Gracias decided to go for it.
“It made a huge difference in my career,” she says. “I learned more about how to balance legal and business considerations, and that experience eventually led me to positions at Visa, Accenture, and now Varo.”
She joined Varo, a digital-only bank, in 2016 as its general counsel and corporate secretary and helped the company navigate the regulatory process to secure a national bank charter—quite a feat in the financial world. The government has given out only a handful of such charters since the 2008 financial crisis. Varo was the first consumer fintech recipient.
The charter allows Varo, which already provided checking and savings accounts with no monthly or overdraft fees, to offer a full range of banking services backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., including customer access to affordable credit and cash-flow management.
“Varo is a new breed of bank: all digital and mission driven. Its purpose is financial inclusion and opportunity for all,” says Gracias, who credits her Berkeley training with helping her thrive at the company.
“Berkeley showed me how powerful it can be to ask, ‘What’s the problem you’re really trying to solve?’” she says.