Branding and design are integral part of any successful business.
In this interview with Vrinda Gupta, founder of Sequin, we explore how thinking strategically about these concepts has helped amplify her brand's mission.
We've had the pleasure of working directly with Sequin, and we're excited about their mission to help women step fully into their financial power!
For people that don’t know you, talk briefly about your background. What inspired you to start Sequin?
I worked at Visa for over 5 years launching credit cards—I was part of the team that built the platform to support the Chase Sapphire card. But when I applied for the card, I was rejected! That was a big moment for me, and I soon began to realize that people like myself (first generation Americans, immigrants, women of color, etc.) have long been excluded from the financial services industry due to implicit bias. That industry, I realized, wasn’t designed with these new, upcoming populations in mind, even though we have an amazing amount of spending power. Addressing that inequality is important because having access to good credit leads to so many financial opportunities. Eventually, I left Visa to try and solve this problem.
As you were designing Sequin, what were the most important themes you wanted to convey? How did you prioritize them?
I definitely wanted Sequin to feel different from previous cards I helped launch at Visa. Instead of being entirely data-centric, I wanted Sequin to be first and foremost community-driven. That said, we’re still very much going through the design phase; we’re talking to as many women as possible and hearing their voices. It’s been so exciting to hear women share their ideas and insights. We’ve realized too that an important part of Sequin is presenting women with a credit card that comes with a training manual of sorts. Credit education is so important, and including relevant perks and rewards that align with the way women actually spend is something that’s really important for us.
How does the branding and design of Sequin’s actual card convey the company’s mission of making credit more approachable and engaging for women?
At this point, we’re still solidifying our credit card design. Our initial idea was the idea of the mirror card, which is very different from typical credit cards, which tend to be very black, blue, and male-centered. So when we thought about the mirror card, we wanted to make something that was empowering, that would reflect a woman’s individuality, and that would help her step into her power. We want Sequin to be fundamentally different, and I think we’re on our way to accomplishing that.
What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered when thinking about Sequin as a brand?
One of the pieces I think we underestimated is the importance of evangelizing others around Sequin’s mission. This problem is “under the surface.” What I mean is that a woman wouldn’t necessarily know that there’s this implicit bias built into the financial system. So it’s important for us all, and women particularly, to understand and acknowledge that these underlying systems reflect some of the implicit bias that’s already deeply ingrained into our society (like the gender wage gap).
At Sequin, one of the biggest challenges we’re tackling is educating women about the reality of this bias; we’re trying to show women these subtle societal inequalities and then develop a product that directly addresses these problems.
How have you worked to educate women about the implicit bias in the financial system?
Working on our rebrand with Slope was definitely “Step 1.” We had to really understand the problem, and there’s not a ton of literature around implicit bias and financial services/credit cards. So we did a ton of research, talked to people, and really dug thru the data. Armed with that data and with those interviews, we worked with Slope and IDEO, one of our investors, to make sure we communicated that message in a way that would resonate with women. The problem is definitely complex, so our job is to make it digestible—the new website was the first step, and now we’re putting a ton of resources into continuing that education for women.
Financial institutions typically have a very standard aesthetic. How did you think about Sequin's aesthetic (colors, logo, etc) in relation to your mission?
Great question. When we thought about Sequin’s aesthetic, we had to keep in mind that, ultimately, we’re a credit card company—and any financial institution must gain the trust of its users. We realized that we not only had to make Sequin approachable and we had to celebrate womanhood, but we also needed to make our brand trustworthy and credible. Hitting that perfect balance has been both challenging and exciting! We definitely studied brands that have done this well in the past, brands that are women-first but that also generate high levels of credibility. We drew a lot from these brands and eventually arrived at a great coral color that represents different shades of women, but also gives off a mature vibe that speaks to our professionalism and credibility.
How did you think about the imagery used on the Sequin site? Why was diverse representation important to you?
In terms of the imagery on our site, we really wanted to address two pieces. The first was that we wanted to be very human, very woman-first. So, we asked, do we put our credit card on top of the website? Or should we lead with an incredible, empowered, positive woman? Eventually, we decided that it best aligned with our brand values to put women first and up front. Secondly, we also wanted to make sure we addressed all life-stages, shades, and types of women that are out there! In selecting our imagery, we always kept that top of mind. Personally-speaking, I wanted to create a site that I wish I would have seen when I was younger, a site for a company committed to empowering people like myself.
The work you're doing at Sequin is super interesting! Where do you see the future taking the project?
The future is super exciting! I view Sequin not just as a card or a product, but as a movement. Women are now stepping into their financial power more than ever, and we want to help them do that. Right now, millennial women have the highest spending power of any generation at $170B. That goes to show times have definitely changed. Women are running for office, leading companies, and doing all sorts of amazing things. It's important for us to help make equal access to credit a key part of the feminist agenda; we’re deeply committed to achieving equality of opportunity for women in the financial services world.