Get to Know OnDeck’s Mary Donohue: Key Industry Advocate and Mongolian Horse Racer

Name and Title: Mary Donohue, Head of SMB Public Policy at OnDeck

When did you join OnDeck and where do you live? I joined OnDeck/Enova in April of 2021 and live in Arlington, VA (right outside Washington, DC).

What is your day-to-day role at OnDeck?  I work to make sure that all small businesses in America get equal access to fast, trustworthy credit that helps them grow their businesses without having to dilute their ownership. Our team talks daily with state and federal legislators and regulators, as well as other lenders and trade organizations to get the information they need to shape appropriate public policy.

Word has it, you just completed the Mongol Derby (correct me if I’m wrong), a 1000 mile horse race through Mongolia? Yes, I competed in the Mongol Derby this past August 2022. As you said, the Mongol Derby is a 1,000km (approx 700 mile) 10-day horse race across the Mongolian steppe. I was 1 of 46 competitors and finished 21st out of the 30 people who finished the entire race. It is a multi-horse race so I didn’t ride one horse for the entire race but instead switched horses approximately every 25 miles at various horse stations… which adds up to about 28 different horses throughout the entire venture. At each horse station, the horses needed to pass a physical veterinary exam and earn a passing score prior to the riders being able to move forward, if you failed the vet exam you had to sit anywhere from a 2-3 hour time penalty prior to picking your next horse and leaving for the next horse station. Additionally, we were self-navigating the entire race with a handheld GPS, which was loaded with the points we had to hit. However, it did not tell you the best way to go or how to navigate around natural obstacles such as rivers, mountains, deserts, etc.

What was the most difficult part of the race? It is hard to say what was the most difficult part because each day presented new and interesting challenges. On some days the navigation was the most difficult part, on others the very spirited horses presented their own challenges, and on other days the food was difficult to cope with as well.

What’s the first thing you had to eat when you returned to the US? After landing in Dulles and having a day or so to recuperate from the very long journey home, my husband and I went to our favorite local diner for some greasy spoon breakfast food with LOTS of hashbrowns!

What lessons (if any) do you think you’ll bring back from Mongolia and apply to your job at OnDeck? I entered and competed in the race with a friend of mine and we stayed together throughout the entire race, which was often difficult. I think the importance of teamwork in any situation cannot be understated. I also work and collaborate a lot in my job with different internal and external teams, associations, and companies on a day-to-day basis and having the skills to stay organized, plan ahead, and execute strategies served me well during the Derby and continues to do so at work.

Back to work for the last question, what do you see on the horizon for alternative finance in 2023? (Elections? Policy? Company stuff, whatever you think?) The small business financing industry plays an important role in promoting local economic growth. Nonbank lenders are gaining more market share in SMB lending in the US, especially relative to community banks and are reaching more underserved populations than traditional banks. Fintech lenders and funders have the potential to create a more inclusive financial system, allowing small businesses that were less likely to receive credit through traditional lenders to access credit. There are a few issues that we’re tracking closely that have implications for the entire industry such as the CFPB’s 1071 data collection rule, bank-fintech partnerships, TILA legislation, broker disclosure, etc. Depending on the outcomes of the midterm elections, we may be able to influence positive changes to these areas of policy for the industry to foster innovation and ensure our products continue to help small business owners.