The Financial Journey is a unique series focused on financial education and opportunities. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between Wells Fargo and Word In Black.
WIB: Can you describe your role at Wells Fargo?
Goins: I currently serve as Executive Vice President and Head of the Banking Inclusion Initiative for Wells Fargo. Through the Banking Inclusion Initiative, my team and I get to help more people who are unbanked gain access to affordable, mainstream bank accounts, with a focus on removing barriers to financial inclusion for Black and African American, Hispanic and Native American households, which account for more than half of America’s 5.9 million unbanked households.
WIB: What would you say is the best part of the work you get to do?
Goins: The work that I get to do here at Wells Fargo is fulfilling and impactful for communities and the business. I’m able to use Wells Fargo’s size, scale, resources, and relationships to drive greater change for marginalized people in unimaginable ways. I am personally passionate about being a vessel for creating pathways to economic mobility and increasing financial inclusion.
My team and I are working to help address those structural barriers that stand in the way of communities of color from building generational wealth. Helping to break down those barriers is an important step toward financial inclusion. Driving change and making an impactful difference in the lives of underserved communities is the best part of the work I get to do every day.
WIB: What does diversity and Inclusion mean for you?
Goins: Diversity and inclusion for me means diversifying talent at all levels of the company including in executive ranks and leveraging those diverse experiences and perspectives to elevate the company to new levels. It means bringing new opportunities that positively impact diverse and underserved communities, addressing barriers to financial wealth, and developing new strategies to open pathways to economic advancement for people of color and other marginalized individuals. It means creating a just and equitable society where everyone can be their authentic self and have a sense of belonging and opportunity.
WIB: What is one piece of career advice you can give to our readers?
Goins: As a woman of color, too often I have dealt with imposter syndrome — a sense of doubt that I was ready to take on senior roles because I mistakenly thought I lacked sufficient skills, experience, and competencies to success. In actuality, it is the systemic biases and inequalities that led to those doubts in my mind — the same systemic barriers that often led to my being the only Black woman or Black person in the room.
Know that you were built for whatever it is that God called you to do. Don’t let imposter syndrome talk you out of what you so rightfully deserve. Speak up in every room, say yes to new opportunities and embrace candor.
WIB: Having a role in banking can seem daunting at times, what do you enjoy most outside of work?
Goins: Outside of work, I most enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling and experiencing different cultures, and giving back to the community through nonprofit board and local government committee service.
WIB: Describe your proudest moment to date.
Goins: My proudest moment to date has probably been seeing my 16-year old blossom into a kind, compassionate, intelligent, authentic young man, who gives me even greater hope for the future.
WIB: What would you say is the most important lesson about finances?
Goins: Think about your short-term and long-term goals — and hold yourself accountable by writing them down or using an online budgeting tool. Consider needs versus wants and avoid 1-click checkouts that are often impulse buys. And, make savings automatic so you don’t have to think about it. Put aside a portion of every paycheck into a separate savings account using direct deposit or automatic transfers.
WIB: Can you describe a pivotal moment in your career?
Goins: Earlier I mentioned “saying yes” to new opportunities. A pivotal moment in my career came about a decade ago at FICO when I said yes to an opportunity – to develop a strategy and plan to empower consumers through greater access to FICO® Scores and education. There was a lot of consumer confusion about credit scores, with educational credit scores often giving consumers a false perception of their credit rating. In saying yes, I created FICO® Score Open Access, a consumer credit score program that earned accolades from the Obama administration. I couldn’t have imagined changing the credit score landscape so dramatically at the time, but by the time I left FICO in 2015, over 100 million consumers were empowered through regular free access to their FICO Scores and credit education through their financial institutions. Through that work, I found my true passion for empowering people, in particular marginalized individuals and communities, with tools, resources, products and services to improve their financial stability and health. After discovering my passion for economic empowerment, I had an opportunity to join Wells Fargo to lead its Hands on Banking® free financial education program and later Financial Health Philanthropy before stepping in to lead the Banking Inclusion Initiative.
WIB: What does having an “authentic voice” mean for you?
Goins: After nearly 30 years in Corporate America, I’ve learned that I can’t fit into someone else’s box. I have to be me, and that’s not only good enough, but the best I and my employer can hope for and benefit from. I bring my whole self to work every day – all of my experiences as an afro- and braid-wearing Black woman, mother, wife, community leader. And I have learned to use my voice and experiences as an instrument for change, by engaging in courageous conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion for our employees, our customers and our communities. I use my voice to drive the change that I want to see, particularly for people and communities of color. That’s what having an “authentic voice” means to me.
Darlene Goins is executive vice president and head of Banking Inclusion Initiative for Wells Fargo. Launched in May 2021, the initiative is Wells Fargo’s commitment to help more people who are unbanked gain access to affordable, mainstream bank accounts, with a focus on removing barriers to financial inclusion for Black and African American, Hispanic and Native American households, which account for more than half of America’s 5.9 million unbanked households*. Goins leads the overall strategy and cross- enterprise teams building out programs that support and track the progress of the initiative.
Previously, Goins served as head of Financial Health Philanthropy for the Wells Fargo Foundation, responsible for investing Wells Fargo’s resources in national nonprofit programs that open pathways to economic advancement for underserved communities. She led strategic initiatives in collaboration with nonprofits and community stakeholders designed to increase financial inclusion and access, reduce debt, drive savings and wealth-building behavior, and transform systems.
Goins joined Wells Fargo in 2016 as head of Hands on Banking®, the company’s award-winning financial education and capability program that has benefitted more than 12 million youth, adults, seniors, military and entrepreneurs. Earlier, Goins was a scores executive at FICO, where she led FICO® Score Open Access, a consumer credit score program that earned accolades from the Obama administration, regulators, and consumer advocacy groups, among others. She also held leadership positions at analytic-based software companies Nomis Solutions, First Data Corporation, and ALI Solutions.
A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and active community leader, Goins is based in San Francisco and currently serves on the boards of national nonprofits Prosperity Now, the BAI and the American Bankers Association Foundation, where she is vice chair. She also serves as treasurer of the San Francisco Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and on the Marin County Priority Setting Committee. Goins was named Diversity Woman Magazine’s Class of 2023: Elite 100 Black Women Leaders in Corporate America and in 2022 one of San Francisco Business Times Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in Engineering-Economic Systems (now the Department of Management Science) from Stanford University.