Career Interview: Samantha Paxson, CO-OP Financial Services

Samantha paxon

Meet Samantha Paxson, the Chief Marketing Officer for CO-OP Financial Services, a financial technology company for 3,500 credit unions and their 60 million members where she is the architect of the company’s go-to-market strategy, managing the ways CO-OP’s brand experience is delivered through message, product and value chain. She is also the founder of THINK by CO-OP, an innovation content platform empowering the evolution of mission-driven financial services and some of her contributors have included people like Gary Vaynerchuk and major brands like Virgin, Amazon and Nike. In this interview Samantha share where she chose this career path in financial services (transitioning from journalism), her experience and she also shares some great advice on innovation. Enjoy!


"If you have an idea, just pursue it and don’t be afraid.  Fear is the death of creativity/innovation."

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current job function and industry - What do you do for a living?

I'm the Chief Marketing Officer at CO-OP Financial Services, a financial technology company for 3,500 credit unions and their 60 million members. I handle the company’s go-to-market strategy, managing the ways CO-OP’s brand experience is delivered through message, product and value chain. I am also the founder of THINK by CO-OP, an innovation content platform empowering the evolution of mission-driven financial services. 

How did you begin on this career path? 
I started out as a journalist not working in journalism – I went into entertainment public relations and quickly morphed into marketing consulting for clients ranging from Aston Martin, Hurley/Billabong and Hoteles Camino Real to American Express and Marlboro Racing.

Is your line of work related to what you studied in college? Do you have any advanced degrees?                                                                  
I'm a graduate of University of Southern California with a degree in Journalism and Social Sciences and have a background working in international public relations and managing accounts in the technology, automotive, hospitality, action sports and the financial services space. I had a dream of being a documentary film maker or writing for The New York Times – now I develop content and create experiences that further mission driven financial services.  It’s a little different than what I had dreamed of when I was 22 years old, but at nearly 42 I find it to be highly creative and fulfilling.

As a woman, what is one of the biggest lessons you've learned working for and growing in a company? 
I have been able to make significant change inside a very traditional, very operational organization.  I believe intraprenuership is more interesting today and more attainable by all working people. Everyone can do this if you run toward it with a mix of confidence and humility. The tail can wag the dog and impact the strategy and transformation of an organization.  I believe that business happens in the space between functions. 

Women and female qualities are the path to synthesizing customized human needs that technology needs to be applied to at speed. Women are innately qualified to be organizational intrapreneurs slaying the silos that exist in the traditional, hierarchical trappings of matrices, processes and organization charts to transform business and make it more profitable.  Female leadership behaviors focus on what most of modern business is centered on today: speed, experience and technology designed around humans.  Yet corporate cultures are slow to understand and reward these characteristics. 

Women lift empathy and humanity to speed critical thinking, creativity and inspire collaboration to think better, discover consumer needs, and find new ways to smooth systems and drive value -- all while persuading others to join them on their mission of change.  Only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies are led by female CEOs, but those giants generate 7% of the total revenue of the organizations on the list and outperform the S&P 500 index over their respective tenures. I’d like to see this change.  

Can you tell us about one of your biggest career successes?
I founded a transformation content platform called CO-OP THINK - including an event, magazine, digital platform, app and one-to-one consultation of our credit union clients. The premise – what can we learn from the best thinkers in the market today to grow our business? Contributors have included some of the most luminous change-makers in their respective fields today: Gary Vaynerchuk, Sir Ken Robinson, Margaret Heffernan, Ivan Askwith, Brett King, Sara Critchfield, Cory Booker, Daria Musk, Tony Hawk, Daymond John and brands like Virgin, Zappos, Amazon, Nike, Southwest Airlines, Target, Honest Company, Cirque du Soleil, Google, Gilt, NASA, Tesla…and more. 

This idea was the evolution of our little network “conference and annual shareholders meeting” and this event changed the way our audience engaged with us.  It changed the way our product team developed products and helped us organically transform ourselves from the inside out.  It’s been covered by Huffington Post, Fast Co., Inc. and is the most followed brand in the credit union industry – lifting our overall net promoter score by 15 points and increasing engagement by 500% since its inception.  The fact that this happened, is crazy to me.  Because if you had met me 12 years ago, you would never have thought this is what my organization or something I would have had the opportunity to create. 

What is your favorite thing about your job?
Intellectual challenges, thinking creatively and working with teams of amazing people to solve problems in new and interesting ways.  

Do you have any advice you can share with women reading this who would like to pursue a career in your industry? 
If you have an idea, just pursue it and don’t be afraid.  Fear is the death of creativity/innovation.  Transformative business happens locally, in the space between functions with the people doing the functions.  It happens between human beings, not departments or functional areas.  It happens without fear, focusing on the needs of each team lead and solves collaboratively. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Doing what I’m doing now, but on a larger level with much greater impact while also having time to take a regular dance class and ride skateboards with my son. 

What is your money mantra? 
Put your focus on abundance to attract more money, while always maximizing your liquid savings and retirement.

Please share a fun fact about yourself
I’m a trained dancer and I used to have to choreograph every day based on my dance team. This was wonderful innovative/creative training for business today.

Finally how can can readers find you?
@samsmythpaxson - https://mobile.twitter.com/samsmythpaxson
@COOPFS - https://mobile.twitter.com/COOPFS

Thanks for sharing your fascinating experiences with intrapreneurship, Samantha!