Hi, I’m Mary, the new data scientist here at Neighborly!

In my previous incarnation as a convertible bond trader for a large bank I got plenty of experience with people’s perceptions of financial activities and their social value. When I told someone what I did for a living I would often see their face fall.

Sometimes, though, I was the only person these folks had met with first hand experience of how the markets work, and I got the chance to answer all kinds of questions, from “What IS a bond anyway?” to “How close were we to the edge of disaster during the financial crisis?” It felt great to be able to shed some light on these issues, and to serve as an informal point of access to a world that for many felt very far away.

I think the real question underlying these reactions was “What purpose does this serve beyond enriching a small subset of people who understand these overly complicated products, presumably at the expense of small investors?” It’s that purpose that has become lost in the wave of distaste that has recently enveloped the financial industry—and it’s that purpose that will light the way forward.

Finance at its best serves a basic and essential social function: matching people with capital to invest to places where it can be put to productive use. This could be a corporation looking to launch a new product, a school board looking to build a new elementary school to better serve the local population, or any number of other things.

Unfortunately improving the way the system operates from within is about as easy as turning around an aircraft carrier. Banks and other market participants are tied to expensive and difficult to maintain legacy systems that introduce layers upon layers of complexity. This can make it difficult for investors to access information in a way they can understand and use, often puts people off investing in the first place.

At Neighborly we have the opportunity to build the system we would like to see from the ground up, help open up the municipal bond market to match investors and borrowers more efficiently, and to create a new way to relate to and understand your investments. I can’t wait to get started!