Camille Burckhart, Popular Inc. | Most Powerful Women: Next
Chief information and digital officer
Many banks have a startup accelerator. But few can boast of being a startup shelter.
As part of the continuing rebuilding effort in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María, Banco Popular's nonprofit foundation has several startups working out of its main location in San Juan, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi and desk space available there.
"Especially after the hurricane, it became a safe haven," said Camille Burckhart, the chief information and digital officer for parent company Popular and its bank unit. "People could actually work from our premises. And they are part of the community."
For Burckhart, it is part of a mission to help the island get back to normal, in this case by letting grassroots entrepreneurs tap into her bank's tech know-how.
"I've seen how many entrepreneurs have actually come back to the island, and how many young people have left companies to do super innovative stuff," with lofty goals like restarting agriculture, said Burckhart, who is one of 15 women selected for our inaugural Next list. (This extension of our Most Powerful Women in Banking program is meant to highlight high-achieving women in the leadership pipeline who are age 40 and under.)
"The sense of purpose is amazing," she said of the budding businesses and their youthful leaders. "I'm a mentor for a few of them. They're taking matters into their own hands, not waiting for the government to fix everything. That characterizes Puerto Ricans and makes me feel proud to be a Puerto Rican as well."
Burckhart is involved in multiple efforts to support local entrepreneurs dedicated to the country's welfare. There is Startup Popular, which offers credit to new businesses as well as mentoring. She is part of Parallel18, a countrywide startup incubator, and she mentors fledgling firms in the local chapter of the Endeavor network.
"Her fortitude and tremendous commitment enabled us to help our customers and communities during our recovery time and continues to propel our innovation further devising new ways to solve real-life problems." — Teruca Rullán Alvarez, chief communications officer
Tech has a crucial role in helping Puerto Rico recover, she said, and that aid extends even to the unbanked.
A program launched last year allows Popular customers to delegate withdrawals from an ATM to someone else who doesn't have a bank account. Some island residents don't hold enough money to justify a bank account, Burckhart explained.
She has championed ideas like the one for the ATM withdrawals as part of the crisis recovery.
"Going through an emergency like that, it gives you a sense of purpose that not many bank tech people get," said Burckhart, who also was a Digital Banker of the Year finalist for 2018 .
Nominating executive: Teruca Rullán Alvarez, Popular's chief communications officer
What she says: Burckhart is responsible for many key innovative services Popular has launched in recent years — for example, it was one the first five banks in the United States to launch biometrics for authentication — and her team MacGyvered quick solutions to help customers access their money after hurricanes Irma and María struck within two weeks of each other in 2017. "Her fortitude and tremendous commitment enabled us to help our customers and communities during our recovery time and continues to propel our innovation further devising new ways to solve real-life problems," Alvarez wrote in nominating Burckhart for the Next list.