‘The Heart and Dollar Sign:’ Empathy Is the Core of Achieve’s Daily Work

From product to sales to member services and everywhere in between, Achieve’s team proudly marries compassion with solutions — for customers and one another.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Jun. 02, 2023
‘The Heart and Dollar Sign:’ Empathy Is the Core of Achieve’s Daily Work
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Imagine you’re advising someone on their finances. You step into the warmth of their kitchen. Family photos hang on well-worn walls, and the earthy aroma of brewing java hangs in the air. You sit down with them and share a coffee as they nervously peel back the vulnerable layers of their financial troubles.

“Relax. Have a conversation. Listen to them,” advises Soraya Molina, a manager of new client enrollment and sales at Achieve. “Imagine it’s someone you truly love. What advice would you give them?” 

It’s what Molina drills into her agents every day: empathy above all. 

“We’re not making a normal sale — we’re selling the dream of a healthy financial future,” she said. “The way to do that is to truly hear their needs, their past, their hopes for the future.”

You would carefully place all of their options on the table, Molina said, and help them choose the right path forward. 

Cultivating hyper-empathy starts in the hiring process. Client Experience Insights Supervisor Karie Warfield zeroes in on compassionate qualities in potential Achieve candidates. 

“We look for a mix of empathy and skill,” she said. “We have to include disclosures on calls, but, ultimately, we’re having very real conversations.”  

Principal Product Manager Travis Bjorklund can attest to the authentic care at work in a typical customer call.

“I recently listened to my first live call, and I was struck by the amount of expertise and empathy our debt consultants have,” Bjorklund said. “It’s the biggest part of the service — explaining their actual rights and the path forward, reaching far beyond negotiation and debt-resolution services. 

“Our business model is intertwined with helping people,” he added. “It really is a key part of our culture.” 
 

Our business model is intertwined with helping people. It really is a key part of our culture.”


“We keep ‘the heart and dollar’ in mind at all times,” Molina chimed in.  

The ‘heart and dollar sign’ is companywide vernacular, shorthand for marrying empathy and business best practices. From customer interactions to employee support, the culture of Achieve is steeped in the sentiment of the unofficial core value. 

“You see it everywhere; in interactions with our customers, leadership and peers,” Bjorklund said “People here lead with their heart.” 

 

WHAT ACHIEVE DOES 

Formally known as Freedom Financial Network, Achieve launched in 2022 as a digital personal finance company helping everyday people get — and stay — on the path to a better financial future. One of the ways it does that is through its free personal finance app, Achieve MoLO. “The aim of Achieve MoLO is to assist consumers in achieving better financial outcomes by providing insights into overspending, income and expenditure alignment, and potential financial pitfalls like overdrafts and excessive debt,” said Bjorklund. “Secondly, our strategy is to cultivate trust and love for the Achieve brand, which encompasses not only the debt-relief business of Freedom Financial Network but also loan services like home equity loans and personal loans for debt pay-down,” he added. “Finally, we’re guiding app users toward trustworthy and beneficial financial solutions.”

Candid photo of woman talking and smiling
Achieve

 

‘I Love What I Do’ 

“These customers are bringing their needs and pain and anxiety to us — and we’re addressing that,” said Bjorklund. “It’s true for our debt-resolution offerings, and it’s true for MoLO.” 

An acronym for “money left over,” Achieve MoLO is a new app designed to garner small but impactful savings every month. It automates transactions to provide a clear view of one’s budget, spot opportunities for savings and help pay down debt faster, said Bjorklund, who runs the MoLO product team. 

“We have the opportunity to help people with their money before they need debt resolution,” he said. “The goal is to give people something to help them build the right financial habits, for free.” 

Earlier in his career, Bjorklund worked with a major bank holding company, and the difference in customer relations is stark. 

“Ultimately, they just want to sell credit cards and encourage customers to spend money,” he said. “Here, we’re looking to help people sleep a little easier — we understand it’s a hard world out there.” 
 

“We’re looking to help people sleep a little easier — we understand it’s a hard world out there.”


Warfield, who has been with the company for six years, connects with customers on the debt-resolution side of the business. Her team scopes out process gaps in the debt-resolution program. 

“We fluctuate with the needs of today’s current economy, and we make business recommendations that make our clients and advocates happy,” she said. 

 

 

SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH 

“There’s a weight to the work our advocates are doing,” said Warfield. To mitigate mental health burnout, Achieve makes sure its teams are rounded out and advocates have ample time for paid time off and leaves of absence — in addition to a company-provided EAP. “We work to destigmatize what it takes to create a mentally healthy place to work,” Warfield said.

But Warfield’s care reaches inward, to the professionals within the company. 

“It’s my goal on the inside to help our advocates reach their own financial goals and provide for their families,” she said, smiling warmly. 

It’s a vision Molina shares. From advocates to customers, she is driven by the shared goal of financial health. Molina and her colleagues help negotiate debt balance for customers, enroll them in monthly deposit programs and more. 

“Every day, I see that we have an opportunity to help nurture dreams of getting out of debt — and make those dreams come true,” she said. 

It’s a passion that doesn’t fade with time. 

“I’ve been here for almost 11 years,” Molina said, smiling. “I love what I do.”
 

‘SEEN AND HEARD’

“There’s a level of autonomy and trust placed on our people,” said Warfield, who noted that supportive leadership has helped her earn her current role. “The insight you bring to the table is seen and heard,” she said. Bjorklund agrees. “You will get opportunities to succeed,” he said. “Whether you’re a consultant, on the tech teams, an engineer or a product person like myself, you’re going to be doing important work that really matters to people.”

Photo of three Achieve employees laughing
Achieve

 

‘We’re the Faces Behind the Product’

Molina stepped into the Achieve team as a consultant, quickly moved her way to unit manager and set her sights on more: the creation of a dedicated Spanish-speaking team. 

Now, the company is equipped with two bilingual sales teams and a 26-person-strong customer service team. A Spanish-speaking C-plus loan team is in the works. All documents and presentations have been lovingly translated to Spanish.

“What makes me the most proud is that we’re able to help educate the community in English and Spanish — and help future generations understand how to build financial growth,” Molina said, beaming. 
 

We’re able to help educate the community in English and Spanish — and help future generations understand how to build financial growth.”


“We’re always making sure we’re working across all demographics,” Warfield chimed in. “Diversity isn’t new here. Whether you have a great credit score and a home, you need help buying a home or you’re sitting under debt, we want to make sure there’s a product to serve you.”

It’s about meeting people where they are, she added, with a driving goal of moving customers through Achieve’s programs. 

“There is huge integrity in everything we do in our interdepartmental collaboration,” Warfield continued. “We have to make sure we’re inclusive, unbiased, values-driven. 

“We’re the faces behind the product. We hold our head high when we walk out the door every day.” 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images by Achieve

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