Smitha Mortis and Brian Whalen have joined Minneapolis-based Branch as the financial-technology startup’s first general counsel and chief financial officer, respectively. They join Branch as it partners with client Domino’s to pay wages instantly to pizza-chain employees.
Branch works with employers to offer employees fee-free checking accounts and debit cards, free access to earned wages and pay advances and instant payment of wages, tips and expenses. Branch also offers budgeting tools to help employees manage cash flow between paychecks.
Mortis, most recently chief compliance officer at the U.S. subsidiary of Klarna, the Swedish payments company, leads Branch’s legal and compliance strategies. Whalen, co-founder and chief financial officer of point-of-sale company Blispay before its acquisition last year, oversees finances, strategy and growth for Branch.
“What I love about the mission for Branch is the opportunity to help the working employees of these employers and try to get them the financial stability that they deserve, which is only heightened in this day and age,” Whalen said.
Mortis, originally from Bloomington, has a law degree from New England Law School in Boston. Mortis and Whalen, who has an MBA from the University of Virginia, previously worked at BillMeLater and PayPal, which acquired BillMeLater in 2008. Whalen was with the founding team of BillMeLater before serving as CFO of global credit for PayPal.
Whalen and Mortis add to Branch’s executive leadership team as it integrates with the financial and payroll system used by more than 3,000 Domino’s stores globally to enable same-day payment of wages, tips and mileage to employees. Branch is the first same-day payment provider to integrate with Servant Systems and the system it developed with Domino’s, according to a news release.
Q: Why did you want to join Branch?
Mortis: Branch is serving a population of hourly employees and the working American and trying to help them avoid certain fees that banks may charge. Once I met with [founder] Atif [Siddiqi] and he spoke to me about the mission, what the company is doing to help the hourly employee, it just kind of resonated with me.
Q: What are your priorities as general counsel?
Mortis: Making sure I understand everything in the business and to assess our risk. As we grow and the company gets bigger I’ll figure out where our needs are … and build out the team.
Q: Why did you want to work with Branch?
Whalen: We want to help employers because we believe that in helping their employees we can reduce [employers’] turnover, increase their retention and have a happier workplace so that they can be more productive and it improves their bottom line, the employers’. For employees, it’s how do we help them save or have access to cash or wages that they’ve already earned when they need it.
Q: What’s your approach as CFO?
Whalen: It’s how do I bring in a little more financial rigor on the accounting side as well as on the analytical side. I want to make sure that we’re providing a framework for growth so that we understand what we’re investing our money in, doing it diligently and ensuring that we’re investing enough in the opportunities that are delivering the best results.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.