Delaena Kalevor was born and raised in Ghana. He received his BA in accounting in Ghana before he moved to the U.S. to get his MBA in Finance & Competitive Strategy from Simon School, University of Rochester.
Delaena is also a graduate of GE’s premier leadership program, the Experienced Commercial Leadership Program (ECLP), which is a 2-year rotational program in which members gain valuable experience by tackling complex business problems across different GE Capital businesses.
He is a cross-functional business leader with experience across finance, marketing, strategy, and operations, with a focus on the financial services industry. Previously, Delaena was a Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Synchrony Financial, where he led new product initiatives to support the company’s growth beyond its core product lines.
Delaena Kalevor was recently recruited to consult and advise hedge funds and other institutional investors looking to make equity investments in the financial services space.
He has strong interests in history, world issues, and soccer, as well as writing and blogging. Delaena Kalevor is married and has one son with another son on the way.
Why did you choose to go into finance? What inspired you?
I’ve always been a quantitative person and a problem solver, and I love numbers. I feel purpose and excitement from driving results and using quantitative and analytical models to convert raw data into insightful analysis. When you use analytical tools like ratios and forecasts to compare financial statements, to draw insights and conclusions, it’s amazing how refreshing it is. You’re able to glean deep and profound insights just from converting raw financial statement information into ratios, analysis, and coverage ratios, and so on. I love it. As an analytical person, if it hadn’t been finance, it would have been engineering or computer science.
Why did you start giving financial advice to friends?
Some of my friends came to me and asked for advice, and it was then that I realized a lot of people don’t know about personal finance. I started giving out advice to help them out.
For example, my brother-in-law was trying to build his credit up, so we decided to help him out by adding him as an authorized user on some of our credit cards with high credit limits. When it comes to credit cards, the thing that drives your credit score up is on-time payments and low credit utilization. Credit utilization is your outstanding balance divided by your available credit and that accounts for about 40% if your credit score. So, by adding him on some of my cards with very high limits, he became an account holder and the available credit on my cards became part of his credit.
I think he had about $6,000 in credit card debt, and that card had a credit limit of about $9,000. So, his credit utilization was about 70%. When I added him to my cards with significantly higher credit limits, it dropped his credit utilization down to about 5%. Even though his balance remained the same, the denominator went up significantly.
Just by doing this, by helping him lower his credit utilization, we were able to help increase his credit score from about 580 to 720 in just two months. Two months after that it was up to 750.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you can recommend generating new business?
In addition to referrals, which is the cheapest and the more organic form of generating new business, I think another effective way is utilizing a loss leader strategy. This is when you offer your customer a new product that doesn’t generate a lot of profitability up front because it’s usually sold at under market value. Then once you have that relationship and trust with the customer, you hook them in and are able to sell them additional products that are profitable.
I’ll give you an example of what some banks do. One might give you a credit card with zero APR (annual percentage rate) for 15 months, and if you spend $500 within the first 90 days, you get $150 cash back. Something like this is called an acquisition incentive. Then once they have that relationship with you, they’ll try to cross-sell by pre-approving for a mortgage, or an auto loan, or life insurance, etc. But it’s that loss leader incentive that they hooked you with first.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decision I’ve had to make recently was relocating me and my family from California to Ohio for work. There’s been a lot of stress from moving to a place where we don’t know anybody, particularly with a six-month-old baby. It was a good career decision at the time, but we didn’t realize how stressful it would be being this lonely and by ourselves.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think it’s my drive that makes me successful. I’m not going to stop until I get results. My old boss once suggested I ask coworkers from previous jobs what my “hallway reputation” was at those jobs. When I did, I was told my hallway reputation is intelligent, ambitious, resilient, hardworking, likable, collegial, fun to work with, unique, and funny. A reputation for getting things done and making them happen. As well as my unique background, I think all of these attributes are what make me successful.
What has been your most satisfying moment while giving financial advance?
Excellent question. I have two moments. The first was seeing my brother-in-law bring his credit score up so significantly in such a short period of time without spending a penny. That was remarkable.
The second was helping my wife pay off her debt just by doing balance transfers on credit cards with zero APR. What we did was get her a card that had a period of zero APR and we paid down her balance during that time. When the zero APR period ended, we applied for another zero APR card and transferred her balance to that one and we finished paying it off on that card within the time period. By doing this, she avoided paying any interest.
What are you most excited about in regard to your profession?
Right now, with another baby on the way, we’re thinking about moving back to California. I am excited and looking forward to new opportunities that way and being back with our families.
What business books have inspired you?
Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Louis V. Gerstner Jr.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
Principles by Ray Dalio.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your career?
It was purchasing Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I bought an audio copy as well as a hardcover copy. The book has really helped me know how the human mind works and how we think. It helped me understand how the human mind works at a cognitive level and how we make decisions. My takeaway from the book was to never rely on System 1 to make important life decisions. System 1 is the quick, reflex and impulsive part of the brain. System 1 kicks in when the brain is tired or when the body is under extreme stress. So for example when you’re tired, you’re likely to default to system 1 thinking. But if you have to make an important decision, get some sleep, recharge your brain and make that decision in the morning with the full complement of system 2. System 2 is the rational, deliberate and detailed part of your brain. The two systems complement each other. But system 2 is what helps with rational decision making.
What advice would you give someone who is looking for a credit card?
My advice depends on what they want or need a credit card for, and whether they’re a transactor or a revolver. A transactor is someone who spends and pays off their full balance at the end of the month and a revolver is someone who doesn’t or can’t pay off their full balance every month.
If someone wants a rewards card that gives cash back, I advise getting Citi double cash card. It’s one of the best cash back cards around. You basically get 2% cash back on everything you buy, because you get 1% back when you spend and 1% back when you pay it off. This type of card is good for a transactor. Since they are already paying their cards off, they might as well earn cash back in the process.
A revolver wants to go for credit cards that have lower interest rates. Look for cards where the APR is in the single digits. For example, my Discover card has an APR of 8%. If they’re trying to consolidate their debt, they want to look for cards that have very good zero APR offers so that they have that period of time to pay off their balance without being charged interest.
What is one suggestion everyone should know for managing their wealth?
This one may be obvious but get out of debt. If you have debt, try to get out of paying interest. Learn to manage your debt and live within your means. If you need to get into debt, try to get into it at a low cost of interest rate; avoid all high-interest loans and credit cards. Because of the compounding effect of accrued interest, it becomes very difficult to get out of debt if you have high interest debt. So as much as possible, avoid high interest debt.
If you’re young, invest aggressively and protect your wealth. Put your money in an index fund, like an S&P 500 index fund, and just leave it there. While you’re young you can take on a lot of risks, so put it in a stock index, leave it and watch it grow. Then as you get older, allocate your wealth more conservatively. Meaning have less exposure to stocks and allocate more to bonds and short term investments like CDs and money market investments.