Dr. James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball in 1891, has been regarded as one of the most profound sports innovators of all time. And now more than a century later, his great grandson is embracing that innovator legacy, just not in sports.
Instead, he’s innovating parts of the financial industry in Chicago’s tech scene. And while hoops may run in the family, he admits he’s not much of a basketball player.
“I like to shoot once in a while, but that’s about it,” said Sean Naismith, who works as the head of analytics services at Enova Decisions, which helps companies make data-driven decisions instantly.
The tech company is a subsidiary of Enova International, one of Chicago’s original fin-tech companies that specializes in online lending.
Naismith, who’s a year and a half into his role, helps companies use data to make real-time financial decisions, and is among Chicago Inno’s finalists for this year’s 50 on Fire awards.
In his role, Naismith leads the product team, working with Enova’s entire client portfolio and the analyst community at large. And over the last year, he has helped companies in multiple industries automate operational decisions, such as loan application approval or wireless subscriber retention, using big data, machine learning and digital decisioning technology.
“We’re bringing our real-time digital decision technology and advanced analytics to other businesses to help them compete on analytics,” Naismith said.
Enova International employs more than 1,200 people, most of which work out of the company’s headquarters in the Loop. Other employees work in Brazil and the United Kingdom.
And looking ahead, Enova Decisions will be rolling out updated versions of their reporting dashboards, strengthening their recently announced partnership with credit bureau Clarity Services and continuing to negotiate partnerships with more companies going forward, Naismith said. In addition to Clarity, Enova Decisions currently partners with credit reporting agency Equifax, credit bureau Factor Trust and Altair, a software company based out of Troy, Mich.
When he isn’t working, Naismith spends his time being a dad in Lincoln Park, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. Though his professional life doesn’t include sports, he still carries that basketball legacy with him, especially since it was a large part of his childhood.
Naismith’s family owned the 13 original rules of basketball, written by Dr. Naismith, up until 2010 when they sold them for $4.3 million and donated the funds to help organize basketball camps for children in the Caribbean. Growing up, Naismith remembers his dad taking the rules with him when he toured around the country to high school, collegiate and professional basketball games to promote good sportsmanship.
“He wanted to reintroduce good sportsmanship and return the focus to being a team player and the values that Dr. Naismith had for the game,” Naismith said. “That was pivotal. It definitely shaped perspective with the intent of the game and what the benefits are besides just winning.”