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Giving Thanks: Fintechs/Finservs Aimed at Solving the Unique Needs of Minorities

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November 26, 2021 | Allison Karavos

Ten Organizations Focused on Ensuring Access to Financial Services for Immigrant and Minority Populations

They say the holiday season brings people together – reuniting families and friends and providing an opportunity for joy, gifts and gorging on delicious food (or bickering with siblings, fighting for the best piece of turkey and being forced to wear ugly sweaters). Whatever you celebrate, the holidays are often seen as a good time to give back and consider the people who may be at a disadvantage in some way. To get into the spirit of the season, we’ve been looking at financial services organizations and fintechs that encourage environmental sustainability or aim to serve the underserved – empowering marginalized populations with access to credit, banking and other innovative fintech products.

Minorities and recent immigrants face unique challenges when it comes to accessing financial services products. But encouraging financial inclusion of all individuals “strengthens the availability of economic resources… [and] helps the overall economic development of the underprivileged population.”1 Ensuring everyone has access to financial services and credit products helps to improve overall household income, increases the size of the economy, builds individual/household asset holdings, increases financial and health security, reduces vulnerability and encourages job development.2

Certain Credit Reporting Agencies in various regions won’t recognize credit history from other countries, effectively ensuring the immigrant population remains unbanked/underbanked. Minorities have faced discriminatory banking practices for decades, including the varied pricing of financial products based on region or neighborhood, not having physical bank branches in lower income areas and exorbitant overdraft fees. 28% of American Black and Latinx households have no traditional credit history on file; leaving 43% of Latinx and 47% of Black households in the United States unbanked or underbanked. Yet research suggests that by 2044 the U.S. will be a majority people-of-color nation – not only should financial inclusion for all be a moral obligation and basic human right, it will also be essential for the future health of the American economy. While these examples may speak to North America more specifically, the issues of inclusion are critical in all parts of the globe.

These ten innovative organizations are focused on offering financial products and services geared to the unique needs of these populations:

  • Camino Financial: A family-owned success story, Camino Financial is devoted to helping small Latinx businesses thrive, offering simple, affordable loans to small businesses who may not have access to credit otherwise. Helping these small businesses in low-to-moderate income communities help to ensure sustainable business growth and encourages job development.
  • Greenwood: A digital mobile banking experience, Greenwood is focused on Black and Latinx customers, aimed at helping its customers save money and recirculate wealth throughout the community. With charitable donations including feeding meals to families when an account is created, donations to non-profits, and small business grants to Black and Latinx-owned businesses, the company also focuses on entertaining educational content geared to the specific need of their customers.
  • First Boulevard: This neobank aimed at Black Americans focuses on helping the community build generational wealth and control spending. With no minimum balance required, financial education programs and real-time insights and recommendations based on purchase history, First Boulevard believes that controlling finances is one way to help fight systemic racism.
  • Cheese: Asian immigrants face unique challenges when accessing financial services, particularly around language requirements. Cheese offers customer support in both English and Chinese, customer messaging via WhatsApp, and even cashback on purchases from Asian-owned businesses.
  • Proto: Canada, known for its vast multiculturalism, is also home to Proto, a tech company focused on inclusive chatbots and multi-lingual contact center automation. Focused on emerging financial services markets in Asia and Africa, Proto allows first-time consumers to access support in a variety of languages and ways, including via SMS and other messaging apps.
  • DreamStart Labs: In community savings groups, transactions are often calculated by hand, on paper, with cash stored in informal ways including lockboxes. DreamStart Labs provides mobile apps that enable these unbanked individuals to conduct transactions, build credit history, save money and connect to formal banks. To date, the company has enabled thousands of savings groups across Africa, Asia and Latin America to formalize their banking.
  • Purple: A mobile banking platform, Purple aims to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve financial independence. Often overlooked by traditional financial institutions, people with disabilities are more likely to be unbanked/underbanked than those living without disabilities. With no hidden fees, no minimum balance, and the ability to easily track spending, the company also donates a portion of revenue from each debit card swipe to the Special Olympics.
  • BABB: When BABB founder Rushd Averroes moved from Yemen to the U.K., he found himself unable to open a traditional bank account. With the belief that everyone deserves to have access to basic financial services, BABB was created to address the issue – aiming to decentralize banking and offering peer-to-peer banking services to the global micro-economy, this fintech is bringing financial inclusion to as many individuals as possible.
  • BCIF: The Black Cooperative Investment Fund, founded in 2016, is a community-based organization providing microloans to the Black community while raising awareness about the importance of economic empowerment, equity and wealth building. Focusing specifically on the Southern California region of the United States, BCIF has a long-term vision of providing dedicated, reliable, perpetual sources of capital to help create assets and build generational wealth for the local community.
  • Welcome Tech: Based in the United States, Welcome Tech leverages proprietary data to provide tailored financial services and trusted info to immigrant families. Using machine learning technology, financial education programs and personalized service offerings including debit accounts/cards, a portfolio of monetary award options and consumer credit products, Welcome Tech aims to improve financial inclusion among the millions of underbanked/unbanked immigrants in the U.S.

Our understanding of the world and all of the people and identities living in it continues to evolve. And so must the way we do business and develop products and services. As digital transformation takes the world by storm, financial services organizations have a unique opportunity to shift from a product-focused mindset to one that is more centered on their audience.3 What do most audiences want? To be seen, heard and understood.

For more inspiration on fintechs/finservs doing good in the world, check out the other blogs in our Giving Thanks series:  Fintechs/Finservs Encouraging Environmental Sustainability and Fintechs/Finservs Helping Women Be More Financially Secure.

And for more information on how an all-in-one risk decisioning ecosystem can make innovating in fintech even easier, check out our AI-Powered Risk Decisioning Platform eBook.

Resources:

  1. https://www.business-standard.com/about/what-is-financial-inclusion 
  2. https://finca.org/blogs/financial-inclusion-matters/
  3. https://bbgventures.medium.com/not-another-neobank-why-the-market-is-overcrowded-and-where-bbgv-sees-opportunity-835ebd231154