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4 neobanks come forward for their communities


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Big banks design their services for a large customer base, but in doing so, they may not meet the needs of historically marginalized communities. This gap creates opportunities for new FinTech companies rooted in these communities.

“Representation is so important in fintech,” says Asya Bradley, co-founder and COO of First Boulevard, a black-owned company providing education and financial services. “If you have a whole bunch of people who haven’t faced [a certain] situation, no one will build [solutions] for that.”

Fintech companies that offer banking services, often referred to as neobanks, have certain advantages in the banking industry. By partnering with licensed banks, they can offer their generally digital-only bank accounts nationwide and avoid branch management costs. This can benefit their customers in the form of lower fees and greater benefits than at traditional banks.

Here is a look at four neobanks on a mission to make a difference for people from different communities.

First boulevard: for black Americans

Nationwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police have motivated fintech industry veterans Donald Hawkins and Asya Bradley to build First Boulevard to support their community.

“We literally quit our day jobs, [and] we didn’t know if someone would fund us. Honestly, we felt like our children’s lives were on the line, ”says Bradley.

Backed by an initial $ 5 million from investors, First Boulevard takes a personalized approach to financial advice and offers based on transactions and other data, so that different recommendations would be given when someone is paying off student loans by compared to when she buys a house. The company has an educational platform that Bradley says has a collection of short audio clips on personal finance. And First Boulevard provides bank accounts with features like real-time spending information, no monthly or overdraft fees, cryptocurrency debit card rewards, free access to ATMs nationwide, and cash back when buying from black-owned businesses.

“We all want people to create generational wealth” and keep “the funds flowing within the [Black] community, ”said Hawkins, President and CEO.

The typical white family has eight times the wealth of the typical black family, according to Federal Reserve data. This wealth gap stems in part from banks and government programs that discriminate against generations of black Americans, for example through redlining.

First Boulevard planned to start accepting some customers from its waiting list on June 19, observed June 19, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. The neobank joins a growing list of black-owned banking companies, including companies such as Greenwood, MoCaFi and Wicket.

Cheese: For Asian Americans

Ken Lian, Co-Founder and CEO of Cheese, created this platform to help Asian Americans who have had banking experiences as difficult as his.

“Over the years I have paid thousands of dollars in [banking] fees and was rejected countless times for basic bank accounts even though my FICO score was well over 800, ”Lian said. Scores above 800 are considered excellent and generally qualify customers for most banking products, as well as better rates. Lian says he doesn’t know why he was turned down.

Cheese, named after a slang term for money, offers a rewards checking account with an annual return percentage of 0.3%, no monthly fees, two-day early direct deposit, and a nationwide network. free ATMs. Customer support is in English and Chinese, with other languages ​​ongoing, and people can contact the bank through the popular WeChat messaging app.

Cheese comes at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans are in the national spotlight. The neobank is encouraging customers to support Asian businesses by giving up to 10% cash back on debit card purchases at specific retailers, which was a feature added by popular demand.

Lian says the platform is working on accepting forms of identity verification in addition to social security numbers, making accounts accessible to recent immigrants. The Cheese app is available for iOS, and an Android version will launch this summer.

Purple: For people with disabilities

Purple seeks to help people with disabilities save money without risking losing government benefits. The Supplemental Security Income program provides monthly payments to nearly 8 million people, most of whom are disabled. And being in the program is a great way for many people to get health insurance through Medicaid. But to get the SSI, individuals cannot have more than $ 2,000, or $ 3,000 for couples, in total value on many assets, including bank accounts.

“Monthly deposit from traditional banks [or] the balance requirements are not sustainable for families who must navigate the asset limit, ”says John Ciocca, Founder and CEO of Purple.

He and his brother Christian are the team behind Purple and youBelong, a social media network that connects people with special needs and their families. Purple started out as a way to deal with the money management challenges that Christian and other members of the community face.

Purple offers a tax-efficient savings account known as the Achieve a Better Life Experience account. Established under a 2014 law, ABLE accounts allow people with disabilities to save beyond ISS limits and withdraw without penalty from life-enhancing purchases, such as housing and education. Unlike state programs that offer ABLE accounts, Purple hopes to be a national brand that makes this savings solution more popular and at a low cost of $ 3 per month. Purple also offers a free checking account where every debit card swipe sends money to the Special Olympics.

Daylight: for the LGBTQ community

About 5.6% of American adults, or at least 18 million people, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a 2020 Gallup poll. That percentage rose from 4.5% in 2017. But barriers still exist, especially for transgender and gender non-conforming Americans and the way banks identify them.

Daylight is a mobile banking account that prioritizes calls to people by whatever name they choose, even if it differs from their credentials. The name you choose appears on debit cards and in customer support channels. This service can protect transgender Americans from being nicknamed or referred to by a name given at birth that does not reflect their gender identity. Daylight also asks for client pronouns to ensure they are gendered correctly in all communications.

The neobank, run by Rob Curtis, a gay man, and Billie Simmons, a trans woman, curates content for the LGBTQ community, such as blog posts on the costs of surrogacy, adoption and fertility for queer families. Clients can also get advice from a network of financial coaches who understand the needs of LGBTQ people. Daylight was launched last year in a limited testing phase; people wishing to register can register on a waiting list.

“We see some fintechs, Daylight as a great example, with products you can’t get at a traditional bank,” says Hannah Calhoon, vice president of innovations at Financial Health Network, a nonprofit that focuses on on financial stability for the weak – to low income communities.

“We often find that the people closest to the problems are the closest to the solutions,” Calhoon says.


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