Traditional banking historically targets the rich. Banks compete for their business and profit off their balances and transactions. The more money one has, the lower the fees, and the higher the returns. FinTech companies are changing how people bank and manage transactions to level the playing field and increase financial inclusion for those without deep pockets. These seven FinTech companies help regular people get ahead, serve the unbanked, support the growing gig economy fueled by massive job loss this year and help people find ways to borrow, save, invest and manage their money through technology tools and financial literacy.
CNote’s two female founders left successful careers in traditional finance to create a for-profit, responsibly run company committed to the core principles that everyone deserves a shot at financial freedom and can play a part in building a more equitable world. The impact investment platform targets individuals, institutional investors, wealth managers, and family office advisors looking for a competitive return on community investments that align with their values.
Every dollar deployed with CNote supports community development, funding affordable housing, providing loans for small businesses owned by women and people of color, and bringing opportunity to low-income areas. Since inception, 3,000 jobs have been created or maintained by CNote investments – the company reports 51 cents out of every dollar invested went to businesses led by people of color and 35 cents out of every dollar invested funded enterprises owned by women. CNote is taking economic justice head-on, reinventing the financial infrastructure and power dynamics that have historically widened the economic gap and kept women, people of color, and low-income communities disadvantaged.
1099 workers typically lose 2-20% of their income during payroll processing due to fees and the cost of payday advances. Gig Wage is a company that seeks to remedy this by redesigning the traditional payroll structure. The startup, which recently raised $7.5M in Series A funding from Green Dot and others, leverages Green Dot’s banking service technology to provide a better, less costly experience for 1099 workers and the underbanked. The gig economy currently counts 60-75 million people as independent contractors, and according to Edison Research, 44% of gig workers name their work in the gig economy as their primary source of income. Getting paid on time and with as little friction and fees as possible is increasingly crucial as unemployment skyrockets, and more people turn to the gig economy to make ends meet. Gig Wage is doing this by building a safety net for these workers outside of the constructs of the traditional payroll systems, including providing proof of income statements and tax documents.
As a Black man, Gig Wage CEO and founder Craig Lewis also wanted to address the racial economic inequality and get more money in more pockets faster.
“Black and brown workers over-index in the gig economy, and it was important to me to democratize access to capital and serve as an on-ramp to economic opportunity for low -to-middle-income communities of color.” – Craig Lewis, Gig Wage CEO, Founder.
Many gig workers jump from temp positions to rideshare apps to food and delivery companies based on how much money they can make at the time. Visionaries in the space are smart to find a way of paying their workforce to compete for and retain the highest-level talent. Future Gig Wage products include debit cards and banking access to reduce costs and increase workers’ bottom line.
Kiva is a nonprofit that expands financial access and inclusion to underserved communities worldwide through crowdfunded microloans. Globally, more than 1.7 billion people don’t have access to the financial services they need, including basic banking and lending solutions. Since its inception in 2005, Kiva has facilitated $1.4 billion in loans to over 3.6 million borrowers. More than 80% of those borrowers are women, 70% live in rural areas, and 15% live in conflict areas.
The microloans are funded through crowdfunding on the platform and processed through field partners, allowing access to funding even in rural areas where vast populations have little to no access to technology. Kiva has developed a robust and sustainable way to create economic and social good. Rather than hoping to qualify for a loan from a traditional bank, if there even is one in the area, people in these underserved communities can gain the funding they need from thousands of citizen financiers. Furthermore, rather than a donation, Kiva’s lending model creates “a partnership of mutual dignity” and allows for more impact and outcome with a repeatable model. With a more than 95% repayment rate, funders often fund a loan, get repaid, and then invest in another.
Boasting one of the best IPOs of 2020, Lemonade, an InsurTech (insurance technology) business, provides affordable, on-demand insurance for homeowners, renters and pet health. The Public Benefit Corporation and Certified B-Corp organization offers competitive rates and gives its profits, after the claims settlements and a flat fee, to charity. The company gave just over $1.1M to charities of users’ choice in 2020, nearly doubling what it donated last year. Some users claim up to 30% of their premium went to charities, including ACLU, Women in Need, and Feeding America.
With a fresh, user-friendly interface, the Lemonade app leverages AI-based chat to help users obtain quotes, adjust coverage amounts and deductibles, and get paid quickly and easily for their claims. The company’s website boasts “(almost) all 5-star reviews” in the app store, but a quick look at the reviews shows users are often more attracted to the charitable giving than the slick UI.
Chime provides automation tools that help users grow their savings, boost their credit, and access early payroll withdraws, ATMs, and other banking services with zero fees and minimal effort. The branchless bank has more than 5 million customers and has raised more than $1.5 billion in funding. With a $14.5B valuation, Chime is one of the most successful challenger banks.
An astronomical valuation and the backing of several high-profile VC firms might give the impression of shareholder primacy. Still, the company offers automatic savings plans, tools to save and plan for the future, and financial literacy lessons. Crucial to its millennial base, its community outreach provides grants to people and programs directly impacting local communities. The company has also teamed up with rapper 21 Savage and his Leading by Example Foundation to evangelize smart money tips and encourage youth to understand banking basics, money management, and college savings.
Ripple Impact, the impact arm of the payments network Ripple, has two goals: to build what it calls “Decentralized Financial Solutions for the Real World” and develop an internet of value (IoV) that moves money as the Internet moves information today. Ripple Impact estimates that the current global financial system does not meet the needs of 1.7 billion unbanked people. Leveraging digital assets and distributed ledger technology (DLT), the company seeks to transform how these unbanked and underbanked populations access essential financial services.
With partners such as the Institution for Social Impact and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ripple Impact is developing a more inclusive, participatory, and sustainable global financial system. To that end, the collaboration focuses on enabling more accessible, affordable, and secure methods to send and receive money across borders. Ripple also counts blockchain education and diversity amongst its company priorities and hopes to use emerging financial technologies, such as blockchain, to inspire a diverse workforce to address the world’s pressing challenges. The company links with mission-driven FinTechs, leading universities, NGOs, foundations, and social entrepreneurs worldwide to create greater economic fairness and opportunity. Overall, Ripple Impact claims to have processed $150M in donations in 80 countries since 2018.
A side benefit of these companies’ commitment to social good and financial inclusion is that they are also nudging the profit-first companies to adjust their offerings to keep up. Millennials, in particular, expect the companies they conduct business with to be a force for social good, and many of them will not do business with those that aren’t.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are commonplace in large corporations, often focusing on NGOs and employee giving programs such as workplace volunteering and donation matching (using platforms such as Encast). But to compete with these up-and-coming challenger banks and technologies, the big guys also need to pay attention to everyday folks and help them climb the economic ladder.
One of the most exciting parts of the FinTech revolution currently underway is that there is still new tech on the horizon and new innovators entering the space to propel it forward. That has also drawn the attention of more prominent players, who sense a threat. Experian now offers Boost, an app that seeks to build users’ credit history and scores by applying monthly recurring payments typically not reported, such as electric and cable bills, to the big agencies that determine users’ credit history and scores. Since the expiration of an operating agreement with PayPal, eBay has moved to managed payments that help its community of buyers and sellers save money on transaction fees, keeping more profits for small business owners in the marketplace. While this is not drastically changing the world, it can make a notable impact for some.
There is plenty of room for more innovations that expand access to quality, affordable financial services. Digital identity, for one, is a global issue—more than 1 billion people lack any form of formal identity, preventing access to financial services. As the world watches, technology and the human spirit are coming together to make economic equity a priority. Perhaps just as crucially, they’re demonstrating to others that it also makes good business sense.