FinTech Leaders Share How Startups are Growing Financial Equity
This week, CES 2022 kicked off in Las Vegas — carrying on despite a number of companies canceling their plans and the expo itself cutting a day from its schedule. Of course, given the state of the world, there’s also a strong digital aspect to this year’s event, allowing attendees to stream some of the presentations. Among the sessions that happened to be streamed was one titled “FinTechs and the Promise of Inclusivity and Diversity.” The panel included Dailypay Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer Jeanniey Walden, Dropp CEO Sushil Prabhu, Gig Wage Founder and CEO Craig J. Lewis, and Plaid’s Raja Chakravorti joined by moderator Robin Raskin. During the 45-minute session, the quintet discussed several aspects of FinTech’s impact on financial equality, while also touching on what they foresee for the future.
To start things off, each panelist had a chance to share a bit about how their respective companies are helping to grow inclusion in the personal finance space. First up, Plaid is an extremely popular API that allows uses to link their accounts. In turn, this allows those who might bank at a smaller institution or credit union that doesn’t have a strong technological platform to still take advantage of what FinTech apps have to offer. Next, Dropp is a micro-payments platform that helps merchants rollout “pay-per-use” options and attracts new customers. Rounding out the represented companies, Gig Wage helps gig economy workers get paid while Dailypay is a service companies can offer to employees, allowing them to tap their earned wages whenever they need them — not just on payday.
With that, an overarching theme of the panel was about how the technologies developed and employed by these startups have given access to financial services that many would otherwise not have. By all accounts, it’s succeeded in that mission as a report from Plaid found that 88% of U.S. consumers now use FinTechs apps and services. Further demonstrating this reality, when Raskin asked who in the audience didn’t use mobile banking, not a single hand went up.
Another topic the panel discussed is credit invisibility. To put the problem in perspective, Chakravorti illustrated it, saying, “Take the MSAs [metropolitan statistical areas] of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas, and that’s the population that is credit invisible.” The panel went on to discuss some of the ways that fintech is helping to address this, including the ability for creditors to easily look at a variety of financial data beyond FICO scores. While there are a number of startups already embracing such methods, the ubiquity of options could eventually lead credit bureaus or credit institutions to evolve as well.
On that note, looking ahead, an intriguing projection came from Lewis. After first noting the increasing trend of banking accounts geared toward specific types of people (including their interests, occupations, etc.), Lewis stated that he expects that the next wave will involve credit. He explains, “I think the next big thing will be credit types — creditworthiness for specific types.”
Elsewhere, when it comes to FinTech’s role in growing inclusivity and diversity, it’s not just the end users who have felt the impact. As Lewis points out, the ability for people from all kinds of different backgrounds to create and build their own FinTech startups has led to democratization. “If you have a problem with how things are happening, you can go build a solution to solve that problem. I think that’s the important part so that nobody gets left out,” Lewis said. He added, “The more people that are able to build, the better.” In contrast, he points out, “If I, Craig Lewis, had said ‘I want to start a bank,’ I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I would have been next to impossible… The ability to start companies with a different perspective from the top down, FinTech has made that extremely possible.”
Overall, while the FinTech sector has seen scrutiny for some of its democratization moves (see: Robinhood), this panel shows that there are far more positives than negatives when it comes to increasing inclusivity. Whether that means giving a greater number of people access to tools or perhaps enabling entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to craft solutions for people like them, FinTech has already had a major impact. With new technologies on the rise — including crypto, DeFi, Web3, and others — these effects are sure to only grow stronger as we march forward.