With Black History Month drawing to a close and Women’s History Month just underway, now is an excellent opportunity to look at some of the ways that fintechs and financial services companies are responding to the needs of women- and ethnic minority-owned small businesses and their employees.
This is a story about how three companies – a Canadian fintech and Finovate alum named Boss Insights, a diversity-focused neobank called Paybby, and one of the biggest African-American banks Carver Federal Savings Bank – came together to help struggling small business owners survive in a world made even more unequal by the global pandemic.
Can you tell us how the collaboration began?
Richard Muskus, SVP and CRO Carver Federal Savings Bank: The collaboration began as Carver was in the late stages of assessing and negotiating a technology solution for our PPP platform with a large well- known national firm and there was a great deal of urgency to have this platform in place to meet the upcoming government program launch.
Facing a delay in setting up an all-hands call to finalize planning, we were introduced to Boss Insights and Paybby who engaged Carver within hours and moved to demo and agreement within 48 hours. As impressed as we were with the tech, we were as equally impressed with the speed by which Carver was up and running.
Hassan Miah, founder and CEO, Paybby: When PPP came out, the first round, people of color were underrepresented. Either they didn’t know (about the program) or they had issues getting their data. We went around and looked at what platform would be the best that would help these communities do better in this next round.
We did a deep dive on multiple platforms, including Boss Insights’ platform, and we saw they they had an architecture and a product that would best serve the community we are focused on.
Why is it important for you to be involved in this round of the PPP?
Keren Moynihan, founder and CEO, Boss Insights: We were having meeting after meeting and reading article after article about the program and someone said to me at one point: “You’re a female founder. Can you tell me what you’re doing to help diverse and minority companies survive?”
When someone says something like that it resonates in your head and you just don’t stop thinking about it. In the first round of PPP only 14% of participants reported their demographic information. But in that 14%, 16% were female-owned companies and 18% visible minorities. If you look at that and compare it to the actual number of businesses run by females or by visible minorities there is a large difference. “Boss” in Boss Insights stands for “back office software systems” and insights on those. We are a data-driven company and so when you look at those numbers it’s clear that something had to be done.
Muskus: Serving the needs of our communities is foundational to the organization since 1948 and not only being involved, but being a leader in the PPP is representative of our mission.
What is gained when fintechs and neobanks and community banks collaborate?
Muskus: Partnering with firms such as a Boss Insights and Paybby allows small community banks such as Carver to provide customers with the highest quality of service and is incredibly important in our growth and impact in the market.
Miah: When we first got involved, Carver and some of banks we talked with told us that in the Black community many people don’t even have a bank account. We saw this as an opportunity to provide that account and then support them on their loan efforts.
Many of these small businesses are small Mom and Pop businesses, many of them work out of their back pockets: they use their regular personal checking account, make no distinction between their social security number and EIN, and those kinds of things. So we saw that they needed these services – and wanted them. There’s a lot of opportunity there.
Moynihan: The piece that has become much clearer to me is that we have been focusing so much to make sure that this technology works seamlessly, that it can get onboarded in one hour – meaning any lender who wants to support businesses and measure them on their merit, they’re one hour away from doing it.
You can sometimes get so into that rabbit hole that you forget about the reason you started to begin with. Business owners, they are people, with families and children, and what we want is to give them the ability to go to a lender and say: this is me, this is my package of information, please evaluate me. Don’t look at extraneous details – look at me and tell me if I am a good bet.
How will you measure success and what insights have you gained from the partnership?
Muskus: Our success is measured primarily by how successful our customers view Carver being. The successful delivery of our products and services leveraging these types of partnerships is representative of the choices we make in partnering to begin with.
Miah: Part of our goal is to bring data science to the community in a way that is usable. One reason we bought banking app Wicket is that it categorizes your spending. Our vision is you go from having a bank account where you just spend money and your account starts at $500 and it goes down to $50 to where you start saying, “hey I spent $100 on Starbucks . Did I really need to do that when I can’t even feed my family.” The idea is to marry the data with the use case, and now we have the technology and the know how to not just tell people “oh you ought to learn how to do better and think about managing (your finances)”, but the tools and technologies and everything are there and available.
Moynihan: When you’re a business and you’re asking for money from a bank, the first thing they do is they send you a laundry list of information they need to get from you. (But) if you have a connection to where they are collecting it, and it’s on the cloud, you can get it in real-time. So whether it’s accounting information for businesses that have made it that far, banking information for ones who are just starting out, or credit scores which will continue to get better, you can have access to the information in real time. The industry is called the “financial services industry”. (Now) lenders can focus on the services part of that, not on the data administration part. That’s what we’re all doing here together, that’s the real crux of the collaboration.
Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Boss Insights made its Finovate debut two years ago at FinovateFall. At the event, company founder and CEO Keren Moynihan demonstrated Boss Insights’ Smart Capital platform, which leverages data-driven insights to accelerate the lending process.
A public benefit challenger bank dedicated to bringing financial empowerment to African-American and Latino communities, Paybby offers a financial wellness and PFM app – Wicket – courtesy of its recent acquisition of the eponymous Overland Park, Kansas-based neobank. Wicket provides a Mastercard debit card and FDIC-insured savings and checking accounts, as well as early direct deposit and automatic savings solutions.
Founded in 1948, Carver Federal Savings Bank is one of the largest African-American banks in the U.S. Headquartered in Harlem, New York, the bank has been designated as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the U.S. Treasury Department for its community-based banking operations. Carver Federal Savings Bank is committed to reinvesting 80 cents of every dollar deposited back into the African American community.