Digital banking brand Majority, which is aimed at reaching immigrants who lack credit history, is on pace to launch across the U.S. this year.
Majority is a membership-based digital banking service that costs $5 per month. It gives immigrants a platform to manage their money, send funds home to their families and carry out long-distance calls at affordable rates. The need for banking services tailored to immigrants inspired the creation of the banking brand, said Magnus Larsson, Majority CEO.
“There’s some 60-65 million people in the US that don’t have proper banking services, and more than half of them are migrants,” said Larsson.
Majority joins the ranks of a group of fintech startups aimed at reaching newcomers to the U.S, including Deserve, Nova Credit and WorldRemit. Majority’s delivery model is digital-only, but what sets it apart from other digital challengers is the community referral system it intends to set up through brand ambassadors and physical meetup spaces.
“If you go back to the the problem, one of the reasons why people believe that a migrant doesn’t have a bank account is because ‘you don’t have the right paperwork’, but that’s actually not the reason, it’s something much more human,” Larsson explained. “It’s basically cultural barriers. It’s also not speaking the language, and [not] understanding the landscape that you’re walking into.”
Majority intends to open its first physical meetup space in Houston where it is currently headquartered, though it has not announced when that space is intended to open. Members will also have access to an app where brand ambassadors called advisers can nurture connections with the community members and acquire feedback on products and services.
“So if you’re Nigerian, you will need a Nigerian adviser and that will be a person that has your cultural relevance. [The adviser] knows who you are and understands that customer,” Larsson explained.
Through Majority membership, customers receive a prepaid Visa card, an FDIC-insured checking account, fee-free remittance services, unlimited free international calls to 25 countries and discounted rates for calls to other countries. Majority has partnered with Ohio-based Sutton Bank to provide customers with accounts with no overdraft fees or insufficient balance fees, and the card can withdraw cash from over 50,000 in-network ATMs.
Will White, head of international operations at fintech consultancy 11:FS, said Majority’s services are what many newly-arrived immigrants need to facilitate their new lives in U.S., especially those from countries without traditional credit scores and a banking system similar to the U.S. He noted that the infrastructure to run a digital-only bank costs less than traditional banks with physical locations and legacy technology. Cost efficiencies from the digital-only model enables Majority to offer low fees to its customers.
“This is absolutely where a lot of the fintech market is going now — focus in on a niche group that really has a pain point and solve it well,” he explained.
White pointed out free international money transfers and affordable options for international calling highlights the company founders’ understanding of the challenges immigrants face when starting new lives in the U.S. He also explained that the costs for developing the infrastructure of a digital-only bank have remained stable, making the current membership model viable into the future.
“It’s a really smart business model for Majority — they will get a really dedicated early user base from which they can grow,” he added.
Larsson did not reveal Majority’s level of funding, but he acknowledged that it was a self-funded effort through sister international calling company Rebtel, where he is CEO. Rebtel has raised $28 million, according to Crunchbase.
The Majority beta program launched last October with selected participants (the company did not elaborate on the scope of the best test). In December 2019, it expanded to Nigerian communities in Houston and Cuban communities in Miami.
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