My Money My Future’s Ortega on meeting the needs of underserved customers

Ramona Ortega

Ramona Ortega, founder and CEO of personal finance platform My Money My Future, developed an interest in personal money management issues while working as a corporate attorney in New York. In conversations with Latino American lawyers, she said she noticed many did not have a support mechanism to design the future of their financial lives.

“The responses I got surprised me — things like, ‘My husband takes care of that’ — there was a big confidence gap,” Ortega said. “I was excited about what was happening in fintech,and what I realized was that, while many were focused on women, they weren’t necessarily focused on my demographic as a professional woman of color.”

These conversations, acquired through one-on-one conversations and a personal finance event that Ortega organized in 2015, prompted her to launch her own digital personal finance planning platform startup in 2016. Through that platform, called My Money My Future, customers follow a step-by-step onboarding process to meet their financial needs, whether that’s budgeting, investing or digital banking.

In addition to her role at My Money My Future, Ortega has been entrepreneur-in-residence at business banking startup Azlo since 2017. She spoke to Bank Innovation about a demographic whose needs still are not being met by the fintech ecosystem.

In the lead up to the launch of your startup in 2016, why did you feel there was an unmet need among certain customer demographics?
Almost every fintech company right now will say they’re going after millennials, and my question is ‘Which ones?’ Forty-two percent of them are ‘diverse;’ half of the population is women. I feel like women have been acknowledged — look at Ellevest — [but] multicultural millennials have been overlooked or underserved by financial institutions and have very specific financial challenges.

What types of challenges do these customers have?
We have higher credit card debt and we have less access to intergenerational wealth, which means we’re not inheriting wealth comparative to the larger group. The financial decisions or behaviors also are different because of family dynamics. I would say more than half of communities of color have another family member that they think they need to take care of at some point in their life, so the extended family is a very big piece of your financial picture.

In your opinion, how do institutions and fintech companies typically approach these customers, and how do you acquire customers?
I think a lot of financial institutions make the mistake of thinking they just need to put [messaging] out in Spanish. And we’re like, ‘You know they speak English, right?’ We haven’t done any Spanish translation; we might at some point, but it’s really about how we communicate the message about financial products that make it relevant to their lives.

Our user acquisition comes from things like Instagram, as well as partnerships and collaborations with [community] groups, and we use a lot of cultural references. When we do something on Valentine’s Day, we’re like ‘These are the top 10 things that Latinas in love shouldn’t do, like cosign on a car loan with their boyfriends’ because we know that people do that.

Do you have a take on what challenger banks are bringing to the financial services ecosystem?
Now, you basically can become a bank if you’re a fintech company. You also have newcomers coming from across the pond — N26, Monzo — they’re coming to the U.S. market as well. There’s going to be an immense amount of competition among banks at the zero-fee level. Now, the problem is ‘What else do you have?’ At some point, that’s not going to be enough.

As an entrepreneur-in-residence at business banking startup Azlo, you’re advising them on the achievement of their goals. What do you bring to the table in this role?
It’s using my experience as a real life entrepreneur. I’m working in an ecosystem with early-stage entrepreneurs all the time. Using that experience, I’m able to influence the kinds of things that I think Azlo as a platform can  provide to its users. One of the things that we’re doing over the summer is a five-city tour to connect with and engage our users in different cities on things like redefining success.

Do you see a conflict between your role at Azlo and CEO of your own startup?
I see it as complementary. So many of our users at My Money My Future want to be and/or are entrepreneurs. So much of opening or launching a business is going to require you to have your personal finances in order, especially if you’re going to get access to capital in the traditional sense, like going to a bank for a loan.