Chase commits $25m to inclusion-focused startups

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JPMorgan Chase this week announced a $25 million commitment to tech tools that help underserved consumers. The contribution will go towards the nonprofit Financial Health Network’s Financial Solutions Lab, a development program that supports fintech startups that help consumers save money, reduce debt and meet long-term financial goals. 

According to the Financial Health Network, the Financial Solutions Lab identifies, tests and brings to scale innovations that help customers improve their credit, build assets and save more money. Through the new commitment, the Financial Solutions Lab will invest in both early-stage and existing fintech companies. The lab has yet to announce which startups it will be funding this coming year.

Over the past five years, the Financial Solutions Lab has supported such well-known personal finance and banking platforms as Dave, which now boasts 3.5 million customers; Nova Credit, which offers its credit-scoring technology to institutions; and personal finance app Digit, which claims to have helped its customers save more than $1 billion since its establishment in 2015. According to the bank, tools developed by Financial Solutions Lab alumni have reached more than 4.5 million people.

See also: Digit’s Bloch on the future of personal finance

Ryan Falvey, a former managing director at the Financial Solutions Lab and current managing partner at San Francisco-based venture firm the Financial Venture Studio, explained that philanthropic intervention is needed for startups focused on financial inclusion. “There’s a role for an organization like the Financial Health Network to identify problems,” he said. “[It] encourages more founders to see the opportunities to innovate.”

Falvey named Digit, Dave, Nova Credit, Everlance and several other known digital services as examples of success stories from the program. In addition, some of the program’s alumni recently were acquired by larger companies, including WiseBanyan and Grove.

“We put together a program that sought to identify some of the places where we can help consumers save, access more affordable forms of credit and improve payment functionality,” Falvey noted. “A lot of things that would help a low to moderate income consumer do a better job of managing their financial lives.” 

As the bank bolsters its commitment to the development program, it also launched a financial inclusion-focused branch in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City this week. The new branch will include events, workshops, local art and a customized lab for skills training and digital innovation. According to the bank, it will be replicated in six other cities in the U.S., including Chicago and Los Angeles.    

From the bank’s perspective, supporting access to financial health is more than just a bank account, as Colleen Briggs, the JPMorgan Chase head of community development and financial health, once said. “It takes much more than a bank account to stay [financially] healthy. They need action-oriented, ongoing support,” she noted. “The banking system and the fintech system can work together to unlock the financial system [for the underserved].”