How Lack of Access to Traditional Banking Services Hurts Underserved Communities

Fintech entrepreneur and inclusivity proponent James Gutierrez has dedicated his career to bringing equitable financial solutions to underserved communities. Part of his mission is educating the public on the challenges that low income and some minority households face with obtaining financial services. Other people do not have enough cash on hand to open an account or keep a minimum balance. Another possibility is that people do not understand the resources available to them, leaving them vulnerable to predatory lenders.

Barriers to Banking and Credit
People with traditional bank accounts such as checking, savings, and retirement investments cannot fully appreciate how difficult it is for other people to access the same services. Some specific obstacles that unbanked and underbanked people face include:
● May not have a social security number to open a bank account if a new immigrant to this country
● May not have adequate personal identification to open a bank account
● Not enough cash on hand to meet opening balance requirements
● Inability to avoid banking fees by keeping a minimum balance
● Lack of transportation or Internet access

Low credit scores or a non-existent credit history are additional barriers faced by some people living in traditionally underserved communities. Even when lenders are willing to give applicants with less than ideal credit situations a chance, they usually charge much higher interest to the people who can least afford it. The frustration of this situation can cause people to give up on trying to build their credit, which is ultimately not a good solution either.

Alternative Banking Solutions Are Costly
Even when people do not have a bank account, they still need to cash their payroll checks and might occasionally need a loan. Unfortunately, many of the alternatives to traditional banking are predatory in nature. For example, check cashing companies charge a percentage of the check and payday lenders can charge up to 500 percent interest.
Prepaid debit cards are another solution that unbanked and underbanked people use to make their financial transactions more secure. The downsides are that the card issuer charges a fee and using the card does nothing to help build a credit history. People who use these types of alternative financial services often have household incomes of less than $30,000 per year, and as much as 10 percent of that goes towards paying convenience fees.

James Gutierrez Introduces More Equitable Solutions
As the co-founder and managing partner of Insikt Ventures, James Gutierrez is currently developing a mobile platform that helps to level the financial playing field for people of all income levels. Using advanced financial technology (fintech), Gutierrez’s platform offers access to banking and insurance companies catering to financially underserved communities.

With looser qualification requirements for loans and better interest rates and repayment terms, unbanked and underbanked people can gain loan approval more easily. Paying the loan on time each month also helps them to establish or improve their credit history. As exciting as this development is, James Gutierrez is still looking for more financial partners to help fund the loans. He feels that additional support and recent statutory amendments will make the biggest difference in the platform’s success.