During April, The Fintech Times is featuring initiatives from the fintech industry that champion diversity, inclusion, and equality. While it would be ideal to implement such initiatives with immediate success, the path to delivery is not always straightforward, particularly within the real estate industry. SmallChange.co is an equity crowdfunding platform for equitable real estate development, and its founder and CEO, Eve Picker, reveals that exclusion from financing opportunities is a major challenge faced in the real estate industry.
Picker, a female real estate developer, launched the platform to include everyone, particularly emerging developers and neighborhoods. However, Picker acknowledges that the odds are against her, as statistics reveal the extent of the obstacles faced by female and minority colleagues. For example, only 1.9% of VC funds invested in women-owned companies last year, and only 1% of funds went to Black founders.
Additionally, only 1.7% of real estate companies in the US are Black-owned, and none of the 383 real estate companies that make over $50 million are Black-owned, with only one being Latino-owned.
The commercial real estate industry has been criticized for its lack of diversity and inclusion, with many arguing that it remains a “playground of the old boys’ network.” SmallChange.co, a real estate crowdfunding platform, seeks to break that cycle and provide a place where the inequity of the real estate world does not exist.
According to SmallChange.co CEO Eve Picker, the company has helped developers raise a significant amount of funding, with over 60% of the projects listed on the platform being minority and/or women-owned. In contrast, Sopra Banking Software is a global financial technology software company that’s reimagining the role of banks.
Digitizing Financial Services for Inclusion and Growth
Its corporate responsibility and sustainability global director, Nelly Kambiwa, works with Africa’s leading banks and fintechs to digitize their offerings and extend finance to a larger group of consumers. Sopra Banking Software has worked with more than 1,500 financial institutions in 100+ countries to digitize their offerings and innovate the banking experience.
Through its platforms, the company is transforming how and where financial services are offered to customers by extending banking services to traditional industries. Sopra Banking Software worked with Kenya’s KCB Bank in 2017, when 75% of the country was unbanked. KCB needed to transition its loan servicing operations into the digital era to accelerate its delivery of mobile loans and keep up with consumers’ growing demand.
With Sopra Banking Software’s help, KCB was able to deliver a digital financial platform that improved its existing financial offerings and introduced a whole new set of banking, payments, savings, and loan capabilities. As a result, KCB has distributed over 40 million loans to Kenyans, and helped the country grow access to financial services to more than 80% of the population.
The article highlights the importance of understanding the needs of the target audience in order to deliver inclusion for all. Mel Ochoa, a general partner at Landmark Ventures, discusses the challenges of fostering inclusion in fintech. Ochoa emphasizes the need to address access and connectivity, stating that a “hero” product for the underserved will not succeed without overcoming these barriers.
He stresses the importance of meeting communities where they are and truly understanding what individuals need, such as access to financial advisors, credit-building tools, or convenient banking. Ochoa challenges leaders in the finance industry to adapt fintech products that work for the wealthy for the many different needs of underserved communities.