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3 mins read

MoCaFi Raises $23.5M to Expand Financial Empowerment

MoCaFi, a fintech platform that helps traditionally underserved communities build wealth, announced yesterday that it has raised $23.5 million in Series B funding led by Commerce Ventures.

MoCaFi’s mission is to help excluded communities create wealth through better access to public, private, and social capital. The company’s Financial Services as Infrastructure™ platform works with government and philanthropic organizations to provide cash assistance, mobile banking, and financial programming to individuals and families.

“We are excited to welcome the new investors to the MoCaFi mission, and appreciate the support of our existing investors, many of whom continue to show their trust by participating in the latest round,” said Wole Coaxum, MoCaFi CEO & Founder. “This Series B round allows MoCaFi to scale quickly and validates our unique business proposition. With this capital and more importantly, support from these terrific strategic investors, we can continue to innovate and bring our products and services to more municipalities, government entities and community partners – ultimately helping more people.”

MoCaFi’s platform has already had a significant impact on underserved communities. In Birmingham, Alabama, for example, MoCaFi has helped to distribute over $20 million in emergency assistance to thousands of families. The company has also worked with the City of Los Angeles to provide financial assistance to homeless individuals and families.

“MoCaFi has been the perfect partner for the City of Birmingham,” said Kelvin Datcher, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Birmingham. “Over the last three years, we have delivered almost $20 million in emergency assistance to thousands of families – keeping them in their homes and keeping the lights on, and we couldn’t have done it without MoCaFi. More than just a payment processor- the MoCaFi team has been a fully engaged thought partner from conception through execution. We are incredibly appreciative of their support and hope to work with them again soon!”

MoCaFi’s products include a Mastercard branded Immediate Response Card and Demand Deposit Account providing no-fee cash withdrawals, no-fee deposit options, online banking services and access to credit-building tools and financial literacy programs. MoCaFi’s Blueprint program empowers users to manage their finances, track credit scores, reduce debt, and work towards mortgage readiness. On Our Block by MoCaFi™ community-banking pop-ups bring its banking products, financial programming and resources to support Black and brown communities in building personalized pathways to wealth.

Billions of dollars in public benefits are left unspent due to various complexities and inefficiencies in disbursement methods. MoCaFi’s platform provides governments with a solution that increases adoption and delivers benefits efficiently while reducing fraud.

With this new funding, MoCaFi plans to expand its platform to reach more underserved communities and to develop new products and services that will help individuals and families build wealth.

by Tony O. Lawson

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10 mins read

Empowering Minorities in Banking: Nicole A. Elam, President and CEO of the National Bankers Association

The National Bankers Association (NBA) is the leading trade association for the country’s minority depository institutions (MDIs). The Association strives to preserve and promote Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and women-owned and operated banks across the country, all working to help communities that are underserved by traditional banks and financial service providers. The NBA works collaboratively with its member banks to eliminate the racial wealth gap.

MDIs are at the center of wealth creation by providing financial services, mortgages, and small business loans to minority, low- to moderate-income, and underserved communities — when other financial institutions would not.

Today, there are 21 Black banks. At its peak, there were 134. This decline means that fewer banks are serving Black communities. The National Bankers Association is working to address the decline in the number of Black banks and the growing digital divide that is exacerbating racial inequality in financial services.

The Association’s nonprofit affiliate is leading the way by creating partnerships with technology and fintech companies to provide solutions for minority banks that help bridge the digital divide and support their continued growth and success.

Nicole A. Elam, Esq. is the youngest President and CEO of the National Bankers Association since the Association’s founding in 1927.

In this interview, Nicole A. Elam, Esq. discusses the technical assistance and resources being offered to Black and minority banks in the digital era, the importance of increasing access to Tier 1 capital, encouraging private-sector investment, and more.

Nicole A. Elam

What technical assistance or resources are being offered to Black banks to help them thrive in an era of digital disruption?

Digital innovation is needed now more than ever to scale and remain competitive in the banking industry. But implementing technology is expensive. The largest banks spend $10 to $11+ billion a year on technology. Contrast that with $374 million, the average asset size of a Black bank.

As small banks, MDIs will never be able to outspend competitors. To solve this, the nonprofit arm of the National Bankers Association, in partnership with the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, launched MDI ConnectTech to bridge the digital divide and support the continued growth and success of these critical institutions.

With $10 million in leading grant support from the Citi Foundation’s Community Finance Innovation Fund, MDI ConnectTech works with MDIs to develop and integrate technology solutions that multiply their lending capacity and effectively increase the accessibility and affordability of financial services to underserved customers.

These efforts enable minority banks to remain sustainable financial epicenters for economically vulnerable consumers and small businesses.

How are Black banks best positioned to help our communities recover and overcome many of the systemic issues that have placed them at an economic disadvantage?

Black and minority banks were born out of racism because Black, brown, and immigrant communities could not go to mainstream financial institutions for their banking services. The unfortunate reality is that’s still the case today.

Since the Freedman’s Savings Bank founding in 1865, MDIs have been the cornerstone of efforts to narrow the racial wealth gap by providing financial services, mortgages, and small business loans to minority, low-to-moderate-income, and underserved communities — when other financial institutions would not.

Today, MDIs serve communities that are 77% minority, originate a higher share of small business loans to borrowers in low- and moderate-income census tracts when compared to non-MDIs, and generate 37% of their mortgages to minority borrowers compared to only 13% from non-MDIs. Data continues to show MDIs support the community when they need it the most.

What steps are being taken to give Black banks greater access to Tier 1 capital that would allow them to scale?

Tier 1 capital is essential for banks to grow and scale. For every dollar of capital invested, they can increase their lending and impact on the community by a multiple of ten. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program provided an unprecedented $3 billion in capital investments to MDIs to augment their efforts to support small businesses and consumers in their communities that were impacted by the pandemic.

The private and philanthropic sectors have also stepped up. Over the last three years, MDIs have experienced explosive growth, growing by 35% in assets – which is faster than the national average in the banking industry. And Black banks have experienced the most growth, growing by 56% in assets.

The global pandemic and the racial awakening of 2020 brought increased attention to MDIs. The federal government, private sector, and philanthropic community have all acknowledged that supporting communities and businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, and closing the racial wealth gap, involves investing capital into the financial institutions that sit in and serve those communities.

In what ways is the capitalization of Black banks an environmental issue as well as an economic one?

A 2021 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that minority and underserved communities are often more vulnerable to the harmful impact of climate change. During financial hardships brought on by events like climate change or a global pandemic, Black and minority banks are on the ground, deeply rooted and active in the community.

The National Bankers Association, and ten other organizations led by the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, formed the Community Builders of Color Coalition to urge EPA to ensure that minority communities benefit equally from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

The Fund provides $7 billion in competitive grants for clean energy and climate projects that decrease greenhouse gas emissions and enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to access or benefit from zero-emission technologies. The Coalition is seeking a grant through this Fund for community lenders, like MDIs.

By supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other clean energy projects, Black banks and MDIs help to create jobs, stimulate economic growth and promote social equity while positively impacting the environment.

How can private-sector investors be encouraged to make equity investments in Black banks?

The White House-led Equitable Opportunity Coalition is a great example of the private sector stepping up. Several Wall Street banks and Coalition members have made equity investments in Black and minority banks, realizing that if you want to support communities of color then you must invest in the community lenders that support them.

Over a century of data proves the important role Black and minority banks play in closing the racial wealth gap. Add that data to the fact that every dollar of capital invested in a Black bank can be leveraged to increase lending and impact in communities of color by a multiple of ten.

Taken together that makes a compelling argument of why the private sector is making equity investments in Black and minority banks to catalyze impact and advance their racial equity efforts.

How can the minority ownership status of our Black banks be protected?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation defines MDIs as a depository institution in which minority ownership is at least 51% or the majority of board members are minority, and the community served is predominately minority. Given the role Black banks and MDIs play in communities, it’s essential to protect their ownership status.

One of this year’s legislative priorities for the National Bankers Association is modifying the Bank Holding Company Act to allow for significant infusions of non-dilutive equity investments in MDIs without jeopardizing their minority status.

Under the Act, a MDI’s minority ownership status is jeopardized when an investment exceeds 25% of the institution’s equity, which is easy to do if you’re a small bank. The Association is advocating to exempt community banks under $3 billion from the 25% change-of-control provisions to attract significant equity investments and to help protect the minority ownership status of minority banks.

by Tony O. Lawson

4 mins read

Can Black-Owned Banks Benefit From Fintech layoffs?

Over the past few years, Black-owned banks have had some difficulty attracting IT professionals. And a national labor shortage, a pandemic, and the “great resignation” have not made this issue any easier to resolve.

Over the past few months, a slowdown in venture capital funding into the fintech sector has led to a wave of layoffs as a result of high interest rates, rising inflation, and falling stock market valuations.

Coinbase announced in June that it was laying off 18% of its workforce. Robinhood cut 9% of its workforce in April, followed by a 23% reduction in August. PayPal’s security R&D team, which was focusing on emerging technologies, was also laid off.

The fintech sector’s funding woes could possibly be the answer to the tech talent shortage at Black-owned banks. The opportunity presents itself at a pivotal time as the banking sector accelerates its transition to modern technology across the board, from artificial intelligence software to core computing in the cloud.

Black-owned banks now have an opportunity to hire innovative candidates that possess a combination of tech, customer experience, and finance skills.

But first, banks should ensure they have the systems in place to hire as quickly as possible.

Solutions include video interviews or implementing an interview and evaluation structure that allows multiple stakeholders to speak with applicants over the course of a single day. These  “marathon interviews” can be demanding but will accelerate the hiring process.

A particular focus should be placed on hiring those who specialize in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. Banks have lagged behind when it comes to personalizing financial services and products. Meanwhile, fintech’s have done a great job of understanding client concerns.

As more fintech talent becomes available, banks should also consider what customer experience experts with fintech experience can bring to the table.

This would be an opportunity to hire those who have a thorough understanding of millennial and Gen Z customers and know how to cater to their needs.

These experts specialize in paying attention to consumer behavior and pain points while collaborating with technology teams to create personalized solutions.

Another reason that banks have struggled to attract tech talent is that their traditional cultures do not align with that of tech workers.

Traditional financial institutions should explore key motivators which would make their culture appealing to those who have developed skills in the fintech industry.

Flexible scheduling and the option to work from home are benefits that will help lure fintech talent. Talented millennial employees have realized the benefits of working when they are most effective as individuals, as opposed to the typical 9–5.

However, although fintechs’ cool culture and excitement gave them an advantage in recruiting, in uncertain economic times, workers with families may find greater security in traditional banks.

All of that being said, recruiting is only half the battle. As the skills gap continues, banks will also need to prioritize employee retention. Investing more in emerging technology and updating legacy systems will help retain these tech savvy professionals.

Tony O. Lawson

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5 mins read

This Black Owned FinTech is on a Mission to Improve Your Financial Health

OurBanc is a Black owned fintech that aims to dismantle the systemic barriers that America’s financial system has traditionally embraced with banking,

The company is built with the fundamental purpose of creating a fair and equitable relationship between individuals and financial services that enables everyone to view, manage, move, and grow their money to improve their financial health and end the perpetual deterioration of wealth in underserved communities.

We caught up with OurBanc CEO and founder, David Dwumah to find out more.

Black Owned Banking App
OurBanc CEO and founder, David Dwumah

What experiences inspired you to start OurBanc?  

We believe that the promise of fair and accessible services heralded by technology is yet to be fulfilled, especially for Black and brown communities. 

Growing up in Ghana, I was fascinated by Susu. In this non-formal community-based savings practice, family and friends borrow and lend money to each other. Today, I am amazed by how cellphone-based mobile money efficiently and exponentially connects the “unbanked” and “underbanked” with banking services, thus radically transforming their lives. 

Founding OurBanc is a culmination of my lifelong observation and belief in the power of people helping people, the use of the right technology to better the lives of others, and my firsthand experiences as an immigrant and black consumer. 

Black Owned Banking App   

In what ways do you feel your company can help users improve their financial health?    

We believe that society is at an inflection point. The social justice and pandemic events of 2020 have shown that our economic and social environments are ready for meaningful change. We believe ESG focused strategies will drive better outcomes for investors and the communities we serve.

The technology needed to create positive solutions is now more affordable and widely available. 

We believe open banking, equitable and widespread faster payments will be the foundation of fairness and inclusion that better serves the unbanked and under-banked communities. A fitting example of how we plan to use open banking is to provide short-term loans.

We plan to offer fairer short-term loans without hidden fees such as “tips” and payment terms based on a member’s ability to repay the loan and not limited to just credit scores.  

  Black Owned Banking App

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In 5 years, we expect to share the results of what we have done to help provide minority-owned companies and underrepresented founders access to patient and mission-aligned capital. I recently became a member of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism. We commit to doing our part to significantly ease minority-owned companies’ access to patient and mission-aligned capital. 

According to FDIC surveys, sixty million Americans spend $3,000 a year on payday loans, check cashing, ATM fees, and more. That is not right. Our goal is to reduce this by at least $1000 over the next five years for the members of OurBanc. We are confident that we can inspire FinTech for good and help accelerate meaningful change within the industry. 

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?  

Find your purpose, nurture the right relationships, and develop the grit to see you through the challenging times!  

How can we support you today?  

We believe in the equality of opportunity for all. That is why we are building a community-driven Fintech where everyday people can be valued customers and potential owners and co-creators of our solutions. By Crowdfunding, we believe we are doing our part in the democratizing of the early-stage investment process.

We invite the Shoppe Black community, friends, and allies to be part of this special moment by visiting our pitch page here   


Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

The Racial Wealth Gap, Political Power vs Economic Power, and Reparations with Mehrsa Baradaran

Mehrsa Baradaran is the author of the best selling book, “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap”.

This book has become required reading for those who want to get a better understanding of how Black communities have been shut out of the banking system and how wealth creation in the Black community has been stagnated.

In this interview, we discuss the series of events that led to the racial wealth gap and how the gap can be closed.

We also discuss Black banks and their past and present role in creating Black wealth.

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Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

Black Owned Digital Banking Platform Rewards Users For Supporting Black Businesses

MoCaFi (Mobility Capital Finance) is a Black-owned digital banking platform that targets more than 50 million unbanked and underbanked people in the U.S.

Today, they have enrolled more than 25,000 users, raised more than $6M in seed rounds, collaborated with Fortune 100 companies, and established a presence in major U.S. cities. 

When you open a MoCaFi account, your account number and routing number are immediately available for direct depositing approved payroll and government benefits checks. You can also use their Bill Pay feature to send check payments to your landlord and opt-in to report those payments to Equifax and TransUnion.

MoCaFi also partners with Black owned businesses to offer account holders discounts on everything from grooming to organic home goods.

We caught up with their CEO, Wole Coaxum, to discuss how he plans to use these financial services to empower the Black community.

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by Tony O. Lawson

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