🎧 Podcast : Hey Fintech Friends #15 ft Rodney Williams & Travis Holoway (SoLo Funds)
In the event that that person would have an emergency, like a flat tire or medical bill, or the pet needs a new procedure, all of a sudden, where does that person get money when they don't have may have limited savings So that was a eureka moment, it happened at a very, very intimate level
"In the event that that person would have an emergency, like a flat tire or medical bill, or the pet needs a new procedure, all of a sudden, where does that person get money when they don't have may have limited savings So that was a eureka moment, it happened at a very, very intimate level." - Rodney Williams
In this episode of Hey Fintech Friends, Helen Femi Williams looks at the latest fintech news, interviews Rodney and Travis, co-founders of SoLo Funds, about serious and non-serious fintech matters, and shares some of our most recent "Signals" article. This week's fintechtionary is....
Also available on Apple, Spotify, and any other platforms
- ‘Fin-techionary’ of the Week: Fintech (1.20)
- News (1.53)
- 🔥 Quick Fire Questions with Rodney Williams and Travis Holoway (7.30)
- Interview with Rodney and Travis (a deeper dive into SoLo Funds (12.32)
- Signals: What Wise Platform tells us about fintech bundling (33.17)
Hey FinTech friends.
Hey, Fintech friends. Happy New Year. My name is Helen Femi Williams, and I'm your host of Hey FinTech friends. So friends, this is now a monthly podcast brought to you by this week in FinTech, which, of course, is that the front page of FinTech news, fostering the largest community to newsletters, thought leadership and events and podcasting, obviously, before we talk about the structure,
Can I ask you a little favor, friend, can you please like, share and review this podcast on Apple or Spotify, it helps us and helps future FinTech friends find us and come on sharing is caring. Okay, back to business.
So let's talk about the structure of this podcast. First, we're going to go through the news. And if you subscribe to this week in FinTech newsletter, you're in luck because this is the audio version. Then we're going to have a chat with this week's friends, Travis and Rodney, the co-founders of SoLo Funds. Then we'll go for the latest signals article. And then events, but first,
📚 The Fintechionary
Alternative finance refers to a range of finance solutions that sit outside of traditional forms (stocks, bonds, cash). It’s a term used to describe financial products, instruments and tools that have been developed outside of the traditional financial services system, with peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding as examples. Source: Deloitte
🚀 Product Launches
The World Economic Forum at Davos launched a universal digital payment network for stablecoins and central bank digital currencies and I am… a bit skeptical. These types of top-down initiatives normally encounter massive coordination issues in implementation.
Meanwhile, National Australia Bank launched an Aussie dollar-denominated stablecoin on ethereum.
Metro Bank launched used car loans.
📰 Other News
The big news in banking this week is banks striking back at fintechs - Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and four other banks are collaborating to build a digital wallet - like Venmo, Apple Pay, or Google Pay - that will wrap credit cards and other payment methods for one-click checkout with merchants. This looks…. Familiar? We talked a bit about the digital wallet wars in the Read of the Week last week, but it will be interesting to see if the ‘Nascarization’ of checkouts continues or consolidates. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is considering a new digital euro app with payment functionality.
Wealth management clients and rich customers are increasingly moving money away from their primary bank accounts, where interest rates paid on deposits have not moved to approximate the 4.3% Fed Rate currently in-place, instead opting for high-yield savings, Treasurys, and money market accounts.
Bank of America invoked customer ire with Zelle transactions that weren’t going through.
Class action participants won $52 million from Charles Schwab due to disclosure failures. The Federal Reserve is investigating whether Goldman Sachs had appropriate guardrails in-place for its consumer lending program. HSBC got a warning in the UK for not making data available for open banking applications.
Capital One cut 1,100 tech jobs.
Danske Bank published a climate action plan for 2030 and 2050.
🚀 Product Launches
Marqeta launched web push provisioning for cards to mobile wallets.
Capital (formerly Party Round) launched a high APY business checking account that pays 4% on holdings.
B2B payments platform Melio launched a way to automatically sync payments data with accounting platform Xero.
Remote payroll and HR platform Deel packaged and relaunched its global platform to provide one integrated experience for managing any type of employee in any location. (The company also reached $295 million in ARR.)
Upstart added new online features to its auto lending products.
Wafi launched a payment processing platform for ecommerce businesses.
Zoe, a financial advisor matching platform, launched a wealth management product.
📰 Other News
Crypto exchanges and crypto-adjacent companies including Circle and eToro have made bids to go public in the last year, but failed to get the SEC’s approval and had to scrap their plans.
Alibaba is looking to boost its sales in Europe with a new buy-now-pay-later offering.
Art stock exchange Artex was granted a license to operate a Multilateral Trading Facility in Europe.
Cross-border money transfer provider MoneyGram partnered with VoIP provider BOTIM in 200 countries.
Saudi neobank Wahed opened a physical branch location in London.
Klarna ran a Spotify-style “your year in money.”
Revolut opened the waitlist for a “new super-premium membership plan targeting ambitious, affluent individuals interested in a luxury lifestyle.”
Stripe won a major contract with Amazon, becoming its strategic payments partner in the US, Europe, and Canada.
Australian buy-now-pay-later provider Zip forecasts breakeven by year-end.
Coinbase shuttered its operations in Japan.
Bolt: second verse, same as the first (layoffs). Revenue-based financier Clearco also cut 30% of staff.
Crypto exchange Nexo was fined $45 million by the SEC for offering unregistered securities.
PayPal is being investigated by the German antitrust watchdog, while it emerged that 34,942 PayPal accounts were hacked in December.
Interview with Rodney and Travis
Hi, guys, thank you so much for joining me, especially like you said, it's 7am where you are. So I appreciate that. To record a podcast at that time. Is is quite amazing. Yeah, so there's Hey FinTech friends podcast. And actually, I've decided to change the structure of it a little bit. So I'm gonna start with the quickfire session first, if that's okay with you guys. That's totally fine. Cool. So well, maybe actually, before I do that, we should do introductions. So, Travis and Rodney, you want to just quickly introduce yourselves, and so funds
My name is Travis Holloway, I'm the co-founder and CEO here at SoLo Funds. Prior to SoLo Funds, I spent about eight years as a financial advisor. And it was during my time as a financial advisor. At Northwestern Mutual I realised that there was an opportunity to better serve individuals who needed access to emergency gap filling capital. The resources for those types of short-term emergency loans are incredibly scarce in the United States and really globally. And we realised that there was an opportunity to leverage in an opportunity where the the average American who has discretionary capital is not attractive to other financial planning firms financial advising firms because they're deemed does not have enough assets or income to manage. And with that, their assets tend to lie in checking accounts earning nothing or savings accounts earning little to nothing. And we realised that there was an opportunity to unlock that capital, and deploy it to people who needed the small dollar emergency loans. And we can solve short term cash needs more equitably than ever before. But we can also provide access to an incredibly attractive and best in class yield to the average American.
I'm Rodney Williams, co founder and president. prior to SoLo Funds, Travis and I best friends for a very long time and , had this shared experience about friends and family leaving access to short-term capital. And really just decided to do something about it. You know, when we looked at the market, that just wasn't any financial service. So FinTech or bank, we believe, truly serving the individual or the group of consumers that needed short term capital, but also a group of consumers who, who had capital and wanted it to grow, but someone had deemed it not substantial enough. And short, we've put those groups together. And that's the community that we've got
Amazing. And we'll come back to kind of SoLo Fundsthat what you guys are trying to solve, an. But I think, for now, let's do the quick fire round. Are you ready?
🔥 Quick Fire Questions with Rodney Williams and Travis Holoway
Travis, would you rather lose all the money you've earned this year, we'll lose all the memories you've gained this year?
Lose all the memories I'm getting this year. Yeah,
I guess the years only started.
You can write this 17 days or 18 days
to move as you said last year, but hey, you get away of it. It's fine.
Rodney, if you had to fit anything into the Hall of Fame, what would it be just in anything in general?
I'll put my kindness.
Oh, how cute.
Travis? Would you rather have a rewind button? Or a pause buttons on your life?
I'm gonna I'm gonna go and Rewind. Rewind. Yeah,
Rodney, if you had to fight an animal and think you could beat them? What animal would you fight?
I will fight a bear.
you're gonna win?
I mean, in my mind. Yeah, I think I could be
fair enough. Travis, would you rather spend your whole life underground or underwater
underground ? Unfortunately, I can't swim. So that's not going to work out for me. Yeah.
Makes sense. You only have really one option there.
Rodney. This one might be quite easy again. Would you rather live in the UK or the US?
Actually? I really do like the UK. I live in the UK already.
Rodney talks about London. Way too much.
What do you like?
Well, I'm Caribbean. So you know, it's a huge Caribbean culture that is significantly bigger than in the United States. So it feels it feels like home.
Yeah, that makes sense. Like we do have a big Caribbean culture here. So yeah, exactly that but I can see why you've picked that. And it's Yeah, and it's great. Although like London is very different from the UK. Just as I guess in America, like certain cities are different from like America as a whole. But yeah, like the Caribbean community is like quite strong and has been here for a long time. Travis, would you rather experience the world? At the beginning or at the end?
As the beginning? I don't think I want to be here for the end, I'm gonna take that back. I don't want to be here. And when it oh, you know, blows up.
Rodney, would you rather go into the past and meet your ancestors? Or go into the future and meet your great, great, great-grandchildren?
I'm going into the future. Yeah, yeah. Because you want to see what it looks like? What's happening want to make sure my work is good. You know, I think what we're Travis and I are ultimately doing is trying to change our generation. So I want to I want to see that in action.
great answer. See what happens with SoLo Funds.
I want to see to this financial service company make the impact that I think it can possibly make across the globe. So I want to go in and I want to see that, you know, you know, I think that's, that's what legacy is about?
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And actually that that's a good place to turn. But before I kind of move on, I feel like I should ask Travis his last question. So Travis, would you rather always hit a red light for the rest of your life always gets the internet after the sun goes down.
I'll take slow internet after the sun goes down.
Okay, that's annoying. But yeah, I guess you could just start doing all everything you need to do during the day and make it work.
And like, I'm incredibly impatient. So I know that the sun is about to go down. I just have to be more efficient when the sun is up. But my impatience in, in a vehicle is, I'm not gonna say I have road rage. But I might, I might have a little bit of it. So I would rather not hit every red light. And I'm always usually running late. So that's not helpful for me.
Okay, awesome. Thank you guys for answering my questions. Just curious to know your thoughts on random things that have nothing to do with fintech. But I want to go back to kind of why we're here.
So we, you've already kind of heard the kind of overall what SoLo Funds does the mission you're trying to create? And I think actually, I really liked how you weaved it into the quickfire questions. And so a question I have to you both is, understand it, and I understand your mission. But for instance, like if you were trying to explain it to your mom, your non-FinTech friends, how would you explain it?
I think SoLo Funds is an easy one, because it really, it's a behavior that exists literally everywhere in every community across the world. And what we've done is we put structure around that, but the simple version is, I'm sure Helen, at some point, someone's asked you for money before, whether it was even just a couple of dollars if you were at the store with your friends when you were younger, because they might not have had a few dollars. And, you know, when people ask other people, for money, friends and family, it puts a lot of stress on those personal relationships. And that's exactly what was happening with Rodney and with our friends asking us for these loans. And we started looking for, you know, solutions and send them to, and we just decided to create one. And ultimately, what it allows people to do is to request a loan up to $600 completely on their own terms, meaning that they can set how much money they need and what they need it for when they can pay it back. And if they're willing to pay anything, in addition there's no mandated or mandatory fees or interest on the platform, they can pose that loan request to a marketplace, where any other individual person could fund their loan request. So no longer are they only relegated to borrowing money from friends and family, they now can borrow money from complete strangers. And complete strangers will decide to fund these loans based off of the likelihood that they believe they will be repaid back, which is a proprietary score that we've created to assess creditworthiness. And they're looking at, you know, any potential return that they may make on that platform. But this allows us individually to do two things they can do well by deploying capital to these people who need these loans for things like Making rent or if the vehicle just broke down. But they also can have a really, really positive social impact, because these individuals would no longer have to go take really high interest, predatory loans that exist all throughout the United States and are actually prevalent, you know, across the globe.
Yeah, I love that there's, there's like a real community aspect of something you're creating and looking at loans and how people access money in a new way. And so I'm curious, I guess I've kind of got two questions from like, what you've explained, I'm curious on how this came about, like, was there like a specific like, issue that I mean, I know you said like you had friends and family asking you for money and stuff like that. But what was the kind of like eureka moment where you were like, or like, is there an anecdote where specifically, it was like, this is the only way? And then also kind of? I was wondering, and maybe I have my own ideas of it. But is there specific communities you're targeting or specific? Yeah, like specific demographics, who potentially do have to go for like high interest loans and stuff like that. I'm just curious about whether there is a certain, like, whether there are certain people who potentially look at SoLo Funds more than others?
Yeah, I mean, I think the Eureka, the eureka moment happened at multiple different levels. I think the eureka moment, looked at our friends and family, some college educated, you know, in their careers for many years, but they were not being thanked correctly. You know, you know, Travis always talks about his father working at General Motors for many years. And his savings wasn't growing in yield. And then but you know, like myself, you know, and then I would see my aunt that has two kids, with a college degree, working at the post office. Because honestly, that job, it wasn't necessarily going to produce high income, in the event that that person would have an emergency, like a flat tire or medical bill, or the pet needs a new procedure, all of a sudden, what does that person get money when they don't have may have limited savings.
So that was a eureka moment, and a very, very intimate level, as literally, you look to your friends and family and understand how, what are their banking needs. I think the what made us big business for us, was looking, start looking at the data and start seeing that actually, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck or were limited savings in their account, and they just can't afford any type of financial shock or emergency. And when they do, that the resources that are present haven't been innovated in a long time. And most banks, most big financial institutions have deliberately decided not to create solutions for this group of people, as well as the group of people who have discretionary capital. So that the rica moment was wait a minute, there's a there's a, there's a large group of Americans that we could provide a solution to, and so huge opportunity to connect technology and bringing them up in a big way. It's hidden, though, it's hidden in plain sight sometimes. And we tend to join to be doing way more educating the market and educating individuals in terms of why we're growing so fast. But it's because this is an unmet need. Pretty, pretty widespread unmet need.
That's amazing. And I think something that I think both of you touched on is the is kind of difference within different communities. Because I guess what I was trying to say before was, when it comes to kind of these things, like building generational wealth and stuff like that, you know, certain communities have a starting head. And that doesn't, that's not necessarily an American thing. I think it's kind of globally and like, especially when it comes to black people, black people right now are kind of at the highest. I guess I don't know how to say it in words, they have the most capital they ever kind of have in sort of like modern history. However, just because for instance, like one person has a good job, like you said, doesn't necessarily mean that like the generation before them has or did or has that same access to capital or isn't necessarily in or isn't necessarily in a space where they can become like the leading like loan provider for their whole family. So I guess what you're doing is filling in that gap or in that space without necessarily people having to go to loan sharks or informal credit that doesn't necessarily work out in the same way
pretty sure about this, but at least in the United States, I want to correct a potential misquote. No black brown minorities, we have less wealth today than we've ever had in history. We have less ownership of real estate of homes. And then we've ever had in history, the gap between us and our counterparts is wider than it's ever been. So, it is a misconception because there's significantly more of us as they're educated. But the biggest differences is to significantly more of us that work for other people versus wealth historically, was always generated by ownership, whether that was your business, and or real estate or your home. And today, that is significantly less than it's ever been.
And equity ownership, you know, historically, African Americans or black and brown people have not participated and in the stock market, and because of unless you were, you know, an individual who in the 70s, or 80s, started working at, you know, some of the Microsoft so the Oracles and the, you know, even the General Motors, like my father, right, he had it, he was fortunate to be able to retire with a pension right before 2008, when, you know, the world kind of collapsed in the auto industry, particularly here in the United States. But with that said, if you're not invested in the market, that means that a lot of these individuals have just been sitting on cash, right, they've been saving all of their life, but none of that capital has ever been put to work. And it's not driving yield, it's not making returns on a compounded basis, which means that we think about even today, the rate of inflation, if you're just saving money, right, you're not even keeping up with the pace of inflation. So that is a significant hindrance to to our communities. It has been an Achilles heel for a really long time. The other piece, which Robin was alluding to, is exactly what I was gonna say. So he hopped in right before me, but you know, I understand this is kind of a US, you know, focus, quote, or sports statistic, rather. But in 1970, Black homeownership was actually at its, its peak. And when you look at black homeownership in 1970, at 42%, you know, most recently it was 41%. So we've actually seen less homeownership and black communities over the last I don't know, what is that 50 years, which is, it's pretty frustrating. And it's pretty disheartening when you think about the fact that because of social media, and because of you know, the media portraying certain levels of black wealth, which happens to too frequently be athletes and entertainers, there is a conception, there is a misconception that more of us are doing better, or we have more money than we ever have. But as Robin alluded to, that's absolutely, unfortunately, incorrect. But the farce has become, you know, perception is reality. And because we can turn on the television, and we can see black people doing well, you know, we tend to think that that's been trickled down to the rest of the community.
No, no, thank you for correcting me. Yeah, maybe my step widened, actually, is that I just thought, um, but do you think it's like, like, for instance, you brought up homeownership? Isn't that everybody? Like as in maybe the gap between black people and white people? Sorry, black people in the 1960s. And black people now? Is, it has has declined. And that's correct, but hasn't it declined? So like, in the UK, for instance, buying a house, I know, I'm talking about the UK, but I would have to assume that the US is kind of similar in that sort of trajectory when it comes to like home homeownership and stuff like that. But like, for instance, it's harder for everybody to buy a house, maybe if, of course, if you have, for instance, like a deposit already, or like certain elements, of course, if you, if your parents give that to you straight out of university, obviously it is going to be easier for you to buy a house. But overall, isn't it just worse when it comes to like stuff like homeownership? So the kind of usual mechanisms we use to kind of score people's credit and stuff like that? Well,
I think in the US is like, two key ways to generate wealth as owning a home and insurance and the rates in which you know, our counterparts historical, meaning their parents, the grandparents owned the home, and then grandparents, you know, had insurance, they pass down wealth.
So to talk about a very recent trend alongside millennials and Generation X, that's where home ownership is a little bit different. But their parents own home, their grandparents own homes, they pass them down, they will own a home because they don't not own a home because they won't get passed down that home or they don't have the wealth to get that home. They don't own that home. Because they're empty nesters and they want to they want, you know, they want to travel the world and see see the good things and they want to post on the ground. But nothing wrong with that. But it's a different, I think it's a different problem as it relates to our community, and I'd take it I'll take it back to SoLo Funds, it's why we exist, there's a lot of attention to the top of the market, the bottom of the market is completely no man's land, right, the bottom of the market has to be raised as well. And what gets people in a predatory trap. What gets people in a revolving door of of issues and challenges is taking one bad loan that then ultimately messes up your credit, you know that it's maybe it was something to fix your car, all of a sudden, you lose your job, all of a sudden, whatever your current moment of issue turns into a multi month or multi year thing that then takes you longer to get out of it and longer for you to then project to a better economic position. But we have full intentions, full intentions to bring better financial products to to all underserved markets and at all levels at some point. And in our in our future.
Know everything you guys said makes a lot of sense. And even as you were speaking, like, I feel like I had a lot of anecdotes or examples, even personal ones that I know where, you know, certain situations have rolled into this massive thing that didn't necessarily need to be for instance, like someone had insurance or something. So I totally get what you're saying. Because then the burden becomes on like life insurance, specifically, as an example, the burden becomes on the living where it's like, Nest, they wouldn't necessarily put that pot of money into this. And then it becomes like this massive, massive thing. And you're right. And then I think insurance is a really interesting one. Because it's like to have insurance in a lot of ways you need to have like, what it's how you look at money. But to some extent, when someone when you know, even when you get like phone insurance, they asked Do you want to pay an extra, I don't know, six pounds or $6 a month to insure your phone. And you're sort of like, could risk it could risk it could risk it. But I guess for a lot of people risking like six pounds is not necessary if you had the money anyway, you wouldn't necessarily see see six pounds as gambling or not risking it, you would just see it as well. Yeah, of course, I would insure my phone because why not? So it stops being a why not? And starts being a should I should I should I not. And so the stakes become a bit higher. And I know I'm just talking about phone insurance. But I think that's kind of how people see insurance in a lot of ways. The less money you have, the more it becomes a luxury and not a given. And I think yeah, there's something you brought up there because we're so funds and with everything that's happening there is this like major educational piece that is needed with when it comes to like, the older younger doesn't really matter. Even me, for instance, like I sometimes do this podcast, and I'm learning like, Oh, I didn't know this, or Oh, I didn't know about investing in this and X, Y and Zed because, you know, my parents didn't. So why would I know, to do this, no one talks about it around a dinner table. So I'm not just going to know. Whereas in other communities, for instance, if your mum and dad were already had already started investing in x, y, of course, when you become older, you're not going to be finding it out yourself or asking your peers or your peers, parents and stuff like that. I know, you said you're going to expand in different tiers, and hopefully different countries as well. And is there kind of a piece around education as well, that goes with that? Or how do you see that as is part of your mission?
You know, education for us. Sounds radical, but so there's a great quote that I don't have, but it's something to the point of not teach someone that doesn't have money, how to how to how to use what to do with money, you got to give them money, and you have to give them the opportunity. And then they have to learn. You have to learn it. Right. But it's really hard to to to for someone to be financially literate in the traditional sense. If they don't have money. The truth of the matter is Well, just so that's, that's number one. What I, what I'm getting with that quote is that you kind of got to got to give them the opportunity and and let them learn for themselves. And you have to give them really tangible lessons.
You know, when we built that product, everything was about giving them transparency and tangible and choice so that they can learn what to do with their money. In a simplest things of, you know, when you make a request on SoLo Funds, you have to pay it back in full. When you make a request on SoLo Funds, you can self select when you can pay it back. Right? That clear practice of only spending credit in which you can ultimately pay back in a short period of time, is an excellent lesson, and how you build traditional credit, if you think about if you were to use a credit card, right. And that's a simple lesson that we teach each and every day is not a platform that is not taught by any credit card company, right? credit card company gives you a $500 You know, credit, they don't say, hey, based on your cash and your job situation, I wouldn't spend more than $75 No, they tell you this man, what normally happens is you spend the entire Max, and then they want you to pay the minimum balance every month, because that's most profitable for them. Financial literacy is a that's why it's I don't really it's an interesting concept. But we've taken an approach of like really taking the steps and letting them learn by using the platform and letting them learn some basics about money management. And that can transcend or transfer to traditional credit. And that's, that's where I'll go. And I just think financial literacy is about the acceleration of the usage of traditional products that technically are discriminatory in nature and also are not necessarily designed for always for my benefit. Financial literacy is about trying to avoid the pain of making a mistake. Financial literacy should be about creating wealth. We will introduce products that continue to grow your traditional financial position with financial credit. But it is a it is going to be an uphill battle. Given a couple of things I explained. Yeah, no,
that makes a lot of sense. Yeah, you can only do things if you have the means to do it. Thank you. I think that's a really good place to end actually. Thank you so much, Travis and Rodney. I feel like I've learned a lot.
Not Pleasure, pleasure. Thank you.
We appreciate the opportunity and the time.
Signals: What Wise Platform tells us about fintech bundling
Signals is our subscriber-only read. Please subscribe to the this week in FinTech to read a full article, but I'm gonna read you a snippet of one of the latest articles.
When Wise went public in 2021 at an £8.75 billion valuation, it already had more than 10 million customers, was processing more than £5 billion in cross-border transactions per month, and scaling quickly. But organic growth comes from unexpected places, so when Wise noticed an uptick in sign-ups from a bank in Hungary, they knew they had identified their next area of growth. The Hungarian bank was referring its customers to Wise because it couldn’t offer clients the same international payments services in-house. Wise decided to create a solution that the bank could embed in its own product. This model blossomed into the Wise Platform.
Wise Platform extends Wise’s core payments infrastructure to support the international money movement needs of banks and global businesses. In other words, Wise is expanding beyond its niche of cross-border payments to create a platform that bundles other financial services to support business clients. I sat down with Steve Naudé, Head of Wise Platform for his insights on the Wise Platform and the growing trend towards re-bundling of financial services within fintech.
D2C fintechs pivoting to offer embedded infrastructure to other businesses has been one of the biggest drivers behind the wave of re-bundling in the industry, which seemingly is only set to continue accelerating this year. 2022 signaled a rapid increase in re-bundling, evidenced by grand statements such as Elon Musk’s intention to create a super app similar to China’s WePay or AliPay after he bought Twitter for $44 billion.