This interview was originally featured in Tech For Equity Updates — a biweekly newsletter about Change Machine’s platform, including upcoming trainings, and insights from our community of practice. Subscribe today!
We’re excited to spotlight Samar Sleiman from fortú, a fintech company that is on our recommendation engine. With Latinos being two to three times more likely to be unbanked or underbanked compared to their white counterparts, fortú works to eliminate bank disparities for Latinos in the U.S. by creating a mobile banking solution catering to their needs. Samar is an experienced entrepreneur who launched a startup to provide a mobile banking solution to underserved communities in Brazil. At fortú, she serves as Head of Program Manager.
How does fortú differentiate itself from other banking solutions?
Latinos are looking for other alternatives to fulfill their financial needs, but they’re paying higher fees by going to check cashing or using payday loans. We are in a digital world and if Latino communities are not part of it, they’re going to be left behind.
I like to think of fortú as a new category. We provide financial services, but we don’t call ourselves a bank. It’s not only about banking, but it’s about knowing the challenges to why Latinos are not in the formal economy.
We all have some sort of tie to the Latino communities we serve. That’s a major component of our make up. It’s not just about finding a skillset to meet. Do you understand Latino culture? We make sure we’re able to speak with our audience. It starts from the inside out — no question about it.
From your perspective, what is the role of Change Machine’s recommendation engine in connecting fintech products with lower- and middle-income communities?
Your recommendation engine is really valuable because you come in as a neutral party and make your assessment. We love the fact that you’re bringing the fintech sector and nonprofit organizations into a unified mission to provide financial security for the Latino population, as well as Black and Brown communities.
I think being on Change Machine’s recommendation engine says a lot about fortú’s mission. Everybody can have an honorable mission, but we’re doing it through actions — whether it’s making sure we’re investing in the bilingual app, finding routes to break barriers, or giving our customers the resources to open a bank account. We’re learning what our customers need and adding it to our product pipeline.