Announcing the winners of Tearsheet’s 2021 Challengers Awards
- Tearsheet's 2021 Challengers Awards recognize and celebrate the best products and services in digital banking.
- This year's winners include Ally, Current, Laurel Road, and others.
Today's consumers want more from their banks. And at the same time, there are so many new players getting into the field. Challenger banks provide a good alternative, but non-financial brands like Walmart, Apple, and Google also offer or will offer banking products.
Tearsheet’s Challengers Awards is the financial industry’s top awards program focused on digital banking. Direct Banks, Digital Banks, Challenger Banks — banking is increasingly going digital and the Challenger Awards are designed to celebrate incumbents and startups alike in the field.
Serving the Underserved: SeedFi/Cross River
SeedFi empowers Americans by enabling them to have a better relationship with money. The firm helps develop long-term saving habits, building credit and planning for the future, while providing access to funds in times of need. SeedFi recognized the “credit invisible” underserved population and built Credit Builder and Borrow and Grow services to provide transparent, affordable and inclusive services to help underserved consumers build their financial futures. SeedFi partners with Cross River, which delivers the banking services to support these offerings, including savings accounts, ACH payment services and loan origination.
These products focus on both borrowing and saving—addressing two critical needs that are often not found together in one product. With its Borrow and Grow Plan, SeedFi provides consumers with access to credit with a
responsible lending product, as well as a savings account. Each month, account holders pay down some of their debt and also contribute to a savings account. When the loan is paid off, account holders are debt-free, typically have improved credit scores and have a savings account balance that can be used to meet current needs or build for the future.
With its Credit Builder plan, SeedFi consumers take out a loan and as they make monthly payments, funds are
set aside in a savings account. Once the loan is paid back, the consumer can unlock the savings account. And as they pay back their loan, they’re also boosting their credit.
Best Banking App: Current
Current is a leading U.S. financial technology company serving Americans who are driven and determined to create a better future for themselves. Over 50% of Current's members have never had a banking account before. Because the firm banks people who live on razor thin margins from paycheck to paycheck, it designed and built a mobile application that is easy to use/sign up and understand for people who have never used a banking app before; and addresses their most pressing needs, namely understanding how much money they have/their account balance and understanding exactly where their funds are going.
Members can sign up for Current in just two minutes. Account balance is prominently displayed on the homescreen of the app. A high-level view of insights also appears on the homescreen and expands when tapped to show total monthly spending and spending by category. By seeing where they spend and how much on a month-to-month basis, members can also set up budgets to better manage their spend. Members can automatically set aside money for specific purchases using Savings Pods, which are digital wallets. These funds become unavailable from their account balance but are easily transferred back and forth with a few taps.
Current's Money Management section allows members to swipe left and right between sources to easily add or move money from different sources, including linking an external funding source. Members can easily deposit a check to their account using only their phone’s camera. Current also offers a points rewards system based on debit and members can see all locations near them where they can earn points on purchases on a map in the Current app at over 20,000 merchants. Members earn up to 15x points on purchases, which are redeemable for cash in their accounts (available immediately for use) or other items in the Current Store with just a few taps.
Best Banking Service Provider: Payveris
Payveris offers a unified cloud-based bill management, payment, and money movement solution through its MoveMoney platform. It serves the financial institution market with direct access to consumers’ accounts at banks and credit unions.
Payveris currently supports more than 300 U.S. financial institutions with digital bill presentment, payment, management, and money movement technology. Its MoveMoney Platform has a track record of strength, security, and reliability in lowering friction to the user experience, significantly reducing operating costs for banks, and helping them optimize IT investment.
In 2020, Payveris had its record year of growth, signing nearly 50 new financial institution clients. Also in 2020, the company was acquired by Paymentus, a leading provider of cloud-based bill payment technology. Paymentus serves the biller market with direct access to consumers’ accounts at billers. Combined, the companies create a real-time network connecting consumers’ financial institution accounts with their biller accounts that will enable real-time payments and information exchange.
Best New Product: Laurel Road for Doctors
In March 2021, Laurel Road, a digital banking platform of KeyBank, unveiled Laurel Road for Doctors, a brand new suite of digital financial and banking products tailored to physicians and dentists and designed to help them manage student debt and meet their unique financial goals.
Laurel Road for Doctors is actually three banking products and three financial management products wrapped under a new offering designed to provide physicians and dentists with financial help through each career stage. It includes a credit card that offers 2% cashback to pay down their student loans with most loan servicers, a new savings account that can lower student loan rates when bundling student loan debt with a linked savings account, and a high yield savings account.
Laurel Road for Doctors also offers its clients data to compare salary and debt to other doctors in a similar medical specialty, customized insights that show budget, emergency savings and disability insurance targets, and a growing network of premium brand partners such as Talkspace, P.volve, Sakara, TaskRabbit, Brooklinen, KidPass and The White Coat Investor.
Partner Bank of the Year: Evolve Bank & Trust
Evolve Bank & Trust delivers unique solutions and innovative technology strategies for its partners. Offering tech-forward financial products, its Open Banking division enables hundreds of fintech partners to launch unique financial products to many different end users.
With almost 100 years of experience, Evolve’s goal is to provide the foundation for the world’s best financial innovators. Notable programs supported by Evolve’s solutions include partnerships with Dave, Stripe, Mastercard/Visa, Affirm and others that target traditional banking and offer end users new ways to move and interact with their money. Evolve is a principal member of both Mastercard and Visa and was recently added to Inc. 5000’s list of America's Fastest Growing Companies. Additionally, Evolve has been voted a Top Workplace seven years in a row.
Best Banking Card Product: Tribal Credit
Tribal Credit provides emerging-market SMBs with comprehensive modern payment solutions like multi-currency physical and virtual business Visa cards along with a spend management platform to track and control expenses—all in one interface.
Hundreds of SMBs in Latin America and other emerging markets use its products to make local and cross-border payments, process payroll payments, and more. Its rewards program is specifically tailored to its customers' needs through partnerships with Slack, Notion, Hubspot, and others . Tribal Credit's products are helping SMBs in emerging markets break free from local financial barriers, all while powering their growth and helping them scale.
Most Innovative Bank: Ally
Championing diversity has been an integral part of Ally’s culture. As it researches, designs and builds financial solutions, it tries to operate through the lens of a relentless consumer ally. Innovation is a natural byproduct. Ally begins with a cross-section of consumers, asks them questions, assesses how their needs align with society’s
most pressing issues, and then determines how it can deliver a unique solution.
In 2021, Ally became the first large bank to completely eliminate overdraft fees. Ally’s new Smart Savings
Tools, introduced in 2020, help consumers attack savings challenges using a two-pronged strategy called buckets and boosters, creating a savings plan to organize their money and accelerate the savings journey. The free, newly launched Fintropolis generated 1.5 million downloads in just six weeks, and is housed in Minecraft, an active community with 131 million monthly users.
By combining the best of fintech with the strength of a brick-and-mortar bank, Ally is redefining financial
services and helping nearly 8.5 million individuals achieve their financial goals, by being an Ally.