New banks

Challenger bank Majority niches down to bank minority communities in the U.S.

  • Challenger bank Majority aims to bank US migrants, with perks specifically appealing to this segment of the population.
  • But building a range of services that are both community specific, and just plain old human-specific can be tricky.

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Challenger bank Majority niches down to bank minority communities in the U.S.

People who move to the US, either permanently or temporarily, face a whole set of challenges when they land — and it goes way past figuring out that ‘tall’ means ‘small’ in Starbucks lingo.

Getting settled tends to come with a list of things to do, from letting loved ones back home know you’re safe and sound, to managing your finances, to dealing with a whole lot of bureaucracy. 

Majority is a challenger bank that aims to make this whole process a little easier. In June, the company exited beta and became available across the US. The digital bank wants to be a one-stop shop that offers financial services tailored to people who want to settle down in the US but still easily connect with back home.

“We wanted to create all the services that are necessary today [when you move to a new country], but are usually at cost,” said Magnus Larsson, CEO and founder of the company.

Majority functions on a subscription model. Users pay $5 a month to access its services. Like other challenger banks, it offers a bank account, debit card, and early access to a paycheck. But it also has some services that are more specific to this consumer segment’s needs.

For example, users can transfer money back home without fees. They can make calls to a selection of countries for free. There’s also a personalized advisor who is able to answer questions about users’ accounts in the users’ own language. Often, the advisors are migrants themselves.

Another perk that Larsson emphasizes is the challenger bank’s partnerships with stores relevant to their users’ backgrounds. Through these partnerships users get discounts.

“If you’re Cuban, and you moved to Miami, you want to find your Cuban coffee, you want to find your Cuban food store. And what we’ve done is create partnerships with all of these stores,” said Larsson. 

The story behind Majority comes from Larsson’s own experience as a newcomer in the US. Even though Sweden is a rich country, his adjustment was very difficult and involved jumping through a lot of bureaucratic hoops.

“Even I ended up having to build things from scratch,” said Larsson.

His experience as a migrant in the country led to the idea of Majority — a solution for speeding up the process.

Since each community is different, Majority’s goal is to tailor its services to one community at a time. For now, Majority is primarily geared towards Kenyan, Ethiopian, Nigerian, Columbian, Mexican, Cameroonian, and Cuban communities. 

Because many of the communities Majority serves are considered high-risk in the US, Larsson says one of the biggest challenges the company faces is convincing potential banking partners to look past stereotypes. One of the ways Majority has been solving this problem is by putting more emphasis on its own risk measuring technology and compliance program. 

A couple of examples Larsson gives are Cuba and Nigeria. These countries are considered high-risk in the US, but Majority’s measurements have indicated that they’re actually pretty low-risk.

“Cubans in the US for example get a social security number directly,” said Larsson. “Nigeria, meanwhile, is one of the most successful immigrant groups when it comes to succeeding financially in the US, because they come from the oil industry and are well-educated.”

Then there’s the subject of credit, which is something Majority hasn’t tackled just yet, but remains on its to-dos.

“We haven’t started with credit yet, so our service doesn’t have a credit aspect to it. But of course, credit is the core of the US banking system,” said Larsson. 

For now, the company’s goal is to continuously add more specialized services, as well as more communities.

“[Majority is an umbrella that covers] the values that we all share, which is hard work, ambition, and wanting to create a better life,” said Larsson. “But when it comes to the communities and the services, I cannot be a representative for every community. I cannot be Israeli, I cannot be Nigerian, I cannot be Cuban. Because I’m Swedish. What we’re doing is working step by step with each community. That’s our model.”

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