Miami-based challenger bank Fortú launched recently to cater to the banking needs of Latinos and Hispanics in the US. Fortú was founded by Charles Yim, a former Amazon Web Services and Google executive, and Apolo Doca, who previously helped build Lemon Bank, a Brazilian digital bank acquired by Banco do Brasil. Fortú has spent the last year developing its services in stealth mode, and has raised $5 million during this time.
The current U.S. banking system is not well-suited to serve Latinos, according to Fortú CEO Charles Yim. Since 1970, the Latino population has grown five times faster than the non-Latino population, and the U.S. is becoming increasingly English-Spanish bilingual. However, the regulatory frameworks surrounding banks were not designed to anticipate this demographic and cultural shift.
“Latinos are two to three times more likely to be unbanked or underbanked than non-Latinos, regardless of socio-economic indicators such as household income, education level, or nativity and immigration status,” said Yim. “We believe a large part of the problem is the lack of cultural context from financial institutions. Very few, if any, banks are focused on designing products and services around the financial needs of Latinos,” said Yim.
Fortú has therefore tried to develop a culturally contextual digital banking platform for Latinos. “We aim to understand a customer’s language preferences, level of acculturation, geography, cross-border ties, and household financial patterns, to provide the most relevant services for their individual financial needs,” said Yim.
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