MISSOULA — A new deposit and payment method developed by a Silicon Valley banking expert made its national debut in Missoula on Friday, aiming to give both merchants and consumers a new way to conduct business.
Figure Pay, a digital-first company created by Tony Morosini, targets “thin file” consumers such as young adults and immigrants with little credit history. It also relies upon blockchain technology, eliminating the need for a traditional financial company.
“I don’t need a traditional core banking system or some of the other core components in the payments ecosystem,” Morosini said, standing outside of Rockin Rudy’s. “I can deliver the product to the constituents who get the least out of financial services, which are small merchants and underbanked consumers.”
According to the Federal Reserve, roughly 22% of all adults in the U.S. are considered underbanked. The federal government describes an underbanked person as one of two consumers, including an individual with no bank account and those who may have a bank account but rely upon check cashers and payday lenders.
The underbanked have a hard time getting ahead financially and difficulties accessing credit. The services they rely upon lack the benefits of mainstream financial providers, and the fees can be high.
Figure, which runs through a secured app, looks to reach such consumers. Those who use the system can build credit, finance purchases and avoid the fees of some financial institutions, including high interest payments and maintenance charges.
“What we’re committed to is allowing anyone who uses the product to earn credit on the product,” Morosini said. “This will be especially beneficial for thin-file consumers, recent immigrants and people who’ve had credit issues in the past. They can choose at the point of sale to finance any purchase before they buy it. We think the product is really different than anything out there today.”
Those who use the product can also build credit. That could be beneficial to young adults and immigrants, among others.
“What the product will do, the more you use it and the more we get to know you, the more we give you credit,” he said. “We’ll get comfortable with that consumer as they use the product and we’ll extend them credit and it will be a simple interest calculation. We’ll report it to the credit bureau and help that person establish credit.”
While Figure holds benefits to a wide number of consumers, it’s also designed to help small businesses. Among other things, Morosini said, it cuts the credit card fees charged to the retailer by as much as 80%.
That puts money into the pocket of Main Street merchants.
“For a merchant like Rockin Rudy’s, it enables them to be paid by the consumer in real-time, no waiting for two days to get a payment,” Morosini said. “You can use existing mobile hardware, like your iPhone. You save 80% on traditional card processing fees. It’s a cost-saving and they get paid faster. To a retailer, that’s significant.
In Missoula on Friday, the Silicon Valley company unveiled its product outside Rockin Rudy’s, placing $50 into the account of new Figure Pay customers who signed up. And while the company has California roots, it employs 64 workers in Bozeman and Helena.
“We have a lot of affinity for Montana because we have a lot of employees here,” said Morosini. “Throughout the rest of the year, we’ll launch it nationwide. Our focus is on using blockchain technology because we believe it’s a game-changer in financial services.”