Leveraging Technology to Serve the Underserved, with Kristi Kenworthy of Dora Financial
The core philosophy of credit unions is people helping people and enabling underbanked communities that don’t have access to traditional financial institutions. While technology can play an important role in effectively reaching those communities, there will inevitably be some members of the community that don’t have access to modern technology. Therein lies the rub.
In this episode of Digital Banking Podcast, Kristi Kenworthy, Managing Director of Dora Financial, a CUSO of credit union USALLIANCE Financial, joined host Josh DeTar to discuss the present and future of the credit union industry. She introduced Dora and shared its origin story, vision, and mission.
When asked about whether credit unions are following the core philosophy (as mentioned earlier), Kristi said, ”Do credit unions do a good job? Absolutely. They do a great job trying to serve people of modest means who might shun mainstream financial products and services. But could Dora be a solution that would help you do an even better job? If there are still 50 million unbanked Americans, we have to do a lot of work to try to serve that market and bring them into the credit union industry.”
”Do credit unions do a good job? Absolutely,” said Kenworthy. “They do a great job trying to serve people of modest means who might shun mainstream financial products and services. But could Dora be a solution that would help you do an even better job? If there are still 50 million unbanked Americans, we have to do a lot of work to try to serve that market and bring them into the credit union industry.”
⚡Focused on the needs of the community. Dora was ”born” due to the USALLIANCE team’s concerns that the credit union was missing out on the opportunity to assist the underbanked and unbanked in the Bronx, where USALLIANCE already had a branch. ”We’re committed to serving this community,” said Kenworthy. “We have a branch presence. No one else does, we’re committed to this area. And so we took that back and started to think about what we could do. How can we build something that will be able to serve this market? the ideation process began.”
⚡The challenge of creating Dora was overcome by a team of thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers. USALLIANCE, as Kenworthy explained, was able to leverage the credit union’s extensive IT staff in creating Dora. In fact, people are the greatest asset this credit union has. ”We love to take on a problem, whether it is member-facing or operational and have ideation and workshop sessions,” said Kenworthy. “We think about how we could solve them and then build a solution to make things more automated and leverage technology. And so we took that experience at USALLIANCE of managing digital channels and building custom software over several years. We learned so much over the course of the few years of running that line of business, and we were able to incorporate that into this new business line and build Dora from the ground up.”
⚡The Dora team is working on integrating financial coaching into the app, which will be a value-added feature for the market. This helps drive both adoption of Dora but also the understanding of how to both leverage and access financial products and services that Dora may or may not offer. Said Kenworthy, “Old and new members are the lifeblood of the credit union industry.” That said, Dora is designed to provide financial services to educate and contribute to growth. ”We’ll matriculate them to a participating e credit union,” she added. “It’s not going to be a sales approach or anything like that. It’s going to be driven by the user. They could end up in a Dora checking account forever if that’s all they need. But when they come to us, and they express a desire for a loan or credit card or whatever, we’ll matriculate them.”
Guest At A Glance
Kenworthy is the managing director of Dora Financial, a neobank owned and operated by a five-member credit union service organization (CUSO). The CUSO was started by USALLIANCE Financial.
Alongside her team, Kenworthy is on a mission to help underbanked or unbanked communities gain financial stability and support the Credit Union industry by developing a pipeline of future members.