When you move through the world as a member of the LGBT+ community, it’s easy to wonder, “How many times will I have to come out?” Too often and across countless industries, the queer community is an afterthought or marketing ploy, with the community’s unique needs and challenges left unaddressed.
The modern world of finance and banking has only complicated queer lives, with outdated banking IT systems that consistently deadname those who identify as trans or nonbinary. (Deadnaming means to continue to reference the name given to a trans or nonbinary person before their identity affirmation.) Same-sex couples face a 73% higher chance of being denied when they apply for a mortgage. Ask anyone who’s had to navigate the banking system while queer and you’ll likely hear a common refrain: “Banking and financial technology weren’t built for us.”
But today, there’s a new banking option on the block—built by the LGBT+ community for the LGBT+ community. Daylight (formerly Be Money) is the first LGBT+ digital banking platform in the U.S. and its community is going live today. What this means for the queer community is potentially a world of firsts that can hopefully eradicate many of the discomforts faced as they navigate life’s finances.
“We pride ourselves on being a team of queer millennials solving problems for queer millennials” says Rob Curtis, co-founder of Daylight.
“This matters to us because many of the problems we’ve encountered aren’t sexy, they’re in the machinery of the financial system. It takes passion—and lived experience—to want to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty. This is how to make meaningful change and that’s something the Daylight team brings to the table, not just for ourselves but on behalf of the whole community.”
Curtis and co-founder Billie Simmons, both members of the LGBT+ community and seasoned entrepreneurs in their own right, felt that bolting rainbows onto legacy banking systems wouldn’t create the change the vastly underserved and long-ignored queer community needed. For Daylight to be successful, it would have to work to overcome the three most common financial challenges they saw in the queer community:
- It costs more to be LGBT+. “We face high one-off costs, such as having children (where costs can be as high as $130,000 for surrogacy) and transitioning (surgeries for which can add up to $100,000) that put us on the back-foot,” Simmons says.
- LGBT+ struggle to play catch-up. “We face lower levels of financial literacy, combined with lower salaries, which means that nearly 50% (vs. 38%) of LGBT+ people struggle to maintain regular savings,” Simmons adds.
- Wealth accumulation is more challenging. “Half of older LGBT+ people worry about having sufficient funds—this is 40% higher than non-LGBT+ people,” says Simmons.
Daylight is approaching all three from the ground up and building a new way to bank for the LGBT+ community—one that’s never been seen before.
Making Real Change
First, they’re taking up the mantle of the upstart community banks from the 1950s. These local banks were started by members of a community to serve the unique needs of their communities.
For Daylight, this means starting with education and carrying their members through every stage of their lives—from learning about how to save when it’s tough to do so, to financing life’s biggest moments, like fertility decisions, home ownership and identity-confirming medical treatments. And, through it all, helpful advice is available along the way—directly from other members and with the access Daylight provides to LGBT+ financial professionals.
“The benefit of being connected with an LGBT+ financial coach, or indeed getting peer-to-peer advice via our community features, is that so much of that initial ‘getting to know you’ phase is unnecessary. We speak the same language across our community, we understand each other’s needs and there’s no having to take on that emotional labor of educating a financial advisor about yourself in order to let them help you.” says Angelos.
Daylight seeks to disrupt everything the queer community’s ever known about money. How? While the two-part answer is simple on the surface—with partnerships and tech—what’s truly revolutionary about Daylight are the ways in which they’re approaching new financial solutions for a historically underserved community.
Finding the Right Partner
First, Daylight needed the strength of a major player in banking and financial technology to bring their vision for LGBT+ finance to life. With several heavyweights to choose from, they put companies through the wringer during their evaluation process.
“We wanted to know things like HRC [the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index] scores and Pride spending year-over-year,” says Curtis. As they started conversations with Visa, he and Simmons noted Visa’s honest recognition that, as a company, they had some ways to go on delivering solutions for the LGBT+ community. Visa, a company with more than 1,000 LGBT+ employees, was equally excited about the potential to partner with Daylight.
“Visa has a longtime commitment to working within underrepresented communities, helping to provide the necessary financial tools to those who are historically underserved by the payments industry,” says Terry Angelos, Visa’s Global Head of Fintech. “We believe our platform and partners can help democratize access to financial services in a way that benefits everyone, everywhere.”
In December, Daylight will roll out their Visa prepaid debit card feature, one that gives trans and nonbinary people the ability to have their preferred name on their cards—and without the cumbersome and expensive legal paperwork that often accompanies that privilege. Compared to other offerings in a market where deadnames can be a constant assault, Daylight’s approach appears to be the least invasive and most reaffirming that the LGBT+ community has seen to date.
“We’re not just slapping names on cards without thinking about the end-to-end solution,” says Simmons.
Another aspect of Daylight’s thoughtfulness is their approach to technology, which plays a key role in how Daylight’s being built and will continue to grow. Within banking, there are countless legacy tech systems that put the queer community at a disadvantage—from the way the systems are built, to how people are trained to use those systems.
A legal name on a trans or nonbinary person’s account can cause harm with every interaction they have with their financial institution. Email marketing systems can deliver repeated and regular instances of deadnaming right to a person’s inbox, and banks are helpless to change that because they’re at odds with where their marketing systems glean a customer’s information.
All these missteps that the LGBT+ community experiences are the reason that Daylight is creating a new IT infrastructure to power its banking operations. Through a newly announced participation in Visa’s Fintech Fast Track program, Daylight can quickly access Visa’s deep well of resources and work with their team to build truly unique solutions from the LGBT+ community.
“Visa is excited to partner with a new class of fintechs who are expanding the financial services pie and bringing new products and financial tools to underserved and underbanked segments,” says Angelos. “From Daylight, a company dedicated to serving the LGBT+ community, to SoLo Funds, which provides affordable loans for those who live paycheck to paycheck, we are proud that our fintech Fast Track program can help these companies reach these communities.”
Imagine having a bank that both understands and respects who you are from the jump and doesn’t force you to come out repeatedly. The queer community can focus its energy instead on how to save for that big, audacious financial goal instead of educating everyone at their bank as to why they need to take out a loan.
Creating a New Financial Ecosystem
Daylight’s consideration extends beyond just their current partnerships and technology. It permeates the entire financial ecosystem they’re creating for the queer community.
From a community forum where members can ask questions and share successes in a safe space, to financial tools to help track spending habits, every facet of Daylight is designed with “community” in mind. They’ll also be offering a feed of financial advice specific to the LGBT+ community, along with access to queer financial coaches and ways to donate directly to queer-aligned nonprofits.
While still in its launch phase, Daylight stands to be the queerest financial ecosystem in the U.S to date—which is saying a lot for an industry that hasn’t historically been kind to the LGBT+ community.
“Daylight’s mission is aligned with Visa and we are excited to support their efforts to create an environment where people feel empowered and safe as they plan for their financial future. We recognize that there is a lack of financial products that support this community, and are excited with the products and services Daylight will be offering.”
A New Day
Today’s launch serves as an open invitation for the whole of the community to see what it might be like to be who you are and have your life understood by a bank and financial partner—especially those who don’t know how to start saving and don’t have a safe space to ask questions.
Daylight’s name holds a promise: that it’s possible to let go of the undue shame that can come with conversations about both identity and money and bring those things out of the closet and into the light.
“By partnering with Visa, the largest payment provider in the world, Daylight now has the opportunity to tap into their massive global reach. They are joining our coalition, championing the cause of LGBT+ financial inclusion,” says Curtis. “Together, we plan to impact millions of LGBT+ people, and build the community bank that helps us have the future we deserve, without compromises.”