It’s a sad truth of American life that the poorer you are the more you pay for banking.
For example, according to the Wall Street Journal, banks and other financial firms in 2016 generated $33 billion in fees related to overdrafts on checking accounts, this is the highest level in seven years. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has compared overdraft fees to a short-term loan with a 17,000% APR!
Mehrsa Baradaran, associate professor of law at the University of Georgia, and author of How the Other Half Banks, writes “As the banks are set up currently, the fees they charge are meant to dissuade small accounts, or accounts by people whose incomes are minimal and very uneven.”
As Baradaran writes in her book’s introduction, the banking industry has stopped serving those who are “too poor to bank”, pushing them into the arms of non-bank service providers to provide the most basic services: to cash pay checks, pay bills or transfer money. In exchange, she calculates that they fork over up to 10% of their income for these services.
In some cases, they don’t have an option: a bank may refuse to open an account for them. And banks have long been trying to “discourage” their smaller customers: fees on accounts where balances dip below a specified level even briefly can look extremely costly to a low-income household.
Financial Health for Everyone using A.I.
Our vision is an audacious one: to increase the number of individuals with positive financial health and well-being. To achieve financial health, people need day-to-day financial systems that build long-term resilience and opportunity. Financial health enables family stability, education, and upward mobility, not just for individuals today but across future generations. Promoting financial health is good for the American economy. Financially healthy consumers drive new opportunities for increased engagement, loyalty, and long-term revenue streams. Lasting financial health also has a positive macroeconomic impact on communities at local, regional, and national levels.
We are developing a financial adviser system with several artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to help achieve this goal. This system learns from historical data to predict the account balances of individuals for a future time period, identify the recurring charges in their spending, determine unexpected large expenses, and analyze the category-wise spending behavior of user groups.