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Consumer Financial Services, Asset-Building & Savings, Financial Capability & Education, Financial Services Industry
Research Report | November 2016

Evaluation of the Center for Financial Solutions Innovation’s Financial Solutions Lab

Jess Dorrance, Lucy S. Gorham
Research funded by Center for Financial Services Innovation

The center’s evaluation of the CFSI’s Financial Solutions Lab, a five-year initiative managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., offers key insights on how financial technology can influence low- and moderate-income consumer financial health.

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Overview

The Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab) is a $30 million, five-year initiative managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co. The FinLab seeks to identify, test, and scale promising innovations that help Americans increase savings, improve credit, and build assets. By providing capital, national partnership opportunities, industry expertise, mentorship, and cutting-edge consumer and design insights, the FinLab supports a group of entrepreneurs who prove that fintech innovation can improve the financial health of Americans and increase financial inclusion.

The first FinLab supported products that address the critical issue of household cash flow challenges.[1] These products include automatic savings tools, income stabilization tools, reputation-based borrowing tools, and more; the breadth of these interventions exemplifies the scope of the work being supported by the FinLab. Through in-depth interviews with stakeholders involved in all aspects of the launch and management of the FinLab, CCC’s evaluation shows that the first round challenge has been a tremendous success on multiple levels. Reflecting their confidence in the strong foundation that CFSI and its partners have built, many of those interviewed expressed the hope that CFSI would continue to use the FinLab as a platform for further innovation and as a catalyst for positive change in the industry.

In that spirit, many suggested that the Lab do “more” – more outreach, more mentoring of cohort companies, more involvement of low- and moderate-income consumers, more engagement of early stage fintech companies beyond the cohort, and more ongoing publicity to keep attention on the FinLab. Respondents also focused on the importance of building relationships among all partners involved, of engaging low- and moderate-income consumers themselves throughout the process, of enhancing multiple dimensions of diversity, and of helping encourage collaboration between nonprofits and for-profit companies.

Ultimately, each FinLab company has the potential to influence consumer financial health, a goal that is of great value and interest to the industry, to regulators and policymakers, and to those who care deeply about inclusive financial services and their role in improving the financial stability of American households.

[1] In its separate white paper on the topic, CFSI notes that significant volatility in income and expenses can make it difficult to maintain financial stability and improve financial health. Kohli, Sohrab. 2015. A Financial Solutions Lab Brief on Household Cash Flow Challenges. http://www.cfsinnovation.com/Document-Library/A-Financial-Solutions-Lab-Brief-on-Household-Cash

 

The UNC Center for Community Capital conducts research and policy analysis on ways to make financial services work better for more people and communities.

 

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