(Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Martin Louis)
According to a report from the Delaware Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in Delaware has remained steady at 4.5 percent between February and March 2017. That’s just under the current unemployment rate of the country — 5 percent.
But two white-collar sectors, financial services and business and professional services, saw their employment ranks drop: financial services lost 200 Delawareans while business and professional services lost 900 over the last year.
FinLab, a $30 million, 5-year initiative managed by partners Center for Financial Services Innovation and JPMorgan Chase, hopes to improve the financial lives of Americans by helping grow financial services companies, startups and nonprofits that are focused on “financial health.” During the accelerator’s first two years, it invested more than $4 million in 18 companies. This year, they hope to invest $2 million in nine winners.
FinLab accepts companies from across the United States and the deadline to apply is today, April 27, at 11:59 p.m.
CFSI Manager Maria Lajewski said FinLab is different from other tech accelerators in several ways, mainly because FinLab focuses only on the financial sector.
“The FinLab is unique in several ways. First, we are solely focused on the financial services industry, so we bring a deep expertise of this sector to the companies and organizations we work with. Second, CFSI has built a robust network of financial services providers across the ecosystem over the past decade. As a result, we are well positioned to connect and introduce Lab members with members of our Financial Health Network when appropriate,” she said via email.
“Being able to make these introductions quickly can dramatically accelerate the speed at which partnerships are formed. Finally, CFSI’s strength [beyond the size of our Network] is our convening power. We are able to bring regulators and entrepreneurs to the same table to discuss high-quality financial services for consumers and some of the regulatory challenges facing innovators operating in fintech. These conversations have been powerful in facilitating dialogue both ways and in exposing the D.C. audience to what we believe are high quality innovations impacting the lives of low to moderate income consumers.”
The entrepreneurs chosen for the program will meet every four to six weeks to for an in-person meeting. These meetings will take place in various cities, including San Francisco, where the participants will meet with some of FinLab’s resource partners, Jackson Hole, Wyo., to connect with the other entrepreneurs for a retreat, and Washington, D.C., to meet with policy makers and consumer advocates. (The Center for Financial Services Innovation has offices in cities across the U.S., like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., while JPMorgan employs one of the largest financial services workforces in Delaware.)
Lajewski said FinLab decided to broaden the focus of the challenge to products that improve consumers’ financial health. It will also focus on companies who are developing products for people of color, the differently-abled, elderly and low-income women.
“We hope by shining a light on these consumer segments that more innovators are encouraged to build products with these target consumers in mind or think about how they can leverage new distribution channels to reach these consumers,” she said. “Digging into the numbers to write the blog posts on each of these segments was illuminating for the team. The opportunity to meet the needs of people of color, the aging, low-income women and individuals with disabilities is massive. We look forward to continuing to support innovators who are bringing innovative products to those who can benefit from them the most.”