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  • Elsie Russell

FinTech Female Fridays: Karen Rios, Co-Founder & CEO, Lifesaver Inc

Lifesaver mission is “Reimagining Financial Access”. Can you explain this to our audience.

Lifesaver was created with one goal in mind: to democratize access and inclusion into the full spectrum of financial services, leveling the playing field for individuals and institutions alike. We’re passionate about what we do because we want to ensure that systemic problems that have historically kept people financially underserved do not carry over into new digital platforms.We are a team of software engineers, economists, designers, and former financial services professionals committed to revolutionizing the way consumers connect and engage with financial products and providers

Why did you focus on mobile banking rather than digital banking on all fronts?

Mobile technology can be leveraged to eliminate the barriers that have historically kept many people from participating into the traditional financial system. People aren’t under or unbanked in the U.S. due to a dearth of financial institutions–there are over 10,000 banks and credit unions in the country right now. People are still losing out because there is no way to easily discover and compare the plethora of financial options that are available to you. As a consumer, you can’t open new accounts digitally or quickly so individuals stick with inappropriate financial products and financial providers lose customers. By focusing on building the absolute best mobile banking experience for the consumer we are able to help financial institutions better distribute their products and grow their customer’s share of wallet.

Where do you predict the mobile finance sector heading in the next 6-12 months, especially with COVID in more developing countries and areas?

A digital presence will be absolutely crucial as financial institutions deal with capacity limits in branches due to COVID-19. These long-neglected technology gaps don’t just hurt financially anymore they compromise health and which services people receive so there will be huge investments in digital channels over the next 6-12 months.

The economic fallout of the pandemic is only just starting and has accelerated a mainstreaming of financial insecurity which had been percolating before the pandemic. I think financial institutions will be hard pressed to find ways to help their customers navigate unprecedented economic upheaval and uncertainty.

What is your plan for further developing your company? Where do you see it in 5 years?

In the short term, we are focused on making sure that the financial recovery is as inclusive as possible. In the longer-term, we are providing technology solutions for the most impactful financial institutions in this country — community banks and credit unions. We are helping these institutions better service their communities, distribute their products and provide capital in both low to moderate-income communities of color. We really want to make sure that these institutions have a future proof technology to continue to serve those first-time homeowners and those women and minority-owned businesses and all of those really important actors in local communities.

Today we are working on providing the digital presence and instant onboarding for community financial institutions but long-term, we truly are creating a path for financial wellness for people that increase participation into the full spectrum of financial services.

The app Lifesaver is free. What do you think is the value proposition for your model and how are planning to monetize it?

Community banks and credit unions in America lose out on customers because they can’t compete with megabanks on CPA. 90% lack digital onboarding, 60% lack mobile apps and rely on foot traffic and word of mouth for business. We monetize through a monthly enterprise SaaS subscription model. Through Lifesaver banks and credit unions can better engage with their customers, distribute their product and deepen customer relationships.

What is Lifesaver doing differently than their competitors?

Lifesaver is a true marketplace for financial products. On one hand, we have our partners, financial service providers, and on the other, people. We are different because we are empowering communities that have been historically left out of the traditional financial system. We’re giving them the tools and access to curated financial offerings in transparent way so they can level up their finances. With Lifesaver, people can make confident financial decisions and open accounts instantly with community bank and credit union.

Reach out to Karen on LinkedIn.

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