The financial industry is a world within itself, with everything from credit to investments falling under its umbrella. For many people, however, it’s a confusing place that doesn’t have the greatest track record of accountability and transparency with the general public.
Enter Blend. Realizing the need for such clarity, a leading digital consumer banking platform partners with banks, credit unions and other lenders to streamline mortgages, provide consumer loans and deliver banking options for those tired of the confusing (and often paper-heavy) lending process. The company describes its mission as “[making] the process of getting a loan simpler, faster and safer.”
Adding, “We form partnerships with banks and lenders to ensure consumers have access to a less stressful, more accessible lending experience. We’re not disrupting lending. We’re making lending better for everyone involved.”
Founded by three core pillars — accessibility, transparency and simplicity — Blend is the brainchild of CEO and founder Nima Ghamsari. With additional leadership from President Tim Mayopoulos, the brand has exploded by more than 400% in growth from 2017 to 2019. Now over 600 employees serve more than 285 customers, including Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, M&T Bank, SWBC and more.
Why Blend Is Stepping Up
Realizing the weight its voice carries in the industry, Blend uses its platform to spotlight challenges and elevate opportunities within the financial industry. This includes highlighting racial disparities that impact Black customers, Black financial professionals and the community as a whole.
Blend has since committed itself to its Equitable Ecosystem Initative (EEI) — an effort to utilize its communities and resources to make an impact — as well as identifying ways to address America’s history of financial discrimination. Essentially, it’s pushing back on a system that disproportionately moves the goalposts for lending to Black Americans — or outright denies them access to loans and other financial opportunities.
In short, change is needed. Now.
According to Ulysses Smith, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, Blend has heard this message loud and clear. “Leaders and decision-makers were already trying to figure out how to adapt our strategies, policies and practices amidst the pandemic. But the traumatic events of police brutality targeting the Black community that followed brought us to our knees. There is no returning to business as usual or what we once thought was normal. Now is the time to create a new normal,” he wrote in 2020.
Adding, “The cry for change that is reverberating across the country is one that companies simply cannot ignore or treat as another story in the short-lived news cycle. It’s now the responsibility of leaders and organizations to do some introspection, focusing on driving structural change and building equitable systems to eliminate racial inequality.”
How Blend Is Affecting Change
Understanding that such reform can’t be achieved overnight, Blend has put forth its Equitable Ecosystem Initiative, using its buying power and community connections to help remove barriers that have long plagued the Black community — including access to financial services and genuine opportunities to transfer wealth.
To face these challenges head on, Blend is implementing strategies to drive change through community partnerships, technology investments and regulatory engagement. Under this vision, Blend uses its voice to push for investments in systemic change, including those that identify racial bias in technology. Recognizing the doors that technology can now open, Blend is using tech to reach underserved communities and populations.
The 2008 financial crisis pulled the curtain back on what many already knew about our financial system when it comes to the average American: it’s broken. For Black and brown communities, however, it functions exactly as it was created to by constructing financial barriers for them.
To address a long history of racism and discriminatory financial policies, Blend is exploring ways to fund and partner with underserved communities by investing operating funds into community development financial institutions and minority depository institutions. Beyond simply investing dollars, Blend wants to give voices of color their own agency in the financial process.
Some of these efforts will require legislative action, as Blend has also worked to challenge discriminatory policies and practices that have long been in play. This includes reviewing the underwriting process, where ongoing bias results in Black applicants being rejected for mortgages and refinancing at higher rates than white Americans.
Blend wants to completely revamp that process, which is why it encourages lending partners to invest in a verified ecosystem to help bridge the gap that many aspiring Black homeowners are falling into. “We support reimagining traditional underwriting practices and will continue to work with our customers, partners, policymakers and other industry stakeholders to encourage broader adoption of these improved practices,” says Ulysses.
Finally, Blend has supported congressional funding to community-based financial organizations for such technology upgrades and has made its voice heard in the fight against predatory lending practices that create additional challenges and roadblocks. Blend has also joined the Global Innovators Community, a World Economic Forum-led collective of financial institutions and fintechs from across the globe.
For Blend, the motto remains “One team, one mission” as the fintech leader works to deliver a truly inclusive platform for all. Learn more about its mission and how you can join in here.