After nearly a year in stealth mode, a new B2B product from Dallas-based Zirtue is officially making its debut.
Today the fintech opened its Alternative Payment Solution to enterprise businesses, offering customers a way to pay bills directly through the Zirtue platform. Businesses can now use Zirtue as a payment option—and doing so, according to Zirtue, will keep consumers out of high-interest debt situations.
Zirtue says the platform is a win-win for both sides of a transaction: Businesses can collect timely payments, while consumers can obtain a loan with low or no interest rates and without their credit scores being impacted.
For those living in underserved communities—or who are simply struggling to pay their bills due to extenuating circumstances—the solutions offers “a new level of convenience,” Dennis Cail, Zirtue’s CEO and co-founder, says. The Alternative Payment Solution gives them a new avenue to lean on friends, family, and loved ones to make payments.
The lender gains confidence that the money borrowed will be used for its intended purpose, increasing the likelihood that they’ll make the loan.
According to the team, loans used to pay bills on the Zirtue platform are “twice as likely to be approved by loved ones, proving the accountability and trust provided through Zirtue’s Alternative Payment Solution.”
Reinventing lending, borrowing, and bill payments
Simplifying the loan process is Zirtue’s bread and butter.
When Cail launched the startup in 2018 with Co-Founder Michael Seay, the duo aimed to take the awkwardness out of lending and borrowing money from friends and family. They call it a “radically different” fintech platform: Zirtue’s game-changing, relationship-based lending app transforms informal promises into structured agreements, automating the repayment process.
When the app was released on Android and iOS in 2020, it marked the first launch of its kind, Cail previously told Dallas Innovates. Unlike common options often used for friend and family lending, like Venmo or PayPal, Zirtue’s peer-to-peer lending platform adds a layer of accountability. Its service enables a more formal deal for both the lender and the borrower.
Rather than taking on debt through a high-interest credit card or an even more onerous payday loan, the platform allows borrowers to give peer lenders a higher level of trust that they will be repaid. For lenders, it’s an alternative to simply giving a friend or family member a loan on a handshake or makeshift contract. Zirtue gives users repayment terms, a digital promissory note, and automatic bank drafts.
Since its launch, the fintech went on to add hundreds of thousands of users, plus a partnership with MasterCard to launch a Zirtue Debit Card for those with little to no bank access.
The technology is now patent-pending.
Cail and his team have made it their mission to encourage transparent and equitable lending options for all people.
“Zirtue exists to drive financial inclusion,” Cail previously said. “The essence of Zirtue is to provide a fair, transparent solution that empowers underserved individuals to change the way they lend, borrow, and bank with friends and family.”
A new solution for corporates
The Alternative Payment Solution has operated quietly with Fortune 500 corporate partners in the energy, medical, and telecommunications industries since earlier this year. It solves two “major pain points,” for those corporate partners, Zirtue says.
On one end, it helps those in need of a financial lifeline to pay their bills. Individuals with past-due accounts can request loans from friends or family members, then pay their bills directly through the Zirtue platform.
On the other end, companies with debt can use the Alternative Payment Solution to better support their customers and provide a more financially inclusive customer experience. Lenders can send their loan directly to Zirtue’s corporate partners.
“We’re working with our corporate partners to reduce collections and support their customer’s essential needs—like keeping their lights on, having internet at home to complete their studies, or paying for necessary medical procedures,” Cail said in a statement. “We’re partnering with companies to open up viable payment options for their customers, which in turn, furthers human dignity and financial freedom, while ultimately creating a better customer experience and supporting our partners’ bottom lines.”
‘Two perfect storms’
The launch is especially timely given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Zirtue notes that more than 80 million Americans have grappled with paying bills during the pandemic, resulting in dire situations. Only 39% of Americans can afford an unexpected expense of $1,000.
Cail says he and his team see “purpose and profit as a virtuous circle to do what is right to help, not hurt an already painful situation.”
The fintech initiated a COVID-19 Relief Program in the pandemic, waiving its monthly subscription fee so users got no-cost access to borrowed funds from friends and family. Cail calls the big challenges of 2020—COVID-19 and racial injustice—the collision of “two perfect storms,” prompting his team to look for ways to be “part of the solution.”
He sees Zirtue’s impact as being profound by helping to “close the wealth gap nationally and abroad.”
Zirtue’s funding journey
To date, Zirtue has raised $6 million in funding and processed more than $10 million in loans on its platform. The company also saw 400% growth in the last fiscal year.
In April, Zirtue received an undisclosed investment from Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, the corporate venture capital fund of industry titan Northwestern Mutual. The funding went toward hiring new talent and adding product offerings.
Northwestern Mutual got involved to help usher in “the future of inclusive financial technologies.” The more than 160-year-old financial services giant said its investment represents a commitment to accelerating financial technology startups that are focused on historically underbanked and underfunded populations.
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