b&b192 eSusu: the Lending Circle App: community based saving and lending
Many cultures in Africa, South America and Asia have community lending systems: people group together with others they trust, each member contributes some money, and then each person has a turn to use that money to pay for larger things, like pay for school or even a house. eSusu is an app version of this community lending that Jeph Acheampong and Samir Goel have created, with an eye towards convenience, to replace the old paper-notebook-and-cash systems. Their goal is to create an easy lending system for people who can’t get low-interest loans from banks, especially immigrants and people of color who our financial system disproportionately fails to serve.
Find them at esusu.org or in the app store (search eSusu).
Music featured in this episode:
Photo by Niels Steeman
Samir Goel: eSusu is basically a digital version of the rotational savings clubs that Pamela mentioned earlier. What happens is really simple. There’s this concept that’s really common in Africa, South American and Asia where people form groups of people they trust, they put their money together, and they take turns withdrawing from that pot, usually for big ticket items. So say sending a kid to school, a travel trip, those kind of bigger, more important life items, and what we’ve done at eSusu is take that system and digitize it.
Samir Goel: The way that finance works in America is just broken at an incredibly fundamental level.
Samir Goel: Right now we talk about the American Dream and whether or not that still exists, and I think we can tie so much of that back to personal finance. Like, people just can’t make ends meet, they can’t find consistent sources of income, and this is one way where people can really hedge against that. And, in particular, this really impacts immigrants, because when you come to this country, you don’t have a system, you’re starting from ground zero, and you’re looking for something that helps you stay attached to your culture. And that’s exactly where these fit….it’s a way for them to stay tapped into their communities and it’s just familiar in a time when everything else is unfamiliar.
Samir Goel: [It works because:] you can’t show up for Christmas owing everyone at the table $1,000.
Samir Goel: Our target user is people who are already doing this, which combines 2 demographics: that’s immigrants, for one, and then kinda communities of color, because right now the financial system is not built for those communities… 57% of America right now is considered financially unhealthy.
Samir Goel: This is an amazing system because people use it for things that matter…if you talk about what you wanna do with that money then you’re more likely actually use it to create actual social mobility.
Samir Goel: Part of our long-term road map is what we started terming Global Credit Score, because right now our demographic is immigrants, and when you move here you start from ground zero…and it’s a system that makes it difficult to have mobility in our current financial climate, and unnecessarily penalizes immigrants in particular…if you have money then you have money and you can work around it, but if you don’t, that’s when this really hurts you.
Samir Goel: The way that our institutions work…it puts the power in the hands of the institutions, and a system like this puts more power back in the hands of the people and their direct communities.