- Ashley D. Bell and Bernice A. King hope to turn 100,000 renters into homeowners.
- The fintech will be launching this Labor Day, helping its customers show lenders that even if they don’t have the credit score to secure a mortgage, they have the cash flow.
- The fintech is looking to help mainly Black Americans and other people of color who feel cheated by the current lending system that prioritizes good credit when considering mortgage eligibility.
- To help reach their target demographic, Ready Life will sponsor this year’s Denny’s Orange Blossom Classic.
A new digital banking and payment processing platform, Ready Life, led by two Black entrepreneurs, is taking aim at the racial wealth gap by starting a mortgage fintech. Ashley D. Bell and Bernice A. King, respectively the CEO and advisory council chair of Ready Life, are behind the fintech and hope to turn 100,000 renters into homeowners.
The fintech will be launching this Labor Day. It will begin chipping away at the racial wealth and homeownership gaps by helping its customers show lenders that even if they don’t have the credit score to secure a mortgage, they have the cash flow.
Ready Life and Bell are taking a marketing-forward approach to attract the customers they are looking to help — mainly Black Americans and other people of color who feel cheated by the current lending system that prioritizes good credit when considering mortgage eligibility.
“If you have been denied credit for a home, if you feel as though the current system hasn't been built in a way that can be fair to you and your family, then then we're an alternative,” Bell said of Ready Life.
To help reach their target demographic, Ready Life will sponsor this year’s Denny’s Orange Blossom Classic, a four-day celebration of historically Black Colleges and universities culminating in a nationally televised football game between Florida A&M and Jackson State on Sept. 4: one day before its scheduled launch.
“Bernice and I have been leaning into sports and entertainment because these industries make so much money off of the communities that we're trying to serve,” Bell said of the marketing strategy. He added that the sponsorship would get Ready Life’s message about generational wealth “in front of a crowd that understands very intimately the historical disadvantages African Americans have had.”
With Ready Life’s sponsorship of the Labor Day weekend football game this year and follow-up campaigns, Bell said he is hoping Ready Life can turn 100,000 renters into homeowners. He said most customers can expect it will take three to nine months from making their first rent payment through Ready Life to making their first mortgage payment — a timeline that will vary by individual circumstances.
Customers who open an account with Ready Life will get a checking account and associated debit card that they will use to make payments — primarily rent and other housing expenses, but not limited to those.
Ready Life is partnering with another fintech company to provide that functionality: Figure, a company using blockchain technology for loan origination, equity management, private fund services, banking, and payments.
A company spokesperson for Figure said it is Ready Life’s program manager and holds the money transfer licenses used for payments, and Primis Bank is Ready Life’s sponsor bank for its debit cards.
According to American Banker, an ensemble of high-profile Black leaders and fintech founders have gotten behind the project, including Van Jones (TV host and author) and Yolanda Daniel (vice president of finance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago).
Additionally, underwriting technology launched in September by Fannie Mae will also provide technical support for turning Ready Life customers’ rental payments into mortgage underwriting fodder. Desktop Underwriter enables single-family lenders — with permission from mortgage applicants — to identify on-time rent payments in the applicant’s bank statements to deliver a credit assessment.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are rolling out a new credit reporting system that factors rent payments into creditworthiness scores to remove these barriers. Fannie Mae’s plan also focuses on empowering Black renters and homeowners in three key areas: homeownership preparation, buying or renting, and moving into stable environments.
"We're taking into account the personal circumstances of each borrower, not an aggregate average, which is what credit scores are now,” Bell said. “It's more personalized banking.”
“In our country, we have a very acute focus on racial injustice at times, but we leave the economic piece out,” Bell added. “You cannot be in this fight for equality for everyone unless everyone has access to the benefits of being in the greatest country in the world. That begins with the American dream, and everyone needs access to own a home. It shouldn't just be for the top half, which is what our credit system has created.”