CREATE AN "UNBIASED FINTECH" FUTURE!
"Don't limit your challenges; challenge your limits." Jerry Dunn
Coming to a new country can be challenging. Getting accustomed to a whole new world can be overwhelming and confusing. Every newcomer arriving in Canada faces some challenges settling in and assimilating into the country. Getting yourself familiarized with the local financial system may not be the top priority, which in turn may backfire a newcomer with a low credit score, higher interest rates, and the list of consequences may go on.
The majority of us or our families have been through that path at some point in our lives. We should embrace "the" newcomer within ourselves, support them, show them that they're welcomed here and are not alone. This idea inspired us to create a mobile app - "a simple solution" to support all newcomers in achieving their targets through an educational experience in their financial journey. Our vision is to build newcomers focused Canadian financial system that offers equal opportunities for financial literacy and stability. Our mission is to be a facilitator of newcomers' success in achieving high credit scores and becoming financially literate through the "FinAssist" app, designed to eliminate Algorithmic Bias towards immigrants with limited or no credit history.
WHAT THE APP DOES
- The gamified platform will allow newcomers to create profiles and track financial milestones in maintaining a healthy credit score
- It provides strategic and tactical recommendations for maintaining a healthy credit score based on routine transactional data and removing algorithm bias
- It creates awareness by alerting users if a transaction would negatively impact the credit score
HOW WE BUILT THE APP
- API: using Visual Studio 2019 we created a web API application to connect our app with the database
- Database: SQL Server DB using Azure public server
- Front-End: React-Native
- Tools: GitHub (as versioning tool), Visual Studio Code (as code Editor)
CHALLENGES WE RAN INTO
To address the issue of bias within Fintech, we wanted to build a team of women participants who can coherently relate to the theme as they were newcomers themselves. It took the Team Lead more than one month to build a competent team of 8 skilled members through several client interviews and exchanging over 100 emails in the recruitment and communication process.
Our newly launched team had plenty of ideas, and shortlisting an idea most suitable for the Hackathon theme was one of the initial challenges we ran into. It then took us two weeks to decide upon a 'Champion idea' with a defined contemporary 'Problem Statement' that is also viable.
The search for tech-savvy teammates
Once we agreed to work on our chosen idea, we had only three weeks left until the Project submission. We eagerly started working on all components to provide a superior solution model using feasible technology. Although midway to our project, we stumbled upon realizing that we only have junior Front End Developers and need a Full Stack Developer to help us do the prime coding. The Team lead and team members reached out to several developers and sent out numerous messages to Hackathon participant developers at Devpost to join our team, but there was no helpful response. Finally, ACCES Employment reached out to some of their Newcomer clients who had experience in Full Stack Development, thus urging two new Full Stack Developers to join our team for the last two remaining weeks. They worked hard and helped us build the first phase of the Application in a short period.
The execution phase consisted of various complex stages like:
- Defining the user's problems, pain points and stating the value proposition
- Designing User Interface and creating User Flows
- Technology Development and Testing
- Work-life - hackathon balance
Our Team idea that got shaped by collaborative planning, documenting, design and development to its final execution stage had to match the Hackathon's final submission's time constraints. Immense Brainstorming sessions were in play to trigger realistic, attainable Monetization plans, which could be marketed to potential Banks. Deciding on what business model to pursue was challenging as well. We had to brainstorm and develop revenue streams, whether to sell it to a single bank or to partner up with all, whether to be Free for newcomers or have a Subscription service.
- Integration of the Application with the Banking system posed a challenge due to multiple complexities involving possible Compliance and data privacy issues that would come up due to customer data exposure.
- The pair of Developers from specific technical fields of expertise confronted and resolved their gaps, wherein came a great learning curve. They were quick to polish their knowledge on React Native and Firebase databases to work together candidly.
- There were distinct time constraints to work towards the backend development features of the Prototype
- Upskilling knowledge on the Application framework, React Native, brought about a big challenge in setting up the environment, especially aligning work with time limitations.
Hands-on participation with the team for the first time and on short notice and Developers' wide range of skill-sets made it challenging to choose a Technology infrastructure for the Application initially. Once decided on the target objective, they effectively developed the Demo Application using modern frameworks.
THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS WE ARE PROUD OF
Successful team formation
We were able to form a proud team of talented women professionals from Fintech, including our energetic Team lead from ACCES Employment and an encouraging mentor from Finastra, who carried a strong understanding of the domain and were cognizant of the existing biases in Fintech.
The pool of ideas
Each team member gave brilliant idea pitches which can themselves be converted into a full-fledged project.
The project drove us out of our comfort zone, collaborating seamlessly, managing time effectively, and treading new pathways, only focusing on Deliverables.
The final finished Prototype triumphantly made its glorious way to prompt submission.
The project submission
The overall experience was a huge learning curve for each team member to take away for life, as it was a first-time effort for our entire team and Team Lead to participate in the Hackathon. We managed to meet all expectations of participation and successfully submitted the project before the deadline of April 4th, 2021!
Technology and design achievements
Local banks lent their commendable support in providing the much-needed critique on our idea's feasibility as a Value-adding and Marketable concept, which in turn, further helped fine-tune our Solution – "FinAssist."
We also conducted a Need Assessment Survey for the benefit of Idea Validation.
Out of the 65 people who participated in the survey:
- Nearly 50% didn't know the strategies to build and maintain a good Credit score
- 50% were not well informed about the benefits and risks involved in using credit cards in Canada
- Close to 65% were not very confident about their knowledge and significance of building a good credit score and its undebatable impacts
- Above 80% showed genuine interest in an Application like 'FinAssist' to help them learn, track and improve their Credit score
Prototype Evolution Model
- Completed the Front-end development of the Web application and used it for creating the demo to showcase the Application functionality
- Created the Database that primarily holds the Quiz participants' Username & Email address, which can be quite an effective tool, even for those newcomers without a current bank account or PAD registration, and is at Level one. They get direct accessibility to affiliated banks' welcome packages via user-friendly Links and Guides to further equitable accomplishments.
- Developed a Web service that is responsible for connecting the project database with the Application
- Developed the Back-end for the Signup, Login, and enhanced quiz functionalities making it a fun App experience and a personalized user profile
Successfully interviewed 6 Newcomers about their credit card usage experience for our final video presentation
WHAT WE LEARNED
- Teamwork and team building; optimizing each team member's strengths
- Strategic thinking, receiving and sharing constructive feedback
- Better articulation of User Stories, User Flow, and presentation
- Monetization and promotion of an Idea
- Address and impact assessment of 'Bias in Fintech'
- Creation of a Powerful Statement to Wow our Audience by the 'X Factor
- Tried new technology, React Native and Ionic
- Problem-solving by creating focus groups assessing user needs
WHAT'S NEXT FOR FINASSIST
- Integrate Fusion Fabric cloud APIs such as Client Information, Alerts, Credits, etc., provided on the Developer Portal and use them to test our App.
- Adding the Credit Education functionality to be used as a reference for the newcomers to understand the importance of credit score and how our App supports them.
- Allowing the user to enter the credit card(s).
- Connecting the App with the banks' Credit card Payment API to be able to retrieve the credit card information, balance, limits.
- Implementing the Notification system targeted to maintain user's healthy credit score
- Target roll-out for Women in Shelter Homes/Refugees
- Expanding across North America Region