*The banking structure in the Unites States is decades upon decades old. As a system, it’s designed as much for business profits as it is for storing the nation’s cash. Those profits are partly derived by various fees from customers such as overdrafts, ATM usage, and upcharges on interest rates based on a single late payment. People with less money in the system somehow end up paying even higher fees. However, as a fresh alternative, Fair, a multilingual Neobank and financial services platform, is set to revolutionize the industry. This new fintech banking startup aims to reduce the racial wealth and opportunity gaps that exist.
By naming award-winning communications veteran and multicultural engagement strategist, Toni Harrison as its Chief Marketing Officer, Fair introduces a trailblazing African American female as their new C-Suite executive. Harrison is the perfect fit for a company seeking to introduce innovative solutions to an age-old system. Her appointment is not only a boon for Fair, it’s a testament to those now challenging the entire tech industry, where only 2% of executives are Black, and women and are least likely to hold senior or executive level positions compared to their male counterparts.
Fair enters as a maverick to the financial market after engendering $20 million dollars—notably with a 90% African American investor base—in under 40 days. Harrison explains:
“We intentionally did not accept any funding from large banks or venture capital groups because we knew that would give us limitations. That’s the beautiful thing about being a startup is that you have a blank canvas and you get to say, well, what do I want to do? What works? What’s going to make the difference? And that’s where the magic happens.”
Their anticipated launch will offer a welcomed relief to those looking for banking cost breaks. Fair prides themselves on offering ethical, digital banking “to help you keep more of your hard-earned money.” Their other motto says it all—People over Profit. By putting the consumer’s needs first, they empower their customers to gain financial freedom via an unlimited access membership fee. Not unlike the models that companies like Costco or Sam’s Club has established—one fee as a member eliminates the need for micro-charges that, in the end, add up.
Consequently, under the existing banking model, Black and Latinx consumers pay twice the amount in banking fees than white Americans, according to a study held by Bankrate. Fair intends to upend such inequitable banking practices with its own model. Their ethical banking, lending, investment, and even retirement services enable customers to profit themselves, if not by just pocketing more savings. With offers like zero-interest, equity-based loans and free account-to-account international money transfers; it’s an appealing prospect. Additional benefits, in part, include:
access to 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs with zero fees, high-yield dividend savings accounts that pay up to 2% annually, and up to 2-day early access to direct deposit funds. As well, Fair is committed to donating 2.5% of their profit to racial economic initiatives and refugee causes.
CEO and Fair Founder, Khalid Parekh states, “Fintech is a powerful tool that must be utilized to fuel positive social change, which is why we started Fair… It demands a marketing approach just as disruptive and innovative as our offerings. Toni is the fearless leader to take on this challenge because she has the unconventional wisdom and dynamic thinking to launch Fair in the marketplace and change the industry for the better.”
Harrison’s position continues a track record of success as a powerhouse leader in business. As founder of Etched Communication, which until her move to Fair, served as the public relations and crisis management practice for Ten35; she brings a cutting edge to the finance world. The daughter of pioneering Harlem Globetrotter Tex Harrison, and the granddaughter of a leading Texas civil rights activist, she comes from a family built on a legacy of dedication and community support. Her skills at leading total-market, multicultural strategies for global consumer brands such as McDonald’s, Polaris, and Pepsi will be greatly utilized in closing racial wealth and opportunity gaps at Fair.
“We are currently at the intersection of skyrocketing growth in online banking, a growing racial wealth divide and a lack of representation in the boardrooms that have the power to make a difference. Fair is designed, in part, to fill this void, and I am honored to help lead the charge,” says Harrison.
Even without a background in banking, Harrison sees her foundation as a plus in her new position stating …
“As a marketer and someone in communication, it was like, I don’t need a banking or finance background. Because that’s not what we’re trying to be. Right now, the system’s just not built to be equitable. I looked at the data of what black people are going through. We paid five times the amount of banking fees. We need to be humans and realize that no one is getting ahead. We’re trying to provide a solution.”
Toni’s commitment to community service rivals her professional dedication. She is an active member of The Links, Inc.. the Junior League of Houston, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is on the board of directors for Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Houston), previously served on Forbes Young Entrepreneur Council and with Fortune’s Most Powerful Women-Next Generation Summit since 2017.
The timing couldn’t be better for a change in banking—just as the rest of the problematic areas involving racial equality and advancement are being addressed around the world. Generational acceptance of traditional modes is being challenged—especially regarding the wealth gap.
“We have to get our arms around that. But it’s not going to come from following a traditional banking model that’s made for profit. Our centennials and our GenZ; they are a more ethical group by nature. Studies show it doesn’t matter which brand their mom or dad used. For them it’s ‘Is this an ethical brand? How do they practice? Do they know me as a consumer? That helps compliment what makes this an ideal time for Fair, because not only are we changing the practices that can lead to more opportunity, and clearly we see that equity even in finance is needed, but it’s also a time where younger generations are going to pay more attention to ethics and social causes across the board.”
This radical approach to what has become economically commonplace for bank consumers isn’t expected to grow without some reeducation. States Harrison:
“Out the gate, there’s an awareness education process because when you look at the financial literacy of most Americans, it’s abysmal.”
Fair’s mission is a global impacting movement, with their efforts in the international community including donating 2.5% of its profits to support refugee missions globally.
“Some of the things that we are trying to do is find ways to work with our partners like the United Nations Refugee Center, as we have this brand new group coming into America who know nothing about our finance practices—and they’re different all over the world. As an immigrant, sending money home once you get a paycheck means you stand in line at MoneyGram to cash it. Then you go stand in line at Western union to send some money back home. Now you’ve paid what 20% in fees combined. The ability to send money overseas without having to pay a fee, that’s, what’s going to be attractive to them and necessary too. And I think the important thing that we must all realize, especially as we look to equity and finance, is that what our communities are experiencing is different. What the black community is experiencing is different than, say the Latin community etc. You will see us rolling up the sleeves and being very active in these communities.”
Harrison’s mission goes beyond providing better banking means, it’s about overall financial literacy among communities that have hitherto been underserved economically.
“We are working with a few organizations on how we’re actually going circulate the dollars specifically within those communities to create more wealth opportunities. It paves the way to be educated. It paves the way for rainy day funds to enjoy things you like in life like travel. It’s important for all of us to understand not only how to manage what we have, but how to potentially make it grow for us, or at least find opportunities for growth. My personal philosophy is it’s not about me, it’s not about you—it’s about all of us and how this works together. I draw from my community because that’s who we’re here to serve.”