Anthemis Insights
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Anthemis Insights

Why We Invested: First Boulevard

The next-generation of Black Americans is ready to capitalize on digital banking’s power to build their wealth. The missing ingredient — a modern financial institution designed to meet their needs. When it comes to financial services, Black Americans of all ages have long been underrepresented and often underserved as a result.

The percentage of African American employees at many of the country’s largest banks is in the single digits. What’s more, some of the most well-known institutions — Bank of America, Citigroup, and J.P. Morgan Chase — actually witnessed the percentage of Black employees decline between 2012 and 2016.

The lack of diversity in the financial service industry extends beyond bank employees to the professionals charged with helping consumers build wealth. More than 80% of the country’s 550,000 personal finance advisors are white. Just under 7% are Black. There’s a straight line connecting this lack of representation to a lack of access to people, products, and expertise that helps black consumers preserve and build wealth. The persistence of the racial wealth gap reveals the consequences.

Amidst this pressing need for more and better financial services for Black Americans, Gen Z and Millennials are highly interested in personal finance. And they’re not waiting around for traditional banks to provide the answers. Instead, they look online for guidance. Finfluencers of color, like the Budgetnista (aka Tiffany Aliche), provide a prime example. Tiffany has nearly half a million Instagram followers, co-hosts a podcast called Brown Ambition, and has written a soon-to-be-published book on personal finance. TikTok is also exploding with personal finance experts. This trend is just getting started, and there’s no turning back: Consider that Gen Zers grew up online and, on average, begin researching personal finance at the age of 13.

These trends are rapidly converging, highlighting the need for personalized financial service products and guidance for underrepresented communities. That’s why we’re more than excited to announce our investment in First Boulevard — a digitally native neobank focused on building generational wealth for the Black community.

First Boulevard seamlessly connects all the dots mentioned above with digital-first products for the Black community. The company recently announced the debut of the First Boulevard Visa Debit card, which includes features such as early access to wages and a Cash Back for Buying Black rewards program. First Boulevard is answering the next generation’s demand for financial guidance with educational resources and budgeting tools to help cultivate financial wellness. The company is placing a special focus on services and products that support women. The fact that three out of four Black mothers are breadwinners for their families, and Black women are burdened with the most student debt of any US demographic underscores the need.

First Boulevard will also be the first bank to pilot Visa’s new suite of crypto APIs. The APIs allow customers to purchase and trade digital assets, giving Black consumers access to cryptocurrencies as another way to build wealth. The company’s go-to-market strategy reflects similar innovative thinking. First Boulevard plans specifically to specifically target Gen Z through partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and black-owned businesses. It’s a smart move, given that Gen Z accounts for more than half of the Black population in the U.S. and represents collective spending power of $500 billion annually.

With its digital-first approach, focus on the Black community, and diverse founding team, First Boulevard proved an ideal fit for our Female Innovators Lab by Barclays and Anthemis. The Lab identifies and invests in female entrepreneurial talent tackling problems within the financial services ecosystem. Co-founders Asya Bradley and Donald Hawkins have deep experience in digital banking, track records of building disruptive fintech solutions, and commitment to championing underrepresented markets including consumers of color and women.

First Boulevard’s team reflects the company’s mission of elevating Black consumers and other underrepresented groups. Seventy-five percent of the company’s employees are Black, 56% are female, 18 % are LGBTQ and 81% are minorities. By investing in First Boulevard, we hope to accelerate the progress of this female co-founded neobank that’s working to create a new future of banking for Black Americans.

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Katie Palencsar

Renaissance woman. Founder. Investor. Early Stage Builder @anthemis