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Neobank Better Financial aims to cushion financial shocks for gig workers

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A new challenger bank is using embedded insurance and payroll-linked loans to help gig workers face unexpected financial shocks.

Better Financial, which launched this month, is the latest digital platform aiming to solve the needs of a highly specific demographic  gig workers that don’t have employer-provided health insurance coverage and face daily income volatility.

The startup, whose checking account is backed by Blue Ridge Bank and fintech Unit, uses account holders’ current payroll data and past payroll history to underwrite low-interest emergency loans.

Better Financial is hoping to appeal to the six in 10 Americans who have experienced some form of financial shock in their life and are looking for a solution in the event of any future repeats, said Saumik Tiwari, one of the startup’s co-founders who experienced his own financial shock after suffering a rugby injury in college. 

The experience spurred Saumik and his brother and co-founder Kaushik, who is Better Financial’s CEO, to explore such shocks and their impact on low-income Americans.

Other challenger banks offer their version of financial safety nets for customers who run out of funds — often in the form of an overdraft protection feature. But Kaushik Tiwari said the startup is not targeting serial over-drafters with its product.

“Our goal is to go for the average-income American who’s not overdrafting every week, who doesn’t have an emergency fund built and who wants the ability to lean on something in case there is an event that happens that they didn’t anticipate,” Kaushik Tiwari said.

Better Financial has a group insurance plan with insurance company AIG, which underwrites the startup’s accident insurance product. As long as customers maintain a $500 minimum direct deposit and spend at least $250 on their debit card each month, they are part of the group policy. 

While the product is designed for the average consumer as well as the gig or freelance worker, Better Financial only has a consumer debit card. But a business debit card is in the works, Kaushik Tiwari said.

“Right now our consumer debit card doesn’t earn that much interchange, so it’s helpful for us to focus on the business use case,” Kaushik Tiwari said. “The broader umbrella that we’re targeting is banking that fights financial shocks, because financial shocks impact a wider variety of Americans than just gig workers. But I think gig workers [are] definitely one primary focus where we want to build a business debit card and focus on them as one segment.”

The majority of Better’s connected payrolls are gig-platform accounts, he said. “If you’re doing any sort of service job that requires physical work or a retail job, the chances of an injury or accident happening are higher. Those are definitely areas where we’re seeing more demand.”

The startup has 66 customers on the platform, with a goal to reach 10,000 within a year. The company raised a pre-seed round from Slow Ventures last summer. 

“Our primary vision is to basically build up to become the Costco of finance,” Kaushik Tiwari said. “We charge a membership fee to defray the costs of fraud and card issuing and the monthly maintenance costs that we have to pay to the bank, but our goal is to keep adding more products.”

The platform has sickness insurance in the works — a product users can add for an extra monthly fee  and is also exploring discounted virtual primary care. 

“We’re basically trying to build a light version of an insurance plan,” he said.

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Workers

Uber, Lyft drivers strike to win labor rights for US gig workers, Auto News, ET Auto

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Labor organizers want to roll back a 2020 California ballot measure that cemented gig workers as independent contractors after their drive firms mounted a $200-million campaign against a state law aimed at forcing them to treat workers as employees.
Labor organizers want to roll back a 2020 California ballot measure that cemented gig workers as independent contractors after their drive firms mounted a $200-million campaign against a state law aimed at forcing them to treat workers as employees.

Los Angeles: Drivers for Uber and Lyft have staged strikes in cities across the United States, urging Congress to grant gig workers the right to band together and push for better wages and working conditions.

Wednesday’s protests – from California to Maryland – reveal an increasingly fractious dispute over how gig workers should be regarded by law and what rights they deserve at work.

The question is under debate in Congress as lawmakers wrangle over whether the self-employed can bargain collectively as part of a wider Protect the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act).

“We want a seat at the table,” said driver Alvaro Bolainez, part of a 50-strong protest at Los Angeles airport.

Bolainez urged his fellow drivers to turn off their apps and lay down their keys, saying his pay was consistently and unilaterally cut by the rich ride-sharing companies he serves.

“It’s like a rollercoaster – one week I can make $1,000, the next I’ll make $400 working the same number of hours,” he said.

A spokesperson for Lyft said in an emailed statement that the company is “fighting to expand benefits and protections for drivers in a way that allows them to keep their independence. This is the type of forward-looking approach our drivers want.”

Uber referred questions to the Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Coalition, a pro-industry group, which said most driver earnings were on the rise in California.

It also sent remarks from drivers who oppose the strike.

“I treat it like it’s a business and I drive smart,” said 65-year-old Jim Pyatt, a part-time driver in California. “I never make less than $35 an hour and I love the flexibility.”

But at the L.A. rally, drivers told a very different story – recalling days when earnings lagged the minimum wage, of idling roadside for hours or paying out of pocket for vehicle repairs.

Labor organizers want to roll back a 2020 California ballot measure that cemented gig workers as independent contractors after their drive firms mounted a $200-million campaign against a state law aimed at forcing them to treat workers as employees.

A Reuters calculation found the 2020 measure had saved Uber and Lyft $392 million each in costs such as payroll taxes and worker compensation.

“It created a second-class status for all app-based workers in California,” said Nicole Moore, a rally organizer who urged the Senate to pass the PRO act when it votes on a multi-trillion dollar spending package under negotiation.

The law would, among other measures, reclassify many independent contractors as employees for the purpose of collective bargaining, though not for wage laws and benefits.

Veena Dubal, an employment law professor and critic of gig company practice, said with debate fomenting over worker rights, the West Coast was a microcosm of a far bigger problem.

“Although the action is centered in California, it’s really workers over the country participating because they know California is the epicenter of the business model, but the companies are trying to export it elsewhere,” she said.

In recent months, gig firms have courted unions and state officials in an effort to cement their workers’ status as independent contractors in all U.S. states so as to cut costs.

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Under the proposal outlined in a regulatory filing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the penalty would be reduced to $150,000, but Uber would pay $9 million to support a state victims’ fund and help create industry-wide safety and reporting standards.



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Gig workers rally in Fresno in support of Right to Organize Act

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FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Rallies were held across California earlier this week in support of the Right to Organize Act that is currently stalled in the State Legislature.

One of the demonstrations was held in downtown Fresno at city hall Wednesday afternoon.

A nationwide strike is underway among rideshare, and delivery drivers, including DoorDash and Uber Eats.

Organizers said they’re pushing for the right to organize and form a union to gain more benefits.

Proposition 22 was passed in November of last year, which made rideshare drivers and other gig-workers independent contractors.

However, rally participants said that’s not exactly how it works.

“Independent contractors don’t get treated like second-class workers. They’re not independent contractors if they don’t have the right to negotiate the terms of their contract,” said volunteer organizer Hashid Kasama.

A spokesperson for the Protect App-based Drivers and Services Coalition said that since Prop 22 passed Uber Driver’s earnings are up in California’s two largest markets.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.



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Micromax Next Product, In 2B Will Be Aimed at Gig Workers

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Micromax IN 2B

It seems that Micromax is gearing up to launch a new handset in India, as is evident by a teaser released by the company on Twitter, that reveals the launch date of July 30 for the same.

Going by the teaser released by Micromax, the upcoming handset will offer smooth performance, long battery life with the focus group being Gig workers. The teaser does not reveal the name of the handset, but we can expect it to be released as the Micromax IN 2B in India, as the device was spotted on Geekbench in June.

What do We Know About the Micromax In 2B,2C?

At that time, the benchmark listing had revealed the main specifications of the device ahead of the launch. This device will be succeeding the Micromax In 1B smartphone.

According to a report by The Mobile Indian earlier this week, Micromax seems to be planning to launch the Micromax In 2B in India by the end of July.

Now, the teaser of the arrival of the new handset on July 30th has further provided us with solidified proof of a new offering from the company. As mentioned earlier, the Micromax 1N 2B visited Geekbench last month. Benchmark details wise, the Micromax In 2B will come with a Unisoc T610 octa-core SoC. The device is also expected to opt for 4GB of RAM. Software-wise it should run Android 11 out of the box.

The Geekbench test revealed that the Micromax In 2B managed to score 350 points in the single-core test and 1204 points in the multicore test. To recall, the Micromax 1N 1B was launched by Micromax earlier in 2020 in November. The device opted for a 6.52-inch IPS LCD display with HD+ resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio.

Performance-wise the handset was powered by the octa-core Helio G35 SoC. Optics wise the 1N 1B used a dual-camera setup with a 13MP primary sensor and a 2MP secondary camera. The phone used a massive 5000mAh battery with 10W charging.

The report also mentions that the company could release the Micromax In 2C in India next month, with a Geekbench listing confirming the same. The listing revealed that the In 2C could ship with an Unisoc T610 processor with 4GB of RAM. The phone could run Android 11 out of the box.



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