My interest in behavior piqued when I was interning at the House of Representatives as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Scholar. We had a visit from the Treasurer of the United States, Rosa Rios. She mentioned that Hispanic mortgage applicants were denied loans at twice the rate of non-Hispanic white applicants. This stuck with me after the session since my family lost our house when I was a teenager. It was difficult, but my family pulled through. I immediately discovered that it wasn’t our lack of ability to pay back mortgages, but the misunderstanding of our cash-based lifestyle, that kept us from owning homes. This experience ultimately drove me to understand my goal, to understand and provide solutions for the underserved through technology.
After attending Consensus 2015 in NYC, I returned home intrigued with the realization that Bitcoin can solve some of my community’s cash-based problems. In order to start, we need to better identify financial management behavior among Hispanics. There’s a general mistrust of financial institutions, an information gap in services, and a high desire to invest, yet a low investment rate. Of all minorities, Hispanics hold the highest percentage of business ownership. Most of my family members are small business owners. Most of them also function on a cash-centered life-style which leaves many unbanked or underbanked. As a consequence, these types of consumers are left out of traditional credit scoring models handicapping their businesses and home ownership. First hand, I see the growing need for digital currency comprehension and culturally appropriate digital currency applications, but there is a serious lack of behavioral understanding.
My community is Hispanic and most are immigrants or first-generation Americans like myself. As the daughter of migrant workers, I grew up with little encouragement to interact with technology more advanced than the television since it was not seen as relevant or affordable. Technology was for a specific demographic, and that wasn’t us. For many raised with a similar background, it’s blatant that one can’t introduce Bitcoin, explain the benefits and its potential, and expect everyone to jump on the train. Similar to the dramatic increase in technology adoption that can be attributed to the youth, social media, and smartphone availability, there will have to be a movement that takes advantage of smartphones in order for digital currencies to be adopted successfully.
I find that most highly technical people are not keen on social initiatives whose goal it is to spread the skills of technology to lower classes and minorities. It’s not because it does not rank highly in their agenda, because we all stand to benefit from wider technology adoption, but the know-how to reach minorities is simply not present in a conducive manner. Why? Because of the minuscule percentage of minorities present in the tech arena to translate needs and build solutions around those needs. In my community, there’s a trust for smartphones, a trust for social media, and a desire for better money management and investment. If this can be harnessed in the innovative way I know it can be, businesses and communities stand to benefit enormously. Digital currency is here to equalize communities in a completely groundbreaking manner which I intend to harness.
I’m particularly excited about building a product that combines mobile, social, and Bitcoin by taking older, trusted forms of Hispanic money management and giving it a twist.
Wish me luck!