Portify: Filling the Financial Services Gap for Gig Economy Workers

The FinTech startup provides interest-free financing, emergency credit and financial planning services for those with "flexible" jobs.

12.12.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash
Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Workers in the gig economy—a employment system composed of short-term contracts, freelance assignments and often-unpredictable paychecks—are increasing in number throughout the world. Over 35 percent of the US population works in the gig economy—a figure that’s estimated to grow to 43 percent—and gig workers in the UK have more than doubled in the last three years to 4.7 million.

However, although much of the population works in the gig economy at least part time, many of these workers are left out of typical financial institutions.

“Even though these individuals can substantiate earnings through tax returns, the lack of steady payments through an employer doesn’t fit well with existing account opening and risk assessment systems,” explained an article in Payments Journal. “This can make getting credit, refinancing a home, or opening other accounts difficult.”

London-based Portify is one of the latest FinTech startups to solve this problem for flexible workers, independent contractors, gig workers, freelancers, tradespeople and others outside the fixed employment system.

“Being credit invisible is a big pain point for modern workers,” Portify co-founder and CEO Sho Sugihara told TechCrunch. “Even if you have an above national average income from modern working and work 80 hour weeks, you can really struggle to get basic personal loans, let alone a mortgage, just because you’re not in full time employment and don’t fulfil the tick boxes set out by incumbent institutions. Our users have repeatedly asked for our help in solving this problem.”

Sugihara explained that the company helps flexible workers better their financial health in the short, medium and long-term. After downloading the app, users can work towards controlling “immediate income volatility,” establishing a daily budget and even receiving financial support—up to £250 in interest-free financing.

The platform helps workers manage their cash flow, budget for taxes and recurring expenses and gain insights into their current financial health and status. Once users connect their bank account to the app, available for both iOS and Android, Portify also sets them up to receive emergency credit at select stores to buy essential products, if needed. With its low balance protection feature, the app warns workers before their account becomes too low, avoiding late payment fees.

Portify is currently working with credit bureaus to increase users’ credit scores and offer larger personal loans for “micro-business use.”

“Many modern workers are essentially tiny businesses/sole traders and face issues that any SME would face, like fluctuating earnings and turnover,” Sugihara said. “While there are many products out there serving cash flow issues for large SMEs, our modern worker segment is extremely underserved. They fall somewhere between a consumer and business in the eyes of incumbent financial institutions who don’t really know how best to serve them. We see a big opportunity there, and are going after it.”

Founded in 2017, Portify received £1.3 million in seed funding last year and recently raised £7 million in Series A funding in a round led by Redalpine with participation from Kindred, and Entrepreneur First. The funds will be used for the company’s credit building and personal loan services.

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