Filene to Explain Innovative Incubator Project During Monday Webinar

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Learn all about Filene Research Institute’s new Accessible Financial Services Incubator at a special webinar on Monday, Sept. 16, from noon to 1 p.m.

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One in five U.S. households lack access to affordable financial services, but a new project now being launched at the Filene Research Institute hopes to change that with the help of innovative credit unions willing to share ideas and test new products.

The Accessible Financial Services Incubator, funded by a 30-month, $700,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, will help mold developing products into financial innovations that benefit low- and moderate-income consumers in a profitable and sustainable way. Filene will explain the details of the project in a webinar on Monday, Sept. 16, from noon to 1 p.m.

“Mainstream financial institutions consistently fail to improve access for vulnerable persons to affordable credit and other essential financial products,” says George Hofheimer, Filene’s chief research and innovation officer. “Consequently, alternative financial-services providers have ample opportunity to exploit under-banked individuals” through the use of non-bank money orders and check-cashing services, payday loans, pawn shops, and other predatory products.

The Incubator project is calling on credit unions to submit potential innovations for consideration; to volunteer to test potential products; and to serve on an advisory panel to ensure the viability of the selection, testing, and marketing of product ideas.

Hofheimer says Filene will test those ideas in its “lab,” manufacture products and packaging in its “factory,” and then distribute products through in-person and open-source online marketing. Participating credit unions won’t receive grant money if their ideas are selected; instead, Filene will provide technical resources to test-market products in at least five credit unions with at least 1,000 consumers over an 18-month period starting in November, Hofheimer says.

The goal: to find truly innovative products that can be adopted by large, mainstream financial institutions in 24-36 months.

“I would like to see our Northwest credit unions be part of this opportunity,” says Denise Gabel, who helped create the Incubator project at Filene before joining the Northwest Credit Union Association as its chief operating officer. “If there is strong interest from our region, we’ll do a follow-up call and pull our resources together. Imagine what we can accomplish—together.”


Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,

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