Building personalized banking for the LGBTQ+ community

Daylight, the first LGBTQ+ challenger bank in the US, brought to life with Vacuumlabs

Daylight is the first US neobank to identify and meet the unique financial needs of the queer community. Filling a gap in the market for the underbanked LGBTQ+ community, the digital banking platform helps users improve their financial wellbeing and align spending habits with their values.

Ca 1,000 community members participate in product development

Vacuumlabs team worked on product development from day 1 of collaboration

delivery bandwidth

How Daylight was born

As a founder and fintech entrepreneur, Vacuumlabs CEO Matej Ftáčnik saw firsthand how tech-based banking solutions made people’s lives easier. As a member and active supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, he also witnessed how financial tools on the mass market didn’t always align with the unique challenges faced by the queer community. Determined to address these gaps in the industry, Ftáčnik came up with a concept for Daylight, and in collaboration with other LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs CEO Rob Curtis, COO Billie Simmons, and CTO Paul Barnes-Hoggett, brought the product to life—a digital bank that offers a more equitable financial life for the LGBTQ+ community and their chosen families.

“If you exist outside of the majority, either in your sexuality, your gender or race, the traditional banking rules start to work against you,” Barnes-Hoggett emphasizes. “An LGBTQ+ person has unique financial goals and challenges.” Although they may want to save up for a mortgage, a queer person often has other expenses to account for first, including saving for transition-related medical procedures or hormone therapies. Having children may mean hiring a surrogate—this is a challenge for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States who face lower salaries, lower financial literacy and higher fees.

Daylight was born because the timing is right for financial institutions to remedy the inequities that we see in the financial and social fabric of our country.

Paul Barnes-Hoggett

Co-Founder & CTO of Daylight

Launching the beta version in just four months

A team of six Vacuumlabs engineers were brought on to develop Daylight’s system architecture and deliver a working prototype. “Working with Vacuumlabs lets me easily access talent with specific skills. I don’t need to do much vetting as I can trust that they know what they’re doing,” says Barnes-Hoggett.

With speed-to-market also in mind, Vacuumlabs used React Native mobile application framework for intuitive development. Building a product for the US market with an international engineering team has also helped get things done faster, with a sufficient workday overlap to collaborate in real-time. Vacuumlabs engineers in Europe can help solve issues before the start of the day in the US. A combination of efficient development tools and swift collaboration let the team launch Daylight’s beta to family and friends in December 2020—after just four months of development.

Hundreds of iOS and Android users have since been onboarded to the platform. “Working with end-users is integral to the product design process as our goal is to create a product that truly resonates with the community. Hundreds of early adopters are part of our Daylight Builders community, with 20% depositing all or a part of their paycheck with us,” details Barnes-Hoggett. “Customers provide feedback, review designs and test product prototypes. We take their feedback very seriously and have updated some features multiple times to ensure we deliver the most value with everything we offer.”

Functionalities addressing important gaps in the industry.

Key integrations

Google Pay and Apple Pay

Marqeta: 3rd party service for accounts, cards, internal transfers

Astra: 3rd party provider for external transfers

A key feature of the platform is its queer-friendly onboarding and identity validation. Daylight is one of the first banking platform that lets people put their chosen name on their card regardless of what’s printed on their ID. Traditionally, the financial system has not allowed this distinction. Yet, it makes a huge difference for everyone whose represented identity is not necessarily the same as their legal name.

Working alongside leading card issuer Marqeta, Vacuumlabs designed and developed a smart customer sign up process for Daylight. Throughout digital ID verification, the platform seamlessly abides by the US regulatory requirements and ensures security. As users complete registration, a few additional inputs enable them to order bank cards with their preferred name.

Users have the opportunity to reach out to LGBTQ+ financial coaches to work through unique challenges and share aspirations, or they can discuss issues in the community space. “The community space is an area where users can talk about finances and offer advice for other matters. These could include how to refer to yourself in a job interview or handle a mortgage application as an LGBTQ+ couple,” details Barnes-Hoggett. “Daylight is designed to provide access to non-judgmental money management support. It is something that our peers have not experienced with traditional banks.”

The technology we have in our hands today enables us to offer personalized banking to underserved communities. Ten years ago, such services were rare.

Paul Barnes-Hoggett

Co-Founder & CTO of Daylight

Insights for more informed buying decisions

People can access information about merchants’ LGBTQ+ policies and practices with the “Walk the Walk” feature. Integrated with Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s benchmarking tool, the platform lets users explore merchant policies, practices and benefits in relation to the LGBTQ+ community. Users can find information about businesses’ political donations, support of parties or legislation, and general acceptance of the queer community. “It’s not our job to pass judgment, but we can give users these insights and empower people to make decisions that align with their values,” says Barnes-Hoggett.

Daylight also offers a reward-based system for shopping with LGBTQ+-allied businesses. It lets users earn cashback for their purchases.

A robust and future-proof infrastructure

Architecture components

AWS infrastructure

ReactNative development tools for iOS and Android

In addition to value-added features, Daylight’s team has ensured its standard digital banking features are on par with leading neobanks. The platform supports Google Pay and Apple Pay, and enables fundamental transactions such as remote deposit capture – which allows customers to scan checks and make bank deposits remotely. Built on AWS cloud infrastructure, the platform inherently benefits from world-class security.

Most recently, the bank extended its General Purpose Reloadable (GPR) banking card infrastructure to Demand Deposit Accounts (DDA). “Daylight’s beta version was initially built using Marqeta and Metabank prepaid offer. But our customers expect the freedom DDA accounts provide, so migrating infrastructure was a prerequisite for the public launch,” explains Barnes-Hoggett.

Looking to the future, Daylight’s team plans to extend their digital banking offer with a mission to eliminate the LGBTQ+ wealth gap. “We will launch the most equitable DDA for the queer community in November, but our ambition is not to stop there. We want to offer high-interest savings account, credit-building products and favorable financing options for the queer community and its unique needs. We’ll be leveraging the Vacuumlabs partnership and the agility its on-demand engineers provide,” concludes Barnes-Hoggett.

Thanks to the lean thinking of the Vacuumlabs team, and their ability to develop products at speed, we can get our products to market very fast to swiftly respond to our customers’ needs.

Paul Barnes-Hoggett

Co-Founder & CTO of Daylight

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