Dallas Entrepreneur’s Loan Application Takes the hassle of Friend and Family Loans
Growing up in social housing, Dennis Cail noticed at the age of 7 that his neighborhood in Monroe, Louisiana, had no banks.
But there were plenty of payday lenders, check-cashing stores, and car and furniture rental companies.
It was Cail’s first experience with predatory lenders in low income areas and it became a lasting memory that would provide a spark years later for his Dallas-based friends and family loan application.
As a young adult, Cail joined the Navy and saw the same types of places around his base – all urging consumers to spend money on items they couldn’t afford. It seemed to him that he corresponded to the target demographic profile.
“It has become clear that these predatory payday lenders are targeting low-income communities, veterans and minorities, all three of which I am a part of,” Cail said. “I decided that if and when I had the time and resources, this would be an issue that I would try to make an impact on.”
After leaving the Navy, Cail received his MBA in Finance from Southern Methodist University and spent years working at IBM Global Services and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and even founded his first company, Uptown Financial Group.
But his desire to create a fairer loan option stuck with him. When his sister and other family members needed to borrow money to get through tough financial times, he had limited success in getting his money back.
In 2018, Cail and co-founder Michael Seay transformed this experience into Zirtue, a relationship-based lending platform that simplifies and formalizes loans between friends and family.
Zirtue does not grant a loan. It is a platform that enables peer-to-peer borrowing and lending.
The platform allows people to lend a “financial lifeline” to friends or loved ones who are struggling to switch from one bill to another. Thanks to Zirtue, informal pledges become automated repayments and structured agreements, meaning lenders get their money back on time and take the awkwardness and uncertainty out of the process.
For lenders like travel business owner Noah Houghton, the automated platform has saved relationships that would have “otherwise been abandoned.”
“I’m more open to taking loan applications from people I know than before, due to some non-repayments, I was a lot less open,” Houghton said. “I just hated the weirdness between relationships when that was happening.”
Houghton said he was now able to help friends and family in need while taking the guesswork out of loans.
More than 184 billion dollars are loaned each year between friends and family across the country, according to at the Federal Reserve Bank.
“On the other side, there is a person – a human being who has to be able to keep the lights on or pay a medical bill in order to be able to get the health care service he needs,” said Cail. “It’s really a relational business and a human enterprise.”
When people use Zirtue to borrow from friends and family, the app’s partner creditors get paid directly, which means phones stay on and daily spending continues.
Because Zirtue has no user fees, the company benefits from its partnerships with creditors like AT&T, UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Toyota.
Users can lend and borrow from $ 20 to $ 10,000.
By the end of 2021, Zirtue expects its revenue to increase by 120%. Last year was Zirtue’s first year of official operation, so the company did not have any prior financial details to report. Last year, Zirtue gained nearly 200,000 registered users.
Many low-income communities are made up of hard-working people looking for a helping hand, not help, Cail said.
“You can’t blame people for the situations they were born into,” Cail said. “What you can do is look for ways to create fair and equitable opportunities for people to earn a living wage or to create a lifestyle where fewer people are part of the working poor population.”
Since the company’s launch in 2018, Zirtue has attracted more than $ 3.5 million in seed capital from investors such as Capital Factory, Google, Morgan Stanley and Northwest Mutual Insurance.
The company has eight full-time employees in Dallas and 12 offshore developers in Eastern Europe. Cail is actively looking to hire Vice Presidents of Growth and Engineering. He expects the team to double in size in the next three months.
“Our big goal is to prove that friends and family are the greatest bank in the world,” Cail said. “Our mission is to foster financial inclusion in North America and abroad.”
Zirtue operates nationwide, with users in all states, and plans to expand into Latin America later this year.
“We make a point of helping the unbanked and underbanked access the capital and resources they don’t have today,” said Cail. “We focus on goals, partnerships and profit. This is how we will achieve the goals we have set for ourselves and for the company. “