Dallas Entrepreneur’s Loan Application Takes Loan Convenience From Friends and Family
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 loan application for friends and family.
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. He realized that he matched 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 figured if and when I had the time and the resources, this would be an issue 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 more equitable loan option stuck with him. When his sister and other family members needed to borrow money to overcome difficult financial situations, he had only limited success in getting his money back.
In 2018, Cail and his 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 make the loan. It is a platform that allows borrowing and peer-to-peer lending.
The platform allows people to lend a “financial lifeline” to friends or relatives 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 hassle 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 willing to take 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 strangeness between relationships when it happened.”
Houghton said he was now able to help friends and family in need while avoiding the guesswork on loans.
More than $ 184 billion is loaned out to friends and family across the country each year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.
“On the other side, there’s a person – a human who has to be able to keep the lights on or pay a medical bill in order to get the health care they need,” Cail said. “It is truly 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 actual day-to-day spending continues.
Since 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 between $ 20 and $ 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 had no prior financial details to release. 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 a handout, 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 way of life 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 world’s greatest bank,” Cail said. “Our mission is to foster financial inclusion in North America and abroad. “
Zirtue operates nationwide, with users in every state, and plans to expand into Latin America later this year.
“We have a strong focus on helping the unbanked and underbanked to access capital and resources that they don’t have today,” Cail said. “We are focused on purpose, partnerships and profit. This is how we will achieve the goals we have set for ourselves and for the company.