A fintech startup from PNC Bank is making strides in improving the payment systems for independent gig workers.
indi, a company formed out of PNC’s internal incubator and fintech lab numo, provides both gig workers and the companies that hire them with more efficient payment tools that also help account for the complex 1099 tax return process. numo is an independent subsidiary of PNC, while indi, by extension has ties to the bank through its development under numo.
Founded in 2019, indi provides workers with a banking account and debit card “that help them understand and save for taxes that they may have while they’re doing this independent work,” said Chris Yates, the general manager for indi, while also “giving them relevant resources and offers that help them get work done or manage their financial independence.” With more people gaining personal income from multiple sources these days, indi is meant to help make finance management across all of those income streams easier.
That focus on the gig economy comes at a time when some countries are passing laws to cement those workers’ rights as employees with access to benefits. Meanwhile, the pandemic has increased the reliance on those working food delivery, transportation, accommodations and the like. And as of last summer, as many as one in three Americans had a side hustle, which typically involves the kind of finance challenges that indi’s system aims to address.
Right now, indi employees around 20 people, Yates said, and the plan is to grow that this year. In the last month, indi’s announced some key company updates, including a new strategic partnership and the launch of a new payment program within its banking system. The startup will be looking to build on that progress as it hires for new roles across engineering, product management, design, sales and marketing.
Also on the agenda for 2022 is increasing industry partnerships like the one indi just announced with Steady, an income optimization platform for independent workers.
“We’re really trying to accelerate those B2B partnerships,” Yates said. “Both with relationships like [the one we have with] Steady or with gig platforms they’re doing work directly [with independent contractors].”
Already that partnership is showing signs of success, he added. This week, one user of indi through Steady provided feedback saying “this has been a big improvement to the their ability to manage money and not have to deal with fees that are typically present in banking products that they might have,” Yates said. “It’s important to give access to folks that are traditionally underbanked or unbanked, where they don’t necessarily have access to a traditional checking account because they can’t meet certain account minimums or pay the fees to have those accounts open or simply can’t get accepted for for certain types of accounts.”
Outside of that business development will also be a focus on internal product development to shorten the timeline between labor and compensation for gig economy workers. One such development is the recent launch of indi’s Early Pay system, which will give its users access to paychecks up to two days early.
Yates shared that indi will also be working with triple — another startup out of numo — to develop “a card-linked offer program that will give really relevant opportunities to get cash-back rewards for the gig worker and independent worker customers,” he said. The idea is to be able to leverage indi’s core platform to integrate some of the benefits of credit card banking systems. “You’ll be able to see on a map where you can get certain offers today, rather than having to kind of negotiate a separate sort of offers application or not know exactly where you can take advantage of that sort of cash back.”
indi, triple and the other companies in numo’s portfolio are part of a burgeoning fintech scene in Pittsburgh that’s fueled largely by the financial expertise of PNC, which has long had headquarters here. But other players like Honeycomb Credit and Pineapple Payments are adding to that innovation, as are digital assets firms like Stronghold Digital Mining. That sector of the tech economy has yet to see the success of robotics, artificial intelligence or life sciences in Pittsburgh, but the growing number of companies innovating in the space paired with a couple of successful exits bodes well for the future fintech industry here.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-