• Insider's Banker of the Week series appears in our weekday newsletter, 10 Things on Wall Street.
  • This week we're highlighting Mia Alexander, a vice president with neobank Dave.
  • Alexander manages customer success, and has been focused on connecting underrepresented communities with digital-banking needs, cash advances, and job opportunities.

For roughly two decades, Mia Alexander has embarked on one of banking's more unforgiving, and sometimes head-scratching, efforts — determining solutions for large swathes of the country who are severely underbanked.

Alexander is a vice president of customer success at Dave, the neobank known for providing cash advances to its customers. Before joining Dave in 2019, she worked at Green Dot Corporation, another digital bank, for almost 17 years. She connects underrepresented communities with banking services, helps them source jobs, and concocts ways to better manage their finances.

It's a role that's taken on greater significance since the onset of the pandemic. The number of unemployed within the Hispanic community increased 4.7% in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter a year earlier, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment in the Black community increased 4.5%, while unemployed white people swelled 2.8%. The coronavirus temporarily shuttered service industries, which employ many minorities, who did not have jobs that enabled them to work from home.

For Alexander, not only was it a moment of reflection, but it was an opportunity to leverage the demand for upstart fintech companies and push a suite of products for communities that have struggled to get attention from big banks.

"What led me to Dave was not around replacing traditional banks. It's not just traditional banking solutions, but filling that gap when people need extra cash. And when they're ready to set goals, it's important to be a kind of ambassador for them," Alexander told Insider.

Dave's main focus is cash advances, something Alexander said "disrupted the concept of a credit bureau" because it strips out factors like income or assets, yet still provides cash lifelines to underbanked portions of society.

Alexander has also helped facilitate Side Hustle, a service that connects Dave's customers with jobs to supplement their primary income.

One of the first steps she wanted to determine was how to help underserved communities without taking "additional fees out of the community's pocket." The neobank also leveraged the gig economy as a means to get more income streams to Dave's customers.

A typical Dave user may deliver UberEats at night alongside a 9-5 gig throughout the week. Side Hustle links customers with over three million job applications, Alexander said.

"It's not just about waiving fees or reducing overdraft. Are we there to offer them jobs that are relevant and easy to access?"

It's no easy feat, however, and the competition is fierce. Traditional lenders have cottoned on to the value of diversifying their outreach, and most importantly, digital banking is top priority for lenders of all sizes, be it burgeoning fintechs or household names with gargantuan balance sheets.

Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase has snapped up a bevy of fintechs to bolster its own retail-banking products, while Goldman Sachs' consumer-lending arm Marcus offers customers some of the most lucrative savings accounts on Main Street.

Despite the competition, Alexander is focused on "highlighting the voice of the customer" and leveling the financial playing field.

It can be a thankless task. Banks, at the end of the day, exist to be profitable, and that is challenging when your core customer brings in less money. But for Alexander, therein lies the problem.

"Traditional banking has not really fed this community effectively. We've gone through COVID, civil rights movements. So I'm a heavy participant in ensuring our technology is feeding what the problem spaces are," she said.

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