Structural barriers in our global financial system still breed racial, gender, ethnic and geographic inequity. With new technology promising a variety of solutions, we have an opportunity to break down the pillars of systemic bias and foster a more inclusive economy.

AIR is reaching for this goal. We are helping Minority Depository Institutions develop digital modernization tools to serve communities of color. We are engaging with partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and central banks on economic empowerment initiatives to expand digital financial services for women around the world. We are highlighting female talent throughout the financial services sector. And we are promoting responsible AI-based underwriting and regulatory tools to reduce bias.

Michael Wiegand with Jo Ann Barefoot on the Barefoot Innovation Podcast

PODCAST • How to Include Everyone: The Gates Foundation’s Michael Wiegand

Michael talks about the global evolution of financial inclusion and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s ongoing efforts. Learn about digital financial inclusion, consumer protection, digital public infrastructure, and barriers to fair finance.

PODCAST • Delicia Hand, Cleve Mesidor on Rethinking Consumer Protection Paradigm

The question of how to expand access and ensure fairness for people of color deals with finding the right balance of regulation, technology and traditional finance. Two leaders on this issue speak with Jo Ann about finding the best answers.

INITIATIVE • AIR Initiative to Create Digital Transformation Road Map for MDIs

The MDI ConnectTech initiative helps participating Minority Depository Institutions assess their technology capability, identify digital offerings to benefit their customers, and establish a road map to implement third-party digital solutions.

WHITE PAPER • AIR Coauthors Paper on MDI Digital Modernization

The article, released with the National Bankers Association and Visa Economic Empowerment Institute, lays out a case for using a shared-technology model to help Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) enhance digital capability and product offerings.

PODCAST • The Reserve Bank of India’s Path to Financial Inclusion

Rajesh Bansal is head of India’s Reserve Bank Innovation Hub, which along with AIR hosted the Swanari TechSprint looking at ways to expand financial services access for women. He speaks with Jo Ann about the country’s pioneering innovation strategy.

BLOG • Power of empowerment: Swanari TechSprint Takeaways

AIR was a partner with India’s Reserve Bank Innovation Hub on a tech competition and ideas forum exploring digital financial services solutions for women’s economic advancement.

TECHSPRINT • AIR, U.K. Regulator Team Up on Women’s Empowerment TechSprint

The Alliance for Innovative Regulation and Financial Conduct Authority partnered on a transatlantic competition and conference examining ways to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic on women.

VIDEO • MDI Innovate: A Purposeful Journey into Digitization

What if Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) vanished by 2050? Imagine the impact on communities where local businesses struggle without tailored financial support. This is not just fiction; it’s a possible future without MDIs.

PODCAST • Fully Fair Lending: NFHA CEO Lisa Rice

Discrimination in the credit markets is a persistent problem. Lisa Rice, head of the National Fair Housing Alliance, says we can solve it if we understand the role of structured, hidden bias, and use new technology to root it out.

PODCAST • Saving Minority Depository Institutions: Nicole Elam and Robert James

Elam and James, who lead the national trade association representing MDIs, come on the show to discuss how these specialized companies are struggling in the face of technological change, competition from larger banks and other forces.

PODCAST • Cleve Mesidor on Diversifying the Tech Sector

Jo Ann talks with the founder of the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain for the South by Southwest conference. Cleve shares insights about the lack of diversity at technology firms and what to do about it.

VIDEO • The Future of Minority
Depository Institutions: MDI ConnectTech

This in-person event in Washington, D.C. was designed to bring together a diverse community to tackle what’s at stake for bank and credit union MDIs, explore the technological challenges facing these institutions, and to chart a path for how MDIs can thrive in the digital age.

WHITE PAPER • Harvard Papers on Financial Inclusion

Fifty years of U.S. regulation aimed at promoting financial inclusion and consumer fairness has largely failed. In these papers, AIR CEO Jo Ann Barefoot reports on her two years as a Harvard senior fellow, arguing that new technology can lead to better results.

Digital Identity

ARTICLE • Advancing Digital Identity: Building Essential Infrastructure

In March 2024, AIR partnered with the Aspen Institute to convene two roundtables with a cross-section of digital identity experts. This brief summarizes the dialogue and next steps, and extends an invitation to engage with this work.

PODCAST • The Mojaloop Foundation’s Drive for an Interoperable Financial System

The foundation’s leaders, Paula Hunter and Lesley-Ann Vaughan, speak with Jo Ann about their work to expand financial inclusion through open-source software with interoperability as a central component. The word mojaloop means “one” in Swahili.

PODCAST • How Minority-Backed Institutions Can Stay Competitive in Digital Age

In this special episode, Jo Ann speaks with three innovators working to help Minority Depository Institutions modernize their technology to continue serving communities of color.

NEWS • AIR Hosts Key Stakeholders at U.S. Capitol to Weigh Future of MDIs

AIR gathered financial policy leaders, bank and credit union representatives, technology innovators and other stakeholders at the U.S. Capitol to advance an ambitious initiative to enable MDIs to adopt the digital tools that they need to improve financial services offerings for communities of color.

BLOG • Companies Excelling at Diversity Also Lead on Innovation

Nick Cook, AIR’s head of strategy, outlines years of studies showing how organizations that favor diverse thinking, staff heterogeneity and inclusiveness formulate and execute the best new ideas.

PODCAST • ‘There Were Zero Plane Crashes Before We Had Planes’: Kyle Hauptman

Kyle Hauptman, vice chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, comes on the show to discuss how his agency encourages credit unions to take steps to stay relevant in the digital era.

PODCAST • Presidential Assistant Elizabeth Kelly: White House Policy On AI

Kelly serves on the White House National Economic Council and helped lead the executive order issued in 2023 on AI. She discusses what the order requires, the challenges it aims to address and the upside opportunity of the technology.

IN THE NEWS • American Banker Publishes Story on AIR’s MDI Initiative

The Alliance for Innovative Regulation’s effort to highlight technology challenges facing Minority Depository Institutions was the subject of an in-depth article in the industry news publication.

PODCAST • Rep. Gregory Meeks on Technology’s Power to Expand Financial Inclusion

The New York Democrat and House Financial Services Committee member has embraced digital financial solutions as a way to strengthen low-income communities. He sits down with Jo Ann to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act, bipartisanship in Congress and more.

PODCAST • Activism and Algorithms: Making Lending Fairer

Lisa Rice, CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, is a civil rights activist. Kareem Saleh is a tech guy who founded the startup FairPlay, which uses AI analytics. They come from different worlds, but have teamed up to combat unfair lending.

PODCAST • Jason Cave on FHFA’s Goal to Modernize Mortgage Process With New Tech

Following the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Velocity TechSprint, the official leading the agency’s conservatorship and fintech strategies joins Jo Ann to discuss all the ways the mortgage market is ripe for a technology overhaul.

ARTICLE • How MDIs Are Focusing on Technology Needs to Drive Their Mission

Like all small financial providers, Minority Depository Institutions face a challenging environment staying competitive in the digital era. Through a program developed by AIR, the National Bankers Association and Inclusiv, some MDIs are upping their digital game.

NEWS • AIR Partners with Visa to Help Minority Banks and Credit Unions Close Tech Gap

The MDI Digital Modernization initiative seeks to strengthen competitiveness and customer access at Minority Depository Institutions to narrow the racial wealth gap.

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