Meet Daylight — the first digital banking platform for the LGBT+ community An interview with Rob Curtis and Billie Simmons

Rob Curtis, CEO, Daylight

In November, Marqeta announced our partnership with upcoming challenger bank, Daylight, which is the first digital banking platform specifically designed for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. Marqeta is Daylight’s issuer/processor and program manager for its prepaid card offering, and we are also partnering to support a key feature that’s inclusive to trans and non-binary customers by issuing cards with their preferred name, even if they don’t match the customer’s legal identity.

Daylight is led by LGBT+ co-founders, CEO Rob Curtis, and Billie Simmons, chief of staff. Marqeta’s Melissa Stoller, who is part of our customer success team and also plays a lead role in our Marqeta Cares social impact work, interviewed Daylight’s co-founders to better understand their mission, what sets Daylight apart from other digital banks, and future initiatives. 

Melissa Stoller: What does Daylight do, and how did you get started?

Rob Curtis, Daylight CEO: Daylight is the first and only digital banking platform designed specifically for and by the LGBT+ community. Daylight’s card, app, and digital services prepare members for the future faster by helping them navigate the finance system, generate smarter habits, and connect with a community working together to build the life they deserve without compromise. 

Billie Simmons, chief of staff, Daylight

Billie Simmons, Daylight chief of staff: Rob and I met onstage at an Out in Tech event hosted by Google. We were both working separately on our own startups (Rob was working on a startup that matched LGBT+ people with LGBT+ therapists, I was working on a startup that helped trans and non-binary people access safe services). Through our venture studio, Vacuumlabs, we were both brought in to work on this idea of an LGBT+ banking platform, and Daylight was born.

MS: What drives both of your passion for supporting the LGBT+ community? How does Daylight serve this community differently than any other bank?

BS: We are both members of the LGBT+ community, and both of us have lived the pain points Daylight seeks to solve. In fact, the whole Daylight team is made up of queer geeks solving our own problems. 

RC: Banks have had a long time and a structural advantage that they could have used to treat LGBT+ people seriously and yet, the data shows that they continue to offer us lower approval rates, higher interest, and more fees than non-LGBT+ people with similar financial backgrounds. 

We are the first generation of LGBT+ people who can live openly. The legal and social landscape has evolved such that LGBT+ people have increasing financial influence with $1 trillion of spending power each year and yet, simply being LGBT+ has added costs. 

LGBT+ people start their financial lives further behind, struggle to catch up, (around half of us do not maintain a savings habit), and by the time they are older, around 50% of LGBT+ people worry about having enough money to live on during retirement (40% higher than non-LGBT+ people). 

BS: Daylight is tackling these problems head-on by offering best-in-class educational resources and financial coaching from LGBT+ people, as well as a community of like-minded individuals to support you on your way.

MS: What was Daylight looking for in a payments issuer/processor when you approached Marqeta?

RC: Marqeta has a reputation for world-class service. Their global modern issuing platform enables companies like Daylight to tailor unique financial products to the individual needs of specific groups. 

MS: Marqeta and Daylight both have a passion for — and company values around — inclusivity and enriching their communities. Why was it important for Daylight to work with a mission/value aligned company?

BS: It is of the utmost importance that any company we partner with holds inclusivity high in their values and activities as a company. Part of the reason we’re thrilled to be working with Marqeta was how receptive they were to feedback about the ways in which they as a company could continue to be inclusive to LGBT+ people. We see all our external partnerships as an opportunity to make the industry more inclusive to our community, which includes taking a look at a company’s own processes and seeing how they’re inadvertently excluding LGBT+ people.

A great example of this is that Marqeta recently removed the gender field from their dashboard following our feedback that often collecting gender is unnecessary and excludes non-binary people.

MS: What does it mean for Daylight to be a purpose-driven company?

RC: Focusing on creating real social change means that we are creating products that have longevity and create lasting emotional connections with the community that we’re building for. We’re able to help that community, as well as create a sustainable business model — meaning we can continue to do important work for years to come.

MS: Why is it important that financial services and products be designed to meet the needs of the LGBT+ community?

RC: LGBT+ people aren’t preparing for their futures fast enough. This is for a whole host of factors: 

1: It costs more to be LGBT+. We face high one-off costs such as having children ($130k for surrogacy) and gender transition (up to $100k) that put us on the back foot.

  1. We struggle to play catch-up. We face lower levels of financial literacy and lower salaries. Nearly 50% (vs. 38%) of LGBT+ people struggle to maintain regular savings. 
  1. These issues have a cumulative effect on LGBT+ wealth creation. Half of older LGBT+ people worry about having sufficient funds — this is 40% higher than non-LGBT+.

And when you dive down into other intersections, it’s even harder for LGBT+ people. Twenty percent of LGBT+ people of color are unbanked completely.

BS: Furthermore, systemic anti-LGBT+ bias in the financial services industry is embedded in places like Know Your Customer (KYC) automation, lending risk models, and hard-coded gender fields that only account for male and female gender identities, leaving trans and non-binary people excluded.

MS: How is Daylight pioneering the future of banking?

RC: We’re the community bank of the future. The personal banking vertical is incredibly saturated in the U.S. The industry is in flux: Established banks and credit card companies are struggling to maintain consumer loyalty during the post-pandemic economy where expenses and purchases continue to be prioritized during a time when many people are out of work. The American LGBT+ community also continues to face an uphill battle maintaining an equal seat at the table, as equal rights have systematically been depleted by the government and health care support has dwindled in a for-profit system, especially for citizens who identify as transgender. There’s little consistency in financial products that authentically represent and support the community. LGBT+ people are not preparing for the future fast enough.

BS: By rethinking the onboarding process and partnering with organizations that are open to being inclusive to trans and non-binary people, we’re able to provide a service that offers features like names on cards that don’t have to match your legal identity. It’s a quick and easy change that you can do on the app, vs. going into a branch with a notarized legal document and outing yourself to a stranger.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the respective respondents and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Marqeta.

**Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.