Hoping to foster the next great ideas to promote financial inclusion for underserved consumers, American Express has begun accepting submissions for its Financial Innovation Lab, which provides researchers and practitioners from nonprofit organizations the opportunity to test their ideas on the American Express Serve prepaid account software platform. “We hope the findings from some of these research initiatives will lead to meaningful outcomes for the financially underserved in the U.S., and perhaps globally,” Neal Sample, chief information officer and chief marketing technologist, enterprise growth at American Express, tells Paybefore.
Sample says large companies have the resources to test and develop new products and services, and even startups can find the needed resources to develop their ideas, but academic researchers often do not have the same access. The Financial Innovation Lab enables researchers to work with American Express to test their proposals on American Express Serve customers who opt in to participating in the program. American Express provides funding, technical resources and regulatory insight so participants can experiment safely, Sample says.
Although program participants are able to test their ideas on the Serve platform, it doesn’t mean research submissions must center on the Serve prepaid card. Sample says American Express used “broad strokes” in soliciting submissions by suggesting basic concepts, such as encouraging saving, better budgeting and credit building.
“We’ll probably see a lot of experimentation around the types of products American Express has, and that’s really just the nature of the beast, because if a researcher wants to test an incentive for saving and he wants to do it live, we have Serve and Bluebird customers,” he says. “We’ll likely see some outcomes that potentially will be usable on our platform, but that’s not a requirement for participation, and we’re not putting that type of limitation on the research.”
The program has been designed so researchers have unrestricted rights to their results from the lab experience. Participants can simply publish their findings to educate the industry, or they can license it to any interested company, Sample says. “We think there would be some folks who would stay away if there were strings attached [to the research] and that could really marginalize the [initiative’s] value proposition,” he adds.
American Express is accepting applications through Sept. 26. Submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the lab and how to submit can be found at http://www.ideas42.org/filab.