Explore the full 2022 list of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 528 organizations whose efforts are reshaping their businesses, industries, and the broader culture. We’ve selected the firms making the biggest impact with their initiatives across 52 categories, including the most innovative finance, enterprise, and consumer goods companies.
Consumers today can get a loan or pay a bill with just a few taps on their phone. But the digital revolution in personal finance has not necessarily made banking consumer-friendly.
This year’s Most Innovative Companies in Personal Finance are on a mission to help digital tools live up to their promise. They are making financial services more transparent, more inclusive, and more empowering.
Two of this year’s honorees, Public.com and Zoe Financial, are focused on helping people achieve their long-term financial goals, with the support of an educational community or an adviser. Then there’s Voyager Digital, which has brought crypto investing into the mainstream with its USD Coin-based debit card, and Alumni Ventures, which welcomes any accredited investor as a limited partner, or LP, in its popular venture fund.
Another two, Promise and Brigit, aim to help consumers pay down debt. Promise, a Y Combinator graduate, specializes in government debt and makes it easy for people to set up repayment plans for water bills, parking citations, court fees, and other bills and fines. Brigit sets its customers on a path toward better credit through an innovative loan designed for their needs.
Landis, Lower, and Realm are focused on the biggest purchase most people ever make: their home. Landis helps families improve their credit and build their savings in order to qualify for a mortgage. Lower, meanwhile, helps families navigate the home-buying process, from search to close. Realm, meanwhile, helps current homeowners make smart decisions about investing in improvements.
Among neobanks, this year’s honoree is Lili, a digital bank for freelancers. The company’s fast-growing app, which counts 500,000 users, is building tools to help freelancers with expense management, invoicing, taxes, and more. More than half of its users are women.
For designing a female-friendly banking solution for freelancers
Lili is a banking app designed to help freelancers manage and grow their businesses, combining a checking account with a suite of essential business tools (including invoicing software, an expense management feature, and a tax-planning solution). More than half of its 500,000 users are women, setting Lili apart from the male vibe that many banking brands project (see: Dave, Marcus, et al). Premium-tier users pay $4.99 a month for invoicing tools, tax planning, and more.
Lili is No. 41 on this year’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.
For helping citizens clear themselves of government debt
PromisePay is a flexible payment platform that makes it easier to pay off government debt, from traffic tickets to water bills, and avoid consequences like service disruption, or even jail time. At the same time, the company helps government agencies generate payment plans and collect revenue. While traditional installment plans are typically inflexible and have low participation rates, Promise’s more flexible options have generated repayment rates in excess of 90% (industry average is 20% to 50%). As of Q3 2021, Promise utility services have been deployed to support major metro utility companies across the country, helping them to generate millions of dollars in past due debt.
Promise is No. 39 on this year’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.
For demystifying the process of buying a house
Lower is an online mortgage company that uses AI to offer personalized recommendations for the best loans for users. It also doubles as a hub for prospective homeowners to find the solutions they need: savings tools for a down payment, help locating real estate agents, options for financing and refinancing homes, home insurance offerings, and everything in between. The Ohio-based company has helped 100,000 families buy a home and expects to double revenue this year.
For pairing investing with education
The investment app Public is riding the wave of popular interest in investing, but doing so responsibly. Unlike rivals, Public doesn’t make money from payment for order flow. Instead, it uses educational content to engage newbie investors over the long term. At the height of the meme stock frenzy, when Public announced that it would add Safety Labels to stocks like GameStop rather than halt trading, new user sign-ups spiked twentyfold. In February 2021, Public announced it had reached 1 million members.
5. Voyager Digital
For bringing crypto into the mainstream with a USD Coin-based debit card
Just a year ago, Voyager had 100,000 users. Today, it has 2 million. They are choosing Voyager because the crypto investing platform is user-friendly—and has real-world value. Voyager’s newly launched USD Coin-based Mastercard debit card, for example, pays users 9% in annual rewards on their balance, has no annual fees, and lets them spend their crypto at more than 37 million locations worldwide.
For using consumer-friendly loans to help build credit
People with poor credit can find it hard to get back on track. Enter Brigit, a cash-advance and credit-building tool. It takes out a 12-month loan in users’ names and then helps them pay back the money on time. Because credit mix and payment history account for nearly half a person’s credit score, the approach helps users meaningfully move the needle in a way that other solutions cannot.
7. Zoe Financial
For matching investors and financial advisers
Modern families want help with their finances, but they don’t want an adviser who’s incentivized to sell them expensive investment products. Zoe democratizes access to investment advice by matching users with a vetted network of independent advisers and financial planners. In 2021, the company reached $1 billion in investable assets.
For helping homeowners prioritize home improvements
Realm gives homeowners the hard numbers they need to prioritize property improvements. With its detailed zoning database, the online hub provides homeowners free property analysis with insights into the value of their home. Users can tap into the site’s dashboard to create customized plans for how to add value, bringing confidence that that landscaping upgrade or bathroom renovation is actually worth the effort and cost. For as little as $99, users can also get an in-depth report on their home value. Within six months of launching, more than 20,000 homeowners used Realm, which offers analysis of 80 million single-family homes across the country. The company is forecasting that it will reach more than 1 million users in 2022.
9. Alumni Ventures
For turning any accredited investor into a venture LP
Alumni Ventures was the most active venture firm in the U.S. last year. Unlike traditional VC firms, Alumni is happy to welcome any accredited investor into the ranks of its LPs. The approach is making venture-level returns available to a far wider range of investors. The firm has grown an average of 55% per year since launch in 2015, including roughly 75% growth in 2020; Alumni Ventures was named the most active VC in the U.S. in 2020. The company’s Venture Fellow program has graduated 375 people and has so far been ~75% diverse.
For coaching consumers toward homeownership
Landis is a company built for today’s often-frothy housing market on a mission to help more people achieve homeownership. The company creates tailored financial plans that coach clients to mortgage eligibility. For people who have trouble qualifying for a mortgage amid rising real estate prices, Landis makes all-cash offers (on houses priced between $100,000 and $400,000) on clients’ behalf and then rents the home back to the customer, helping them build their credit and qualify for a mortgage. Once ready, the client can buy back the property at a predetermined price, giving people without savings a chance to build wealth through property. In 2021, Landis has worked with more than 10,000 aspiring homeowners.