Mango Financial’s innovative retail banking alternative
Mango Financial, a financial services firm dedicated to serving the unbanked, officially opened its first Mango Store earlier this year. The store, located in Austin, Texas, had been in pilot testing since December 2009.
Mango aims to introduce a greater level of transparency — along with a higher level of service and product integration — to individuals who either don’t qualify for conventional bank services or prefer not to use them, estimated in include around 40 million US households.
Bercy Chen Studio, a design/construction firm, says the keys to the store’s design include the large storefront, covered entry and ATM, self-service kiosks, a clean interior and bright lighting. The firm used the building façade as signage, added sidewalk seating, and used dramatic night lighting to create a retail street presence. The lobby also provides seating, video and refreshments.
Transactions are handled at scattered workstations, eschewing a queue, traditional teller counter, and isolated booths. Mango employees multilingual associates, primarily to aid its Spanish-speaking customers.
Mango plans to open more Austin locations and then expand to every major U.S. city within three years through corporate stores, franchises and retail partnerships.
Chuck Palmer, a customer service experience expert who worked on Mango’s pilot store, said he worked on early concepts under contract with FITCH, an internationally recognized retail design firm.
Palmer says the unbanked have been treated poorly. Mango creates an experience optimized for these people while still allowing the company to earn a healthy profit over time.
“We came to understand the distrust the unbanked have for the financial system, mostly because their experiences have been riddled with inflated fees and prison-like architecture,” Palmer wrote on his blog.
“We found when these consumers felt a company was loyal to them, they stayed loyal to the company,” Palmer said. “We looked at world-class retailers to benchmark the elements that signaled to the consumer that Mango respects them as much as Apple or Starbucks does their customers. We shopped and spent time in the places they did in order to develop the right sense of place.”
“The main idea of the engagement strategy was to encourage Mango customers to ‘Learn, Do, Be,’” Palmer explained.
At the heart of the Mango’s offerings is the Mango MasterCard Prepaid Card. The Mango Card gives Mango Members an easy and affordable way to spend, receive, send and manage funds without a bank account. Loading a paycheck or other funds onto a Mango prepaid debit card not only provides a safe, affordable home for Mango customers’ funds but also access to a range of affordable and advanced products and services, including bill pay and international money transfer, as well as the ability to send money and manage accounts via simple text message.
The reloadable card is free to members and comes loaded with free features, including free activation, free monthly service provided the customer loads $500 per month, free purchase transactions, free online account-to-account and bank transfers, free direct deposit and free customer service. Mango’s combination of flexible reload options, lowest pricing in the market, mobile transfer capability and always-on online account controls make it one of the most accessible and advanced products available for the underserved market today.
Mango Members can choose from a flexible range of options for adding funds to their Mango Accounts. In addition to loading cash at thousands of retailers nationwide, or receiving funds via YAP on their mobile phones from other accountholders, Mango Members can instantly add money to their Accounts each pay period at no charge by enrolling for Direct Deposit. Mango Members can also send money between Accounts online at www.mangomoney.com or transfer money from a bank account to a Mango account at no cost.
Many of the Mango Store’s products and services — prepaid debit cards, check loads, bill pay and domestic and international money transfers — often come from traditional providers with high fees and hidden charges. According to one study, the typical unbanked household in Austin pays between $230 and $918 to cash paychecks over the course of one year. Mango customers may pay as little as $10 for a one-time membership. For instance, Mango Members can “deposit” their checks into debit cards, and they can make international money transfers for $5.