Giving Credit Where It’s Due: A Conversation with Esusu’s Wemimo Abbey
In a world where financial barriers still persist, leading many into inequality and financial instability, one company is stepping up to make a change. Esusu, co-founded by Wemimo Abbey, is revolutionizing the way credit is approached, especially for marginalized communities. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Wemimo to discuss his background, his inspiration behind Esusu, the platform’s groundbreaking services, and their partnership with Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. His compelling story, from growing up in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria to launching initiatives that bridge the racial wealth gap, will inspire anyone passionate about innovation and social justice. Dive into this enlightening conversation to discover more about the impact Esusu is making and how it’s helping reshape the future of financial health for millions.
About wemimo abbey
Q1: Tell us about yourself. Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I grew up in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria. I lost my dad at the age of two and was raised by my mother and two very feisty sisters. One thing my mother fundamentally believed in was the importance of education. That’s what inspired us to come to America. During that transition, something important happened – my mother and I did not have a credit score, and we were turned away by the bank, forced to borrow money from a predatory lender at over 400 percent interest. Inspired by that experience, my co-founder Samir Goel and I started Esusu on the premise that where you come from, the color of your skin, and your financial identity should never determine where you end up in life.
Q2: Tell us about your professional background.
I started my career at Goldman Sachs and PwC before becoming a founder focused on building companies with impact. My first experience as a founder was with a data analytics company designed to gather machine-readable data on NGOs operating in Africa. After that, I founded Clean Water for Everyone, a global social venture providing affordable access to clean water for 250,000+ people in six countries.
Q3: What is Esusu?
Esusu is the leading financial technology platform leveraging data solutions like rent reporting to build credit, improve financial health, and empower residents and property owners while working to bridge the racial wealth gap and dismantle barriers to housing for working families. Esusu brings on-time rent reporting, rent relief assistance, and credit education to millions of renters, especially those in marginalized communities who have often been denied equitable housing access.
Q4: What was the inspiration behind creating Esusu?
Samir and I both experienced marginalization by the credit system firsthand. Like many of the millions of Americans without a credit score, we watched our families struggle with the financial and cultural burdens of immigration and wanted to create something that could give people like us a fighting chance. We zeroed in on the concept of rent reporting because, historically, credit reports haven’t included rent payments since rent isn’t considered debt; the only time rent payments would show up on your credit report is for late or missing payments. In 2010 rental payments became eligible for inclusion on credit reports, but relied on landlords reporting on-time payments to the bureaus. Our goal at Esusu is to give credit where credit is due by using on-time payments to help residents build credit and show lenders that they are responsible consumers without having to take on additional debt.
Q5: How does Esusu partner with property owners and developers? Tell us how the platform works.
Esusu works with a wide range of organizations within the real estate space. Our clients and partners represent affordable housing, multifamily, single-family, and luxury properties, as well as state and federal agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Esusu’s rent reporting services are available to tenants in the properties we work with so that their on-time payments count toward their credit scores. Our online platform will link the software used by property managers to the three national credit bureaus, automatically reporting on-time rent payments. This automated approach allows for seamless integration into our customer’s existing property management system, lightening the workload for landlords and making it easier for them to implement rent reporting at scale.
Q6: When residents enroll in Esusu, what are some of the short-term and long-term benefits they can expect?
The most immediate benefit we see is, of course, a credit score increase. We generally find that a resident’s credit score can improve by 30-50 points when on-time rent payments are factored in. Our past partnerships have shown that residents with an existing score saw an average increase of 41 points over a 12-month rolling period, and the average credit score established for residents previously credit invisible reached 667. In the long-term, what that means for a renter is that they may be able to access a job, a better apartment, a loan with lower interest rates, or even a home they wouldn’t have been approved for before.
Q7: Are there any similar platforms on the market? If so, what do you feel sets Esusu apart?
We’re seeing rent reporting gain adoption across the country and, with that, comes more players in the space. What sets Esusu apart is that we partner directly with lenders, owners, and operators so that the cost never falls on the renter. Thanks to collaborations with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, incentives and discounted pricing are available to help offset the cost and make our services more widely available. Additionally, Esusu will never report late or missed rent payments. Instead, we automatically unenroll residents who can’t pay on time so that their current economic situation does not impact their long-term future.
Q8: From your perspective, how do you feel about the partnership between Esusu and Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners?
We are honored to partner with Jair Lynch to address housing inequality and create wealth-building opportunities for those traditionally excluded from the financial system. One of Esusu’s founding principles is doing well by doing good. Jair Lynch shares that goal and has proven its commitment to social responsibility and sustainable economic development. They are a perfect partner for us as we continue to expand rent reporting to affordable housing residents.
Q9: What is one success story or testimonial, either from property owners who have implemented Esusu or from residents who have experienced the benefits, that really sticks out to you or that is particularly impactful to you?
One renter lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic and couldn’t afford rent. After going through Esusu’s diligence checks, he got approved for Esusu’s 0% rent stability program that covered his current overdue balance, plus additional funds to cover a few more months of rent. Less than six months later, he was back on his feet, landing a full-time job paying six figures and making on-time rent payments.
Q10: What future developments or features can we expect from Esusu?
We are currently working on a number of exciting consumer-facing products that take a holistic approach to solving the racial wealth gap and provide residents with the services they need for overall financial well-being. Last year, Esusu launched our Renter’s Marketplace, offering educational tools as well as products from our partners. Most recently, we worked with Sure to expand the Marketplace, now providing renters insurance to the tens of millions of Americans who are shut out of the financial system. We also partnered with Caribou to help eligible consumers refinance their existing auto loans. More partnerships are in the pipeline, and we’re excited to continue offering useful resources that contribute to holistic renter wellbeing. We are also launching our Resident Portal, a one-stop shop for our managed Residents to see their credit score, credit score history and all the free resources that Esusu has to offer.
A heartfelt thank you is extended to Wemimo Abbey and the entire team at Esusu for sharing their inspiring journey and innovative approach to financial empowerment. Their dedication to bridging the racial wealth gap and commitment to enhancing the financial stability of marginalized communities is truly commendable. The partnership with Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners highlights a shared vision of equality and opportunity, a collaborative effort that holds the promise of a more inclusive financial future. The insights provided by Wemimo during this interview not only enlighten but inspire, reminding us all of the positive change that can be achieved when passion meets purpose.
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