Dennis Cail frequently lent money to family and friends who never paid him back. Sometimes, he’d ruin Thanksgiving dinner reminding people that they owed him money. He wanted to take the awkwardness out of the process.

In 2019, the Lakewood Hills neighbor launched the mobile app Zirtue to formalize the offline process of lending money between family and friends. The company has processed more than $10 million in loans.

Unlike PayPal or Venmo, borrowers pay back a loan through monthly installments that are auto drafted from their bank accounts. Funds are sent directly to a creditor or corporate entity, so lenders know the money is being used for its intended purpose.

Zirtue sends up to three notifications to borrowers if there are insufficient funds in their account. The lender is copied on the third notification, which usually prompts the borrower to pay up, Cail says. There’s less than a 2 percent default rate among Zirtue users, he says.

“The app is a reminder that this is a relationship rather than just another loan entity,” Cail says.

As the platform grows, Cail plans to use the technology to drive financial inclusion and help people avoid predatory lenders. The company recently released a Zirtue debit card in which borrowed funds are instantly loaded onto the card and can be used by people who don’t have bank accounts.

“In the place I grew up, when people in my neighborhood got paid, they’d go to the liquor store, which was the same as the check cashing place,” Cail says. “The check cashing place would take 30 percent of the check. Those types of places don’t do anything to help the community. We should do all we can to help communities that seem to be in this perpetual vortex.”

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