October 16, 2023

Unlocking financial freedom with Esusu's VP of Product

In an exclusive conversation with Plaid, Ruchika Gupta Truitt, VP of Product, discusses how Esusu uses spending history insights provided by Plaid Transactions to unlock financial freedom for traditionally underserved communities across America.

More than 45 million Americans—that’s one in every ten adults—are deemed either credit unserved or credit underserved. For them, access to things like student loans and home mortgages has long remained out of reach, creating a vicious cycle of financial instability and immobility. Yet many of these Americans are making regular monthly payments to cover the most costly component of their financial commitment: their rent.

Founded in 2018, Esusu was built to create equitable financial access for all Americans, regardless of their background, zip code, or financial identity. At Threads 2023, we sat down with the company’s VP of Product, Ruchika Gupta Truitt, to discuss how Esusu uses Plaid to help everyday people improve or establish their credit rating simply by paying their rent on time, as well as provide rent relief for those experiencing financial shock.

Plaid: Can you tell us about Esusu’s mission? 

Ruchika: Our mission is to dismantle barriers to housing for working families. We have a vision that data can help us bridge the racial wealth gap in America. Today, there are 45 million Americans who are credit invisible, and that impacts people's everyday lives. It impacts their ability to get a car loan, a student loan, or potentially access to homeownership through a mortgage. So we really want to focus on that particular problem, which disproportionately impacts black and brown Americans in this country. 

To address that, we offer a suite of products and services focused on reporting rental payment history to credit bureaus. A lot of people don't realize that, simply by carrying out the biggest payment they usually make every single month, they can actually impact their credit score or establish it for the first time. 

What are the common misconceptions about building a credit score?

Ruchika: One of the biggest misconceptions is that people need to take on more debt in order to build their credit histories. At Esusu, we're more focused on helping people do the things they're already doing in their everyday lives, like paying rent on time, and using that to help them build their credit scores. This, in turn, enables them to access financial products or services that might help them in the future.

How do you tailor your products and services at Esusu to the communities you serve?

Ruchika: It's really important to us to be able to offer this service to any of the renters in the properties that we partner with. And so with rent reporting, it's available to anyone in that particular property. We also offer a rent relief program for people who might be experiencing financial shock. It’s an interest-free and penalty-free loan they can pay back over time at their own choosing. Anyone can access the program because we really believe that, if you're in a time of need, you should be able to access resources to become financially stable.

How do you measure impact? 

Ruchika: We're really focused on measuring impact and using our data and insights to show that people are actually making improvements. Today we've impacted over 1 million renters in all 50 states. We also help renters see the impact to their own credit score. We're building out a platform where residents can go in and see the effect that making on-time rental payments has had on their credit score. We then offer them access to other resources and educational materials so that they can start to think about other ways to improve their score in addition to paying their rent on time.

When it comes to financial inclusion, what do you see next for the future?

Ruchika: For Esusu, I see an incredible opportunity to build off of what we've established so far, helping people in their financial journey and supporting them in their goals for their future. We plan to build off of this foundation by providing trusted resources to residents and renters, offering them access to products and services they might not have gotten otherwise, and eventually building towards helping individual renters establish homeownership if they so choose.

There's a lot of opportunity for us to use the data we've been gathering to help lenders and institutions see that there’s not just one way to establish somebody's credit score or prove they’re credit worthy. There are all these other data points that are valid in determining if we should lend to somebody or not.

These simple actions are making a huge improvement in people's everyday lives. We've heard lots of stories about individual renters who've been able to establish a credit score for the very first time and then go on to access a car loan or even a home mortgage after renting for many years. Hearing stories like that is what motivates us to keep doing what we're doing.