Russell Simmons has spent the past few months rebuilding his company UniRush, LLC following a catastrophic service outage that affected over 130,000 RushCard holders that gave way to a period the business mogul referred to as “one of the most devastating times in his adult life.”
Rather than give into the stress Simmons has been committed to making amends. He literally put his money where his mouth is offering five months of free service to RushCard holders, cutting into a reasonable chunk of profits. Simmons went even further putting aside $25 million to cover a settlement with affected customers which came out to $20.5 million. UniRush will pay $100 – $500 per claim along with $1.5 million in legal fees. You combine this along with their transparency with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s investigation into the outage, and its clear UniRush’s dedicated to doing right by its customers.
In spite of UniRush’s growth and continued resolve to be held accountable the industry refuses to view the financial company as a serious player, something Simmons touched on while speaking with HipHopDX.
“We invented this industry. They should stop calling me a celebrity company. I didn’t brand the company. I invented the entire form of banking. All of what American Express is doing, all of what Green Dot is doing, all of what Netspend is doing, all of what Chase Manhattan is doing—we did first. We invented an industry for underserved community members. We’re not a credit card. We’re a virtual bank. For people saying [negative things] about our service, as part of the competitive service with all the people who joined our industry, the Consumer’s Union—which you know is not something you can pay for—[ranked RushCard] one of their top five companies.”
Simmons’ passion for providing services to underserved communities cannot be denied. He also shared his plans to create a credit agency to help individuals unable to build credit through traditional means, establish a solid credit history.
“One thing I’ve been fighting for and have been at the forefront of is credit—building credit for past due services. You pay rent every month for eight years on a RushCard, why can’t you get a mortgage? I think that’s a travesty. I think a lot of the big companies like Mastercard, the Visas, the others that do the processing and infrastructure work—a lot of us could come together and force them to accept this information on credit reports—the FICOs of the world. Or we should build one. Now I’m committed to building [a credit agency] if I can’t get a change in the next couple of months. I have to build a credit reporting agency that people who have consistent and strong ties to, whoever their partners are, build credit as a result of it. Whether it’s rent or paying a past due phone bill or just consistently being on-time and paying it, it should build credit. This industry has been overlooked by anybody because it’s not a big pay.”
UniRush’s growth is due in part to Simmons not shying away from innovation.
“I try to do the best I can with my company. I also realize there’s lots of innovations that no one is doing that I have to either do or do with my new partner. I have to make my new partners step up their innovations or I have to do it myself because the industry itself doesn’t care so much. It’s a sidebar for Chase Manhattan, American Express, to everyone except Green Dot and Netspend, who are our real competitors and real inspirations in some cases.”
This innovation has allowed UniRush to establish relationships with an unintentional demographic, millennials and they’ve seen significant growth within that group.
“This card should be for affluent people as well as underserved community members and it should be the wave of the future for millennials. This is the bank for millennials, for the future. I haven’t started doing the branding, but the growth rate for our company is 70% millennials, when it used to be single mothers. Our main target was single mothers because they were the ones that ran the family and managed the funds. Millennials who don’t like banks are coming in our direction and we haven’t even begun the branding exercise to speak to them. All of our new customers are millennials—60 to 70%.”
While most companies facing similar circumstances would never be able to recover UniRush is well on its way due in part to company’s willingness to own up to the mishap and making amends with its customers. Simmons continued involvement in the company and his dedication to making financial services accessible in underserved communities and beyond is commendable.
You can read more about Simmons plans to bring various philanthropic programs to benefit these communities, what’s he’s learned throughout this process, as well as what sets UniRush apart in his full interview with HipHopDx.