Products: Impact platform offering a cash management solution and customised loan fund investments
Overview: With the aim of helping corporate treasury departments meet their diversity, equity and inclusion goals, and improve their performance on ESG measures, this women-led fintech enables finance teams to invest in loan funds and deposit cash at scale in US community development financial institutions (CDFIs), low-income designated (LID) credit unions and minority deposit institutions (MDIs).
CNote’s Impact Cash solution places funds in a basket of competitive deposit products, such as money market accounts and certificates of deposit, available from carefully vetted CDFIs and LID credit unions. Accounts are insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and offer 90-day liquidity. Minimum deposit is $250,000.
The company’s investment platform channels corporate capital into CDFI loan funds. CNote can customise a portfolio by region and impact theme—targeting Black-led CDFIs, for example, or CDFI loan funds focused on low-income women entrepreneurs or climate adaptation in disproportionately impacted communities.
In addition, CNote’s The Wisdom Fund offers a fixed-income option that funnels capital into small business loans for women of colour. Launched in 2019 with five CDFI partners, The Wisdom Fund is also a research vehicle: partners are collecting and sharing loan data and borrower insights to make the lending process more accessible to women entrepreneurs. The minimum investment is $100,000 with a 60-month term.
CNote also provides quarterly quantitative impact reports to track the impact of corporate clients’ community investments.
CNote founders Catherine Berman, CEO, and Yuliya Tarasava, COO, both have extensive financial industry experience. They founded CNote in 2016 because they wanted to create financial products that close the wealth gap, not exacerbate it. Based in Oakland, California, CNote is a Certified B-Corporation (a private certification of for-profit companies of their social and environmental performance) and is Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) rated.
In September 2022, CNote announced that it had raised $7.25m in an oversubscribed Series A investment round. American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact led the round, joined by Astia Fund, BankTech Ventures, Commerce Ventures, CityRock Venture Partners and other investors.
At the same time, CNote confirmed recent milestones, including reaching the $300m mark in cash and fixed-income investments on its platform, which reflects 370% growth since 2020; serving 1,900 investors on its platform, including AMD, Apple, Mastercard, Netflix, Patagonia, PayPal and Xylem; and growing its American network of community financial institutions to 2,000.
Clients: Mastercard, Netflix, PayPal, Patagonia, and others.
Active region(s): US
Partners: Industry alliances include Community Development Bankers Association, CUNA Strategic Services, National Bankers Association, Hope Credit Union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Latino Credit Union, and more
Funding: ManchesterStory, Artemis Fund, SixThirty Ventures, H/L Ventures, Clearstone Capital, and Lateral Capital, 37 Angels, Astia Angels, ONE WORLD
Elevator pitch: “CNote is a women-led impact investment platform that uses technology to unlock diversified and proven community investments that increase economic mobility and financial inclusion. Treasury leaders are increasingly being asked to contribute to these goals, yet are challenged to find aligned institutions that can accept high-dollar deposits. CNote solves that problem by placing funds where they’re needed most across a network of vetted institutions. CNote provides quarterly impact reporting that tracks progress with hard data. Using a community-first framework, CNote enables corporations to reach their social goals by authentically supporting low-income communities and communities of colour.”
Phone: 00 1(800) 449-6275
TMI view: A platform that enables investors to directly make a difference where it is needed most.
Verdict: As part of a D&I initiative, CNote stands tall among others because it intrinsically connects corporate investors to the communities in which they operate, enabling them to demonstrate the effect of ‘putting something back’. It’s currently US-only but surely this concept has potential far beyond those shores?