LONDON, April 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Financial inclusion pioneer Accion announced today that it will help more creditworthy households responsibly access credit and build their financial histories through a new investment in Aire, a UK-based credit scoring startup.
Aire uses a proprietary artificial intelligence process to ultimately help banks lend to new, qualified borrowers. During an online interview, the company's collects and validates applicant-provided data to evaluate profession, education, and financial knowledge. Accion made the investment through its Venture Lab, a $10 million initiative dedicated to providing seed capital and management support to innovative startups that expand financial access to the poor and underserved.
"Around the world, millions of people cannot access the credit that they need to launch businesses, buy homes, or build better lives," said Accion CEO and President Michael Schlein. "In many cases, this isn't because they have bad credit history, but rather because they have no credit history. By providing an alternative to traditional credit scoring, Aire helps to extend financial services to more people who need them."
Potentially creditworthy borrowers are often denied loans or credit cards because they lack the traditional credit profiles that lenders rely on to evaluate applicants. These "thin-file," but still creditworthy, customers can include those entering the world of formal finance, legal migrants whose credit histories do not transfer between countries, people with limited sources to build up credit history – such as those who are self-employed, and young adults applying for credit for the first time. Aire hopes to address this problem by enabling fairer access to credit for consumers around the world. When applicants lack sufficient credit history, they are referred to an Aire online interview, which evaluates a consumer's creditworthiness to create an "Aire Score." Lenders can use this score to evaluate applicants and provide them with credit.
"Accion Venture Lab has been very supportive of our research and product since our early years. I am really glad to have them come onboard now as we start our international expansion," said Aire co-founder and CEO Aneesh Varma. "Both Aire and Accion Venture Lab really care about improving financial inclusion around the world."
Varma co-founded the company, along with Mr. Jon Bundy and Dr. Srini Sundaram, in 2014 after Varma personally experienced the hardship of being a "thin-file" customer. Despite having a strong financial history in the United States, Varma struggled to be approved for a credit card because of a lack of credit history in the UK.
"This investment builds on the Accion Venture Lab's deep commitment to promote financial inclusion through the use of innovative ways to assess creditworthiness," said Vikas Raj, Director of Investments for Accion Venture Lab. Prior investments that help banks lend to thin-file customers with confidence include those in startups such as First Access, DemystData, and RevolutionCredit, all of which help people excluded from the financial system to access and benefit from formal financial services.
Credit invisibility is a problem in both developed and emerging markets. In the United States, 1 in 10 Americans has no credit history, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and an additional 19 million Americans have credit reports that are so outdated that they are practically unscorable. Aire estimates that that there are 17 million such consumers in the UK and significantly larger proportions in emerging markets.
Accion is a global nonprofit dedicated to building a financially inclusive world with economic opportunity for all, by giving people the financial tools they need to improve their lives. We are building the next generation of top-tier microfinance institutions, and over more than 50 years have helped build 65 such institutions in 32 countries on four continents that today reach millions of clients. Through initiatives like the Venture Lab, our impact investing initiatives are pushing beyond microfinance to catalyze more than 20 innovative start-ups dedicated to improving the efficiency, reach and scope of financial services for the poor. And our Center for Financial Inclusion is helping to build a stronger industry with high standards and broad engagement. Currently, our work spans nearly two dozen countries, including the U.S., where we are the nation's largest nonprofit microfinance network. For further information, visit http://www.accion.org.
Aire gives people a new credit score to help them qualify for essential financial products. Formed by a collective of finance, technology, and commercial specialists, Aire is redefining how the market approaches credit scoring using only clean data and ethical means. By harnessing industry expertise, machine learning and an in-depth understanding of the issues facing many consumers, Aire has created a service that allows businesses to access a new, financially-capable population. Aire aims to put people at the heart of the solution in a transparent, responsible, and inclusive manner—abiding by its principle to go "beyond the data," and understand the story of the applicant in every credit-scoring situation. Aire was launched in 2014 in London and is backed by White Star Capital, SparkLabs Global Ventures and Techstars. For further information please visit www.aire.io or follow Aire on Twitter @AireScore.