Aire Pulls in $5 Million, Lands Partnerships with Zopa and Toyota Financial Services

Alternative credit scoring company, Aire, announced today it has raised $5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Sunstone Capital, with funds also coming from White Star Capital, which led the company’s 2016 Seed round. Aire’s funding now totals $12 million.

The London-based company plans to use the funds to drive recruitment. CEO Aneesh Varma said, “Aire has stood for an idea that people should have equal opportunities for financial products despite changing realities of work, lifestyle and careers in this modern economy.” Varma added that the new funds are a “strong vindication that we are making the right progress towards that goal.”

Founded in 2014, Aire leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to offer lenders new insight into borrowers with thin credit files. The company’s Interactive Virtual Interview adds a new layer of information to traditional credit bureau data. Because Aire’s credit risk analysis gives lenders access to a new pool of thin-file borrowers, the company has seen credit approvals grow by up to 14% on average, without increasing risk exposure.

Aire’s API integrates into the existing web and mobile workflows of the online credit application forms

Aire also announced strategic partnerships with P2P lender Zopa and the U.K. arm of vehicle finance company, Toyota Financial Services, who will leverage Aire’s API to enhance their underwriting and lending decisioning processes. These firms join credit card companies and high-street banks also benefitting from Aire’s API.

Earlier this year, Aire was featured in FinTechCity’s FinTech50 2017 list of top European fintechs and in January, we highlighted Aire’s role in our Fintech Filter for AI in 2017. Last year, the company made headlines when it announced it is now authorized and regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, placing Aire on the same playing field as the big three credit bureaus. The company debuted its API at FinovateEurope 2015 in London.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Aire Pulls in $5 Million, Lands Partnerships with Zopa and Toyota Financial Services.
  • New Investment Boosts Betterment Valuation to $800 Million.
  • Klarna Announces Strategic Investment from Permira.

Around the web

  • PayPal extends partnership with JP Morgan Chase, providing greater payment options for consumers.
  • Taulia joins European E-invoicing Service Providers Association.
  • Persistent Systems agrees to acquires Swiss firm Parx Werk in deal valued at $16 million.
  • ID Analytics partners with Acxiom to strengthen risk assessment and combat fraud.
  • Dwolla adds Multi-User Feature to the Access API Dashboard.
  • Neener Analytics joins Plug&Play fintech accelerator.
  • Tavant selected by Fairway Independent Mortgage To Transform Its Digital Lending Experience.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

European Alums Shine in FinTechCity’s FinTech50 2017

Less than a week before FinDEVr London 2017, we’ve learned that fifteen of the companies selected by FinTechCity for this year’s FinTech50, a list of top European fintechs, are alums of Finovate and FinDEVr conferences. This is up from last year, when 13 alums who made the list. last year’s list. Six of the companies on the 2017 roster are making repeat appearances: BehavioSec, Fenergo, Kantox, Mambu, Meniga, and Revolut.

Eight of the alums in the FinTech50 are headquartered in the U.K., three hail from Germany, two from Switzerland and one each from Ireland and Sweden. The judges for the FinTech50 are a panel consisting of 60 financial services professionals from banking, payments, venture capital, and public policy-making, among other relevant fields.

2017 marks the fifth year that FinTechCity has produced its roster of the most innovative fintech companies headquartered in the U.K. and Europe. The list is designed to focus on the technology innovations each company has developed rather than the amount of money the companies have made from their technologies.  In a statement at the FinTechCity website, the organization explains the sole criteria for inclusion in the FinTech50 as “the potential to become a game-changer or the competitive staying power to continue being one.”

Here are our winning alums for 2017.

Check out the full 2017 roster. FinTechCity also honored ten fintech startups in an honorable mention category, Hot Ten 2017. Ten companies have also been recognized as the founding members of the FinTech50 Hall of Fame, including Finovate/FinDEVr alums Currencycloud, eToro, Klarna, Nutmeg, TransferWise, and Zopa. Founded by Julie Lake (CEO) and Nicky Cotter, FinTechCity will also unveil the inaugural FinTech50 Asia later this year.

A Fintech Filter for Artificial Intelligence in 2017

In what The New York Times is calling The Great AI Awakening and Forbes has dubbed The Year of AI, 2017 is shaping up to be obsessively focused on artificial intelligence, a field that has been around for awhile (remember playing checkers against a computer?) but has finally matured to the point of usefulness.

Because the technology has finally reached its tipping point, AI, and its close relative machine learning, have taken a variety of industries by storm, bringing self-driving Ubers to the streets of San Francisco (and then carting them away); robotic vacuum cleaners to dirty household floors; and natural language processing to chat bots and IVR communications. With AI already embedded into these industries, it’s easy to find examples of how the technology is shaping fintech.

Below are eight areas of fintech into which AI has made inroads. Each area is ranked and rated (out of 5 stars) based on how it is currently influenced by AI and based on AI’s potential to add value.

Robo advisory

  • Fintech example: Robo advisors are built on AI technology, which is used to augment portfolio management and rebalancing decisions typically made by a (sometimes biased) human. To see tens of dozens of these examples, check out our post on B2C wealth tech.
  • Current AI application: 4 stars
  • Potential AI application: 5 stars

AI is already a standard tool in robo advisory. Because the very nature of robo advisors is to replace humans, the potential application of AI in this space is huge, especially when enhanced with machine learning and held accountable using blockchain.

Advisory tools

  • Fintech example: Similar to B2C robo advisory platforms that leverage AI to automatically manage and rebalance users’ portfolios, advisors can automate their clients’ portfolios to minimize human error while still offering a personal touch. Kensho (FEU14) introduced Warren to helps advisors perform quantitative analyses on market data. ForwardLane (FS16) uses AI powered by IBM Watson to offer financial advisors access to quantitative modeling and highly personalized investment advice generally only available to ultra high net worth individuals.
  • Current AI application: 4 stars
  • Potential AI application: 5 stars

Just as AI is already standard in direct-to-consumer robo advisory, so is it with advisory tools, since many were built on the premise of AI.

Fraud detection

  • Fintech example: Multiple card issuers use AI to detect unusual spending activity. Feedzai (FEU14) uses AI combined with machine learning to analyze sets of big data created during a user’s online sessions to mitigate fraud associated with online account opening, payments, and ecommerce.
  • Current AI application: 4 stars
  • Potential AI application: 5 stars

AI is already heavily leveraged for use in fraud detection. Combining it with the blockchain, which can provide an un-editable ledger of events, paired with AI’s ability to analyze large data sets in real time makes it even more powerful.

Underwriting

  • Fintech example: AI can help underwriters create a uniform metric that accurately identifies risk across borrowers. Aire.io (FEU15) leverages the power of AI to create and assign credit scores to thin credit file individuals.
  • Current AI application: 4 stars
  • Potential AI application: 5 stars

The lending industry has already transformed its underwriting practices from relying on large databases to now using AI to analyze large amounts of scattered, unstructured data. Because AI can analyze these data sets in real time, there’s great potential for both borrowers and lenders to benefit.

Regulatory compliance

  • Fintech example: Banks can use AI to quickly scan legal and regulatory text for compliance issues, and do so at scale. IpSoft’s Amelia is a customer service bot that helps banks maintain compliance in conversations with customers.
  • Current AI application: 3
  • Potential AI application: 5

Relying on AI to scan for compliance issues instead of a team of employees helps avoid human error and allows financial institutions to quickly analyze multiple documents and practices. Because it removes human biases and error, AI has great potential in regulatory compliance.

Marketing

  • Fintech example: Marketers can better up-sell or cross-sell banking and finance products by using AI to identify and anticipate client needs. SBDA Group (FEU 16) helps banks leverage their data using algorithms and machine learning to create targeted marketing campaigns for individual customers.
  • Current AI application: 3 stars
  • Potential AI application: 4 stars

Fintech companies have been using AI to draw conclusions from bank data for a few years now, but marketing is an area in which human input still adds a lot of value.

Customer service

  • Fintech example: Firms can leverage AI to identify which clients are at most risk of leaving a bank or advisor. FinovateAsia 2016 Best of Show-winner, Finn.ai (FA16), offers a white-labeled chat bot that integrates into existing messaging platforms such as Line, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, and even the bank’s web chat interface.
  • Current AI application: 2 stars
  • Potential AI application: 5 stars

Banks have been hesitant to adopt chat bots and other AI-based customer service products because the technologies are not quite smart enough. Finn.ai overcomes this challenge by offering a Talk to a Human button at the bottom of the chat interface. This technique, combined with the implementation of machine learning and advanced natural language recognition, makes this space prime for growth in 2017.

Reporting tools

  • Fintech example: Advancements in natural language, along with AI’s ability to analyze large data sets, have made it possible for banks to rely on software to automatically create and distribute reports. Narrative Science (FF13), for example, automates the creation of anti-money laundering reports and allows the bank to adjust for the tone of the writing.
  • Current AI application: 2
  • Potential AI application: 4

We’ve seen AI used to generate reports, both in written and video form, in the wealth management and compliance sectors. However, there is still room for natural language reporting to extend to other forms (such as inside of a chat interface) as well as to other sectors of fintech.


In addition to these eight areas of fintech, there is a miscellaneous category that comprises technology such as ColletAI, which automates debt collection. Check out CollectAI, Comarch, and MoneyHub, along with other AI-based fintech at FinovateEurope next month.

While AI is widespread in many areas of fintech, it is still far from others, such as tax and estate planning, which require complex inputs and decision making. However, bolstering AI in these difficult areas using machine learning, the blockchain, and human intervention offers some potential for growth in 2017.

Since AI is pervasive throughout many sectors of fintech, it may not be too early for your company to begin searching for a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer.

Fintech Favorites

Featured

  • U.K.-based challenger bank Atom opens to the public. The bank’s iPhone and iPad app is built on the Unity gaming platform and is the only way to access the mobile-only bank. Atom has a customer service team equipped with AI and machine learning, and has bolstered its security using voice and face biometric login. Atom Bank is the first of a handful of U.K. challenger banks set to launch this year, including Mondo, Starling Bank, and Tandem. Atom is headquartered in Durham and is already valued at almost $190 million. Check out Business Insider’s coverage.

Deals

  • Akamai (FEU 15) acquires Soha Systems, which offers secure access as a service for enterprises. This matches well with Akamai’s aim to offer cloud-based services to enterprises, and places it in a good position for a potential acquisition. See our coverage.
  • Jack Henry & Associates (FF 15) collaborates with Visa (FDSV 14) to accelerate P2P payments to debit cards. This may help banks compete with other services that have sped up settlement times, such as Zelle (formerly clearXchange) and Venmo (FS 13). See the press release.

Milestones

  • IBM (FF 16) announced a $200 million investment for a new global headquarters for its Watson IoT business. The headquarters will be located in Munich and is one of IBM’s largest-ever investments in Europe. This move is part of a $3 billion initiative to bring Watson’s computing expertise into the world of IoT. See IBM at FinDEVr Silicon Valley, 18/19 Oct 2016. See VentureBeat’s coverage here.
  • Banking Technology reported that Misys (FEU 15) is preparing to issue an IPO in Nov 2016 with a $6.9 billion float. Advisory firm Moelis will be overseeing the move. Misys was delisted from the London Stock Exchange in 2012 when it merged with Turaz. Misys CEO Nadeem Sayed says going public is a “logical step in our evolution.” See Banking Technology’s coverage.
  • Aire (FEU 15) raised $2 million. Along with the funding announcement, the alternative credit-scoring platform announced it is now authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the U.K.’s financial regulator. This places it on a more level playing field to compete with the big three credit bureaus. See our coverage.

Tech

  • Thomson Reuters (FF 12) unveils blockchain-dev platform, BlockOne ID. Built for Ethereum, BlockOne ID is an experimental framework in which app owners can manage access to their blockchain contracts in a controlled environment. See Banking Tech’s coverage.

Aire Raises $2 Million, Receives Regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-11-10-26-am

Alternative credit-scoring company Aire is a London-based startup that shows no sign of “Brexiting” any time soon. The company just closed an additional $2 million in funding, adding to the funding round it closed in April.

Today’s round was led by White Star Capital alongside Sunstone Capital and Accion Venture Lab and brings Aire’s total funding to $7 million. The company plans to use the new funds to expand its platform into new markets.

Aire announced it is now authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the financial regulator in the U.K. If you’re not familiar with the FCA, this is a pretty big deal for a startup. Receiving FCA authorization brings Aire onto a level playing field with the big-three credit bureaus.

In a statement, Aire co-founder and CEO Aneesh Varma said:

It’s a huge step for us and also for credit scoring. We strongly believe that lenders and their customers need a fairer and more accurate way to assess creditworthiness […]. As things stand, genuine hard-working people are being penalized by the way credit scores are created, and that’s not good for growth, innovation or well-being. We believe we have a solution to address this issue, balancing the numerous forces at play across data, ethics, regulation and technology.

Aire seeks to democratize access to credit by gathering meaningful data about potentially credit-worthy clients via an online interview and other reliable sources. By using artificial intelligence, the company processes the data to qualify users for credit. The company also helps lenders by expanding the pool of qualified applicants. Although Aire is currently focused on working with personal loan and credit card lenders, it plans to broaden its range of financial products.

Founded in 2014, Aire launched its API at FinovateEurope 2015 in London. In April the company was recognized in the European Fintech Top 100 list at the 2016 European Fintech Awards. Most recently, the company was featured in Tech City News magazine for its use of artificial intelligence.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Fintech Favorites: A Roundup of Top Stories in Fintech
  • Aire Raises $2 Million, Receives Regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

Around the web

  • India-based HDFC Bank selects Backbase to implement its digital banking platform.
  • Inc. Magazine features entrepreneur and veteran Blake Hall, CEO and co-founder of ID.me.
  • Neustar appoints Nick Hulse as chief revenue officer.
  • Kristina Campbell joins PayNearMe as chief financial officer.
  • Fiserv collaborates with CoreLogic to provide enhanced loan-modification technology.
  • Xero teams up with Barclays to improve access to transaction data for U.K. businesses.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Revolut Lands $8.7 Million, Launches Crowdfunding Campaign
  • Spiff Raises $150,000; Adopts Tech Talent from Fink

Around the web

  • Asset TV interviews CEO Tony Aguilar, founder, Student Loan Genius.
  • Business Quarter profiles Ormsby Street MD, Martin Campbell.
  • TechCityNews features Aire in an issue devoted to artificial intelligence.
  • TickSmith upgrades its TickVault Platform with file inventory module.
  • Bank Info Security interviews Fiserv anti-fraud specialist, Andrew Davies.
  • CNBC column on financial fraud and retirees quotes Liz Loewy, general counsel for EverSafe.
  • Bill.com launches Bookkeeping Accelerator Program.
  • CNBC features Moven founder and CEO Brett King speaking about his newest book, “Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane.”
  • Kasasa Named One of the Best Places to Work in Austin for a Second Consecutive Year.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Check Out Who Took Home Top Honors at Last Night’s European Fintech Awards

GroupPhoto(Photo credit: http://www.fintech.nl/)

Last night in Amsterdam the 2016 European Fintech Awards celebrated innovators shaping the future of finance. A total of nine awards were presented to companies selected by a panel of judges for the quality of their pitch.

Four of the winners are Finovate and FinDEVr alums, including BehavioSec, who won the overall award of Best European Fintech Company of 2016:

BehavioSec
Category: Risk, Intelligence, and Security
HQ: Stockholm, Sweden
Founded: 2009
FinovateFall 2015 demo
FinDEVr San Francisco 2015 presentation

Backbase
Category: Innovative Banking Software
HQ: The Netherlands
Founded: 2003
FinovateEurope 2016 demo

Kreditech
Category: Financial Inclusion
HQ: Hamburg, Germany
Founded: 2012
FinovateSpring 2014 demo

Xpenditure
Category: Best of Show, selected for the best pitch
HQ: Mechelen, Belgium
Founded: 2011
FinovateEurope 2016 demo

A total of 29 Finovate and FinDEVr alums were recognized in the European Fintech Top 100 list. Companies awarded on this list were selected by a combination of online public votes (weighted 25%) and a panel of judges (weighted 75%).

  • AdviceGames
  • Kantox
  • Aire.io
  • Klarna
  • AMP Credit Technologies
  • Kontomatik
  • Azimo
  • Kreditech
  • Backbase
  • Mambu
  • BehavioSec
  • mBank
  • Cloud Lending Solutions
  • Meniga
  • ebankIT
  • Nutmeg
  • eToro
  • Qumram
  • ETRONIKA
  • Scalable Capital
  • eWise
  • SmartEngine
  • Fenergo
  • TransferWise
  • Holvi
  • Trustly
  • IdeaBank
  • Zopa
  • InvoiceSharing

The European Fintech Awards are organized by Amsterdam-based publishing company Alex van Groningen BV. The company offers a great explanation of the awards: “The purpose of the FinTech awards is not to scientifically prove who are the best FinTech companies. The judging is primarily based on the judges’ individual ideas and views on the nominating companies using their expertise, knowledge and ideas.”

Aire Receives Funding from Accion Venture Lab

AireHomepage2016

Aire, a startup that democratizes access to credit, received funding from Accion Venture Lab, a $10 million nonprofit initiative dedicated to building a financially inclusive world. The amount of the investment was undisclosed; the company stated it prefers to focus on the strategic partnership with Accion.

Aire boasts previous funding from Barclay’s Accelerator, Techstars, and SparkLabs Global Ventures. The London-based company gathers meaningful data about potentially credit-worthy clients via an online interview and other reliable sources. It uses artificial intelligence to process the data and qualify users for credit. The company also helps lenders by expanding the pool of qualified applicants.

Co-founder and CEO Aneesh Varma, who we interviewed earlier this year, launched the company in 2014 after he personally experienced the difficulty of accessing credit, despite being a credit-worthy individual. In a press release, Varma commented on the funding:

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.

Aire, which launched its API at FinovateEurope 2014 in London, plans to use the funding to fuel international expansion.