When Aneesh Varma, a successful entrepreneur, came to this country from the United States eight years ago he landed on British soil with zero financial credibility. Banks wouldn't give him the time of day so securing a loan or credit card was impossible.
Aneesh, who's moved from country to country growing up, knows first-hand the effects of credit agencies not co-operating over borders - 'your financial passport doesn't move with you - it's a reset button,' he says. In credit-bureau terms he was considered
a 'thin file'.
"The tipping point was three years ago - I realised nobody was going to do anything about this - and so you've got to be the change you want to see in the world" he says, quoting Gandhi.
After the successful exit of a previous startup - Aneesh found himself with the time, experience and capital to start Aire; credit scoring built from the ground-up with consumers as first priority.
"Aire's a crazy company to run - there's a lot of moving parts. A lot of senior people. I needed them to trust in me"
Aire works like a credit scoring bureau, providing an alternative credit score after authentication of a number of documents, such as a CV, academic records, paycheques etc.
After these are verified and some algorithms are applied - Aire builds a credit profile and score which helps qualify the user for financial products from banks, telcos and other lenders.
Unlike other startups I've met in this space - Aire isn't particularly interested in social media presence, or a customer's command of the English language. 'I don't care if you're tweeting or twerking,' he jokes.
"We care about simple, hard evidence you can provide to us that shows you are a credible person, you're educated, professional-minded with an understanding of risk"
The continued success and growth of Aire requires the participation, not only of the credit providers, but the regulatory bodies also - to facilitate this Aneesh is working closely with the FCA. In a speech coinciding with the launch of the FCA's innovation
hub, chief exec, Martin Wheatley, singled Aire out for its innovative and consumer-centric approach to credit scoring.
"We're working directly with the FCA to get the right kind of cover we need for the company we're trying to build"
Aneesh is helping the FCA better understand the kind of niche which Aire, and similar companies, fit into. A round-peg type of financial services company which doesn't fit inside the square hole definitions created by the FCA many years ago.
Now Aire is running a trial with a telecoms operator, giving 1000 customers the chance of obtaining a phone contract. Customers who've been rejected for having 'thin-files' will have the opportunity to submit documents via Aire and potentially get a contract
'within 3 to 4 minutes' Aneesh claims.
Next on his to-do list is the re-scoring API they'll be showing off at Finovate. It will enable institutions to re-score rejected applications instantly, helping to recover customers which often come with a high acquisition cost.
It doesn't stop there.
Implementing machine learning, building relationships with the regulators, adding business partners, working with telecoms operators and strengthening the team.
"It's like I'm mapping out a complicated game of chess, thinking about moves on multiple layers," he says.
"but we won't win until the consumer wins," Aneesh finishes.