Today, cred.ai, a Philadelphia-based fintech company, introduced a new kind of consumer spending product that leverages proprietary technology to give users first-of-their-kind controls, convenience, and automatic credit score optimization.
While customers never pay fees or interest thanks to the cred.ai Guaranty, they also receive a premium brand experience delivered through a solid metal Visa card, and mobile app anchored by the content of cred.ai's progressive media division crednews. cred.ai has operated in stealth for the past 3 years, and closed a successful Series A led by prominent investors including David Adelman, CEO of Campus Apartments; former CEO of AOL and president of Google America and current founder of DTX, Tim Armstrong; and executive chairman of Fanatics and partner with the 76ers, Michael Rubin, as well as a group of individual celebrity investors.
"Banking is so regulated, so antiquated, so daunting, it's understandable why consumer card products have barely changed over the past decade," said Ry Brown, cred.ai CEO and co-founder. "Thankfully, we're a crew of hackers, artists, and scientists, with just a couple recovering bankers in the mix." While cred.ai's in-house talent ranges from astrophysicists to 3D Animators, several of its "recovering bankers'' were the founders of ING Direct, the beloved $90 Billion "good guy" bank. "Our outsider perspective has been one of our greatest assets. We're not imprinted with traditional concepts of what's possible or expected, so we get to believe we can tackle any idea we dream up, as long as we have enough coffee."
The core cred.ai consumer product functions through the combination of an FDIC insured deposit account, the Unicorn Card Visa credit card, and the cred.ai mobile app. cred.ai real-time automation ensures the consumer experience is essentially like a superpowered debit card. User's never worry about fees, interest, or payments, while taking advantage of cred.ai's unique set of technology features and controls. WSFS Bank, the largest locally headquartered bank in the Philadelphia region, provides the FDIC insured deposit account and issues the Unicorn Card Visa credit card.
Exclusive features are introduced continuously, with the current roster including: self-destructing virtual "Stealth Cards" designed for risky transactions; "Flux Capacitor" allowing users to see future transactions and automatically spend or budget accordingly; "Check Please" eliminating the embarrassment of card declines at important rendezvous; Credit Optimizer (see details below); the "Friend & Foe" systems allowing users to directly manage the trust and permissions of individual merchants in real-time; and "High Security Mode" generating secure finite authorization windows. In addition to these exclusive tech features, all users receive a full face true metal card, 24/7 phone support answered by a human and not a robot, instant deposits, mobile check capture, payroll and other direct deposits two days early, and an onboarding process that allows users to start spending within minutes of applying.
Millennials and Gen Zers have a natural aversion to credit cards, due to a fundamental distrust of debt and the banking system overall. "The Apple Card is a stunning product, but if you're opposed to credit cards in general, it's just not a product for you," said Dylan Brown, cred.ai president and co-founder. For these credit card averse consumers, cred.ai's automatic credit optimization is their best way to build credit without fear. Other products that claim to build credit focus merely on reporting on-time payments, which minimally affects credit profiles, usually via commonly undesirable "secured" cards. Far more precisely, cred.ai's Credit Optimizer is able to affect credit utilization, which is known to be one of the most significant factors contributing to credit profiles. "The other products don't use an optimization algorithm or anything adaptive. Worse, they are attached to subprime products that don't provide much in terms of experience," said Dylan. The cred.ai CreditOptimizer was built to be card agnostic and is capable of managing and optimizing most third-party major credit cards, beyond just the Unicorn Card. cred.ai plans to publicly open third-party card management integration in Q1 of 2021.
"Millennials swipe a lot on social media, but this is a major swipe at disrupting banking. cred.ai is this generation's version of an Amex Black Card," said cred.ai investor Tim Armstrong, Founder of the DTX Company and former CEO of AOL, Oath, and President of Google America. " Millennials don't care about meaningless points and lounge access hiding amongst hundreds in fees, they care about becoming financially stronger, technology and features on the cutting edge, and companies with values they align with."
While cred.ai has plans to offer ongoing cashback and rewards opportunities, it is not designed for points aficionados. "Our users know that traditional cashback is a karma trap," said Dylan. "For an average user, the actual cash back earned winds up being very small, and gets outweighed by fees and interest. But the real issue is that those flashy rewards are supported and subsidized via the suffering of that bank's lower income customers. It's wealth redistribution in the wrong direction."
"We realized early on, that if you want to build something that changes people's lives, you need to actually build. The reason every bank and fintech card offers such sparse, identical features is because they are basically white-labeling the same stock platforms with a different logo," said Lauren Dussault, cred.ai chief banking officer. " Over two and a half years were spent building the banking technology and compliance foundation that makes the complex features of cred.ai possible. "We don't view infrastructure as merely a means to an end," said cred.ai Co-Founder and COO Todd Sandler. "We see it as another opportunity to build a phenomenal product, where we ourselves are the first customer. Operating like that allows us to iterate our consumer product faster, and derive value directly from the technology itself." The platform itself includes full compliance management, and was built modularly so that it can also be licensed to provide "bank in a box" operations for small banks and brands. "When we built ING Direct, our goal was to leverage technology to operate with 10% of the resources a traditional bank would use," said Jim Kelly, chairman and co-founder of cred.ai, and founding COO of ING Direct. "With what we've built at cred.ai, I think we get that down to 1%." Multiple licensing deals are currently in the works, with announcements expected in Q4 of 2020.
"I think cred.ai could one day be viewed as the Tesla of banking," said cred.ai co-founder and lead investor David Adelman. "We approached an antiquated and rigid sector as if limitations didn't exist, with the conviction that we could use hard work and creativity to rebuild it into something fundamentally better." That conviction also extends to cred.ai's views on social and world affairs, best displayed through crednews, the media division that produces the original documentaries and journalistic content that anchor the mobile app experience. This progressive spirit has attracted celebrity investors like John Legend and superstar athletes like Andre Iguodala. "It's a rare product they can proudly endorse for being altruistic, and then benefit from being users of the product themselves," said David.
"cred.ai will serve different purposes to different users," said Dylan. "For some it will be their solution to building credit without fear. Early adopters will see it as their gateway to the most advanced features. Stealth Card alone will be the reason many people sign up. Some will be drawn to our progressive beliefs, and others might just want a cool, free metal card. Regardless of the motivation, the fact that the product can be top of wallet for both a college student or a wealthy NBA superstar, says a lot about our mission to build a premium product for all people."
Today consumers can apply to join cred.ai's limited private beta, during which participants will be given the opportunity to share their view on how advanced financial technology would impact their life goals. Of the participants that share their stories, some will be selected to receive $10,000 from cred.ai to help them reach the goals they describe. See www.cred.ai/beta for official rules.
"Don't call us a bank. I don't even like being pigeonholed as fintech," said Ry. "Right now we're building products that help empower people financially, but next we could throw in education, health care, insurance, who knows. Whatever it is, we'll dream it, build it, and then give it away for free."