Fronted, a new London-based startup aiming to make life easier for renters, is breaking cover today.
The company, founded by Jamie Campbell, Simon Vans-Colina and Anthony Mann — former employees at Bud, Monzo and Apple, respectively — will launch early next year with a fintech product to help renters finance their rental deposits.
The plan is get accepted into the FCA “sandbox” program (run by the U.K. financial services regulator) to begin lending cash that can only be used for a rental deposit.
The thinking is that by using Open Banking and other financial technology and offering a credit product designed to finance deposits directly, Fronted can lend more cheaply than existing options, such as credit cards, pay-day lenders and overdrafts, or insurance-backed membership schemes, and at lower risk.
“Renting sucks — anyone who rents knows it,” Fronted CEO Jamie Campbell tells me. “There are so many problems to solve and we intend to tackle them all bit by bit. But first, we are going to pay people’s rent deposits for them so they can pay us back in bite-size manageable amounts. Deposits are a large upfront expense and most people either use mum and dad to sort it out or stay where they are (in the worst cases they do to pay-day lenders).”
In a call late last week with Campbell and CTO Vans-Colina, the pair explained that renters that apply to use the Fronted service will be asked to link their bank using Open Banking, therefore sharing their recent transaction data, and provide details of the property they wish to rent. Then, once Fronted has run the required checks and agreed to provide credit, the startup sends the money directly to the estate agent to be placed in the U.K.’s Deposit Protection Scheme, meaning that the loan never touches the renter’s hands (or wallet).
“Customers will have a direct debit to pay us back over a set schedule, or they can pay it all off when they have the money to do so, [and] we don’t charge any fees,” says Campbell. There is also a planned “holiday mode” that will allow customers to temporarily reduce their monthly payments in order to help avoid falling into financial difficulty.
“Ultimately this first product is designed to be very convenient and we believe people will opt for this more manageable alternative to a normal deposit,” adds Campbell. “There are customers of ours that will be in ‘hidden households’ unable to move because of the upfront fees… Deposits can [also] sometimes take a long time to be returned from the schemes (something the government recently launched an enquiry into). Fronted wants to serve people who might otherwise be ‘double-exposed’ by deposits. We hope this first product increases social mobility by providing liquidity when people need it.”
Initially, Fronted will generate revenue through interest charged. It then plans to extend its fintech product offering with additional money-advance services “to help smooth out the bumps of renting.”
“We also intend on rolling out a ‘turn up and turn on’ service for utilities and internet,” says the Fronted CEO.