Monday, July 15, 2024

AsterKey makes proof-of-funds easier, more secure: Tech Review

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AsterKey is a fintech app with real estate applications, the most notable being its ability to produce a secure, verified proof of funds letter while greatly minimizing the risk of exposure or fraud.

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AsterKey is a fintech app for secure sharing of personal financial information.

Platforms: Mobile for iOS and Android

Ideal for: Homebuyers and their agents

Top selling points:

  • Fully mobile app
  • Secure proof-of-funds verification
  • Stores no data
  • Consumer-first
  • ID-blind
  • Personal financial statements/status

Top concerns:

Likely, slow adoption on the real estate front from a simple lack of understanding of its value. The company will have to push to encourage real estate practitioners to grasp it until consumer adoption takes over.

What you should know:

AsterKey, set for formal launch after the new year, is a fintech app with a number of valuable uses to the real estate industry, the most notable being its ability to produce a secure, verified proof of funds letter while greatly minimizing the risk of exposure or fraud. (Nothing is 100 percent.)

The application is rooted in the concept of consumer-permissioned data, a fast-growing banking principle that allows individuals to fully control who can access private financial information, in many cases sharing only specific components of one’s economic history. The app is heavily consumer-forward, demonstrating an inspired and practical user experience on par with the best consumer financial apps on the market — my Wells Fargo app only modernized in the last few weeks.

Users link banking accounts via Plaid, and can include investment portfolios, credit card balance, stock holdings, checking and savings ledgers, and most forms of asset records. It offers overall financial statements, net worth assessments, indicators to separate manually input data from hard verifications, and a fast, secure way to show sellers, agents and lenders what one is worth.

In our demo, the co-founders of AsterKey reminded me that “consumers don’t own their financial identity.” It’s true. Loan officers, mortgage brokers and even real estate use a person’s financial background as some sort of societal benchmark, a chess piece that either does or does not have the ability to move a person, or family, into an accepted position.

At risk of sounding naive, apps like AsterKey can at least provide consumers some semblance of ownership over the decisions made about our economic aspirations. In many ways, full control is a thing of the past, much our data is already out there, but the siphon can be blocked. New apps and technologies are our there to help us say, “Okay, that’s enough for now.”

I’m looking at you, Mr. Cooper.

AsterKey functions more as a bridge between the source of one’s financial data and the entities who want it. Connecting accounts is easy via Plaid, which offers secure integrations with countless banking institutions and powers a number of the most reputable consumer apps used today.

An AsterKey financial profile is “anonymous,” meaning other than it being on your phone, there’s no way for non-permissioned entities to link the data to a person unless express permission is granted by the user. In those instances, the entity remains blind to the person until they accept the terms of the loan or new financial relationship.

The app uses KYC authentication upon set up, which stands for Know Your Client (or customer) and has origins in the Patriot Act of 2001. The process benchmarks a person’s formal photo ID against other online instances of their persona and is used in anti-money laundering efforts, global money transfers and multiple forms of digital financial transactions.

Users only need to go through the steps upon initial setup of the app.

A proof of funds letter is generated in little time, launched via the Proof of Funds button on the app’s footer. Say goodbye to poorly typed informal letters, screenshots of online accounts (Seriously people?) or having to wait days for a buyer to cobble together statements and documents for uploading or manual handoff. AsterKey generates a clear, professional document based on the accounts it’s verified in the app.

Agents need to begin thinking hard about how they work with buyers given the “possibility” that they’ll need to argue for direct payment in the very near future in lieu of listing agents sharing the commission. This kind of app can help an agent determine if a buyer is who they say are, financially speaking. The same benefit extends to agents who work with property investors. Remember, a verified proof of funds letter and secure tracking of one’s financial status is not only a benefit to underwriters and loan officers, but it helps you, too. No one wants to be part of some thousandaire’s grand illusion of landlord mogulhood.

Make sure your buyers are who they claim to be. After all, isn’t that pretty much what you’re asking when you mention a pre-approval letter?

AsterKey, and the larger category of consumer apps to which it belongs, are an increasingly powerful benefit for consumers in an era of finance that still hovers between fax and Blockchain.

And yes, these kinds of apps are largely targeted at the financially privileged, those who have the time and societal position to know risk, and the ability to buy a house. But, we can’t let an app’s intrinsic non-inclusiveness dictate its usefulness, and there is immense benefit to handing over to any consumer their ability to control who knows something about them.

I encourage you to read up on consumer-permissioned data and the ever-increasing portfolio of fintech apps that overlap into proptech. Start with this one.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe.

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

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