Paul Kesserwani was born in San Francisco, but as a first-generation Lebanese American, he spent the majority of his adolescent years in his parents’ home country of Lebanon. There, he felt used to dealing with instability, as his family battled the banks and government on a regular basis. So when he came back to the U.S. for college, he expected a more pro-consumer approach. He graduated in 2008 just as the housing market was collapsing, and it opened his eyes to the system’s harsh realities: that it’s not designed in favor of the consumer, and that someone would have to work proactively and tirelessly to avoid landing in a bad situation.
In the summer of 2016, Kesserwani, then back in the Bay Area and working in tech, was helping his parents dispute a costly balance transfer fee while they were in Beirut, Lebanon, with virtually no access to their bank. He simultaneously uncovered more than $400 in charges on his own account. After several stressful confrontations with his bank and credit card company, he realized there had to be a better, easier, more effective way.
He thought: Why do I have to waste so much time to get my own hard-earned money back? And what about the people who are too busy to call their banks, or unfamiliar with how the U.S. banking system works—will they ever see their money again? “Basically if you’re an average person, you’re left to fend for yourself in this complex, constantly changing landscape,” Kesserwani says.
After extensive research, he discovered that Americans spend approximately $200 billion annually on bank and credit card fees with no digital solution to combat them. So he created a solution: Cushion.