On this podcast, MBW founder Tim Ingham is joined by Anthony Davenport, the CEO and Founder of New York-headquartered Regal Credit Management.
US-headquartered Regal Credit, as the name suggests, helps high-profile and high-net-worth individuals with their credit – both in terms of building it and protecting it.
Regal Credit, which was recently named on the Inc. 5000 list of companies in the US, counts many clients from across the music business.
The particular reason we invited Davenport on this podcast was to discuss a tool of Regal’s called Cyber Sweep, which is a data removal service that either suppresses or outright deletes personal information from across the internet – whether on the dark web or more legitimate sites.
According to Davenport, Cyber Sweep has been used by very high-profile figures in the music business, including superstar artists, who are looking to protect themselves both from fraudulent online activity, and from stalking from fans.
On this podcast, Davenport discusses why he believes such activity is becoming a growing societal problem, and we also get time to dig into Davenport’s own interesting origin story that led to the birth of Regal Credit.
Listen to the full podcast above, or read an edited and abridged transcript of the interview below…
In your own words, can you explain what Cyber Sweep is and what it does?
Essentially, Cyber Sweep is the process of removing someone’s personal information from the web.
This includes things like phone numbers, email addresses, home addresses… blurring out their homes on Google Maps, Apple Maps, making sure that stalkers, rabid fans, thieves and whatnot can’t find these people and stalk, harass, extort them, etc. So it’s a whole mixture of different things, including dark web monitoring, to keep them safe.
Regal Credit has many high-profile, confidential clients in the music industry, both on the artist and performer side and on the business side. How did Cyber Sweep come about? Were you getting this request from clients?
Our two biggest services came about just from people knocking on our door, saying, ‘We have a problem. Can you solve it?’
And with Cyber Sweep, what happened is, there’s a multifamily office that works with huge megastars like Rihanna and Katie Holmes and other people like that, that said, ‘Hey, we have a billionaire client who’s getting calls on her cell phone, saying, Hey, I’m down and out. I know you have money, give me money.’
So then this [caller] was blocked… But then she showed up at their office – no one really knew where their office was – but she showed up and just said, ‘Hi, I’m here. I need to get money.’ So obviously a police report was filed.
“COVID really brought out all the nutjobs, all the stalkers, all the rabid fans. They were already loose cannons and then they became extra loose.”
The multifamily office then rang me up and said, ‘Hey, listen, this happened. Can we figure out how this woman got access to all this information? This isn’t information that we want out there.’
So I dug into it, and I said, ‘Yeah, actually, this woman bought a report from Whitepages.com for $12. And it contains all this information, down to what cars are registered in her name, planes, boats, etc. Whether she’s had any driving license infractions, speeding tickets… it’s a treasure trove of data. And this report’s about 100 pages in length.’
And then they said, ‘Well, how do we get it removed?’ And… I looked into it, and there were a couple of companies that do this sort of thing, but they remove [information] from like 30 websites. We found out that you [could] actually get this information from over 200 websites at the time. We’ve since figured out it’s more than 400 websites.
So that was basically the origin of it because they said, ‘Well, 30 websites is not enough. Can you get them removed from the rest and figure out what else we can do to protect her and our rest of our clients?’
Obviously that’s a huge problem if you’re a billionaire, and you need that level of protection, but how much of a problem is this becoming generally for anyone that’s done reasonably well in life, particularly in the music industry? Because if you’re adding clients, that proves that there’s a need.
Yeah, the service has grown about 900% over the last three years. It seems that COVID really brought out all the nutjobs – all the stalkers, all the rabid fans. They were already loose cannons and then they became extra loose.
[Stalkers] started stalking and harassing everyone from Taylor Swift to Ariana Grande to Eminem and Drake… they really started going after a lot of their favorite celebrities.
But we’ve also found that there are people [who are targeted] that are not quite household names. This is also a great way to steal someone’s identity and get access to their finances and their bank accounts and things like that, because for eleven bucks, legally, they can get access to all of this information that’s going to help them break into people’s accounts and steal their money.
So we see people that are just very wealthy business owners, or people that are married to celebrities, or people that have written successful screenplays. It really trickles down to anybody who has a Wikipedia page or that there’s some sort of public information on [that lets] people know they have money.
Let me ask you a bit about Regal Credit, and particularly where you’ve seen growth and success in the music industry. One of the things you’ve mentioned before has to do with artists who want to draw some credit outside of their home country. Is this somewhere you’ve seen growth in the business?
We have… Originally I started this when I was a banker… One of the biggest issues I saw operating in New York was that people would come and say, ‘I’ve got millions of dollars in the bank, but I can’t even get a Macy’s credit card. How on earth am I ever going to get a mortgage?’
So I figured out a process of how to build up their credit, really so that I could do more mortgages, but one day it hit me that that’s a business unto itself.
And then, a few years in, as we started to work with high-profile, high net worth [individuals], particularly musicians, we saw that they had the same issue. They’re like, ‘Hey, we’re a K-pop band. We’re coming over to do a tour of America. It’s really hard to do that on a Korean debit card. We would really like an AmEx.’
So we basically use that tool to build up their credit so that they can hit the ground running, and their business managers and tour managers and all that would have some sort of method of being able to pay for blocks of hotel rooms and flights and all that sort of stuff without a daily limit of $3,000 or whatever the case is. So that’s allowed us to work with a lot of bands.
You were a banker before this, but there’s a bit of a personal story attached to the launch of Regal Credit. If you’re comfortable discussing that, could you tell us about the life-changing episode that put you on a very different path?
It’s actually the best failure that ever could have possibly happened to me. As you mentioned, I was a banker, and that was a great thing to be in the early 2000s. It was a horrible thing to be when the economy started crashing in 2008, anchored primarily around the real estate market.
So I went from making a lot of money to having no money. And I was the type of person that had an immaculate credit score, had plenty of money saved up in the bank account, was very frugal… I started reading retirement magazines when I was 20. Who does that? So I had a lot of my financial ducks in a row, but my industry evaporated virtually overnight.
And we lived on our savings for a bit over a year. And then one day, when my wife was eight months pregnant with our first son, I walked up to her and said, ‘Listen, I’ve met with an attorney. We have no choice but to file bankruptcy.’ And that was the most painful moment in my life, to listen to her cry, and to know that I couldn’t do anything about it.
“It’s actually the best failure that ever could have possibly happened to me.”
A few weeks later, my mother-in-law came to visit as we were packing up from our nice, luxury deluxe apartment in the sky and moving into a roach- and mouse-infested apartment down the street. She said, ‘What is your plan? How are you going to provide for your family?’
And I told her, ‘This is something that’s going to impact nearly everyone that you know, and I’m just in the front wave of it… So my idea is I’m going to take this knowledge of credit and help other people that are going to go through this similar situation.’
So I launched Regal Credit three months after our bankruptcy was discharged in 2010. And we took off like a rocket, because there were so many people who needed help building their credit for the first time, rebuilding their credit after they took a few knocks during a recession. And that’s my greatest failure.
Lots of people talk about the idea that there may be another bubble bursting at a certain point in the next few years, or more strife that is reminiscent of that 2008 era. If you had to give one piece of financial advice or credit advice to anyone out there, particularly those of us working in the music industry, what one piece of advice would you give?
The important lesson here is that there’s always going to be something unforeseen. You never know what’s going to hit you. And recessions happen every– they say six to eight years. So they’re going to happen… There’s always going to be something. So you have to start preparing for that – not necessarily like a doomsday sort of thing, but just think of, ‘How can I position myself so that, if something unforeseen were to hit me, I’m prepared from a credit perspective?’
You should look at your personal credit. Is it as good as it can be? Is your business credit as good as it can be? You need to take out those lines of credit and get access to those things before you need them. And that’s going to require optimal credit to do that. Then you have them when you need them. Because when do the banks not want to give you the money? When you need it. So that’s a real key thing [to have] all that stuff in a row. Be ready, be prepared, and you’ll be fine.
It’s the fixing-the-roof-while-the-sun-is-shining analogy.
Exactly. That’s perfect.
You’re also the founder of the Social 4M forum, where “top industry leaders come to connect, grow and make a change.” What is it? What are you up to? What’s the ambition with this?
This is a COVID [era] thing that happened. I was moderating a Zoom panel of business managers in the States. And we were trying to come up with four topics to discuss in an hour around the future of business management. What are all the things that we’re facing? But every one of the topics were ones that were going to take at least an hour to discuss on their own, like back then it was going back to the office, hybrid working. Other things were like how to talk to artists about financial responsibility, or hiring with diversity in mind. Like all of those things were super-long.
And then one of the panelists said, ‘You know what, I wish that there was a forum to be able to discuss these types of issues, and ways to help the industry as a whole, not just business managers, but talent managers, people that are in the industry. And we think that you should do it because you work with so many different business management firms.’
“My mission became [that] I’m going to put women and people of color at the forefront of this. I’m going to create it so that we have an opportunity to have our voices heard and represented.”
I thought about it and said, ‘You know, I work with over 120 different firms in the States alone, and then we work with about 20 here in the UK.’ And I said ‘Sure, I’ll do it, but I’m going to do it my way.’
I see a huge issue in the industry being old white men, primarily, but when you look down the ladder, you see that there are plenty of women and people of color. So my mission became [that] I’m going to put women and people of color at the forefront of this. I’m going to create it so that we have an opportunity to have our voices heard and represented and to shine a spotlight on people that provide services to artists and whatnot.
So we started that a little over two years ago, and it’s exploded. I call Regal my day job and Social4M is my unpaid internship, but it’s really taken off. We now have over 600 members, we do events in LA, New York, Miami, London, and we’re going to start Nashville next year as well.
It’s free to join, you just have to apply for membership and then we pick out basically who’s going to make sense. It’s free for business managers, talent managers, promoters, sports and entertainment lawyers. The rest can support us as a partner. You can apply at Social4M.com and [then you can] come to lovely events like we had the other day here in London.
MBW’s podcasts are supported by Voly Music. Voly’s platform enables music industry professionals from all sectors to manage a tour’s budgets, forecasts, track expenses, approve invoices and make payments 24/7, 365 days a year. For more information and to sign up to a free trial of the platform, visit VolyMusic.com.