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Are “fallen angels” a key to economic growth?

As our newly elected officials begin to evaluate opportunities to drive economic growth in 2011, it seems to me that the role of lenders in motivating consumer activity will continue to be high on the list of both priorities and actions that will effectively move the needle of economic expansion.

From where I sit, there are a number of consumer segments that each hold the potential to make a significant impact in this economy. For instance, renters with spotless credit, but have not been able or confident enough to purchase a home, could move into the real estate market, spurring growth and housing activity. Another group, and one I am specifically interested in discussing, are the so called ‘fallen angels’ – borrowers who previously had pristine track records, but have recently performed poorly enough to fall from the top tiers of consumer risk segments. I think the interesting quality of ‘fallen angels’ is not that they don’t possess the motivation needed to push economic growth, but rather the supply and opportunity for them to act does not exist. Lenders, through the use of risk scores and scoring models, have not yet determined how to easily identify the ‘fallen angel’ amongst the pool of higher-risk borrowers whose score tiers they now inhabit.

This is a problem that can be solved though – through the use of credit attributes and analytic solutions, lenders can uncover these up-side segments within pools of potential borrowers – and many lenders are employing these assets today in their efforts to drive growth. I believe that as tools to identify and lend to untapped segments such as the ‘fallen angels’ develop, these consumers will inevitably turn out to be key contributors to any form of economic recovery.