I was recently invited to a panel discussion as a part of Money 20/20 titled Do Credit Scores Still Matter? Closing the Chasm through Data and Innovation with Lauryn Nwankpa, Head of Social Impact at Dave and Jay Moon, General Manager of Credit at Credit Sesame. We discussed how important data and innovation are right now to ensure that consumers get access to credit that they need.
As the largest credit bureau in the country, and in service of our mission to be the consumers’ bureau, we at Experian have a responsibility both to consumers seeking credit and to lenders who seek to assess the risk that a loan applicant represents. As part of this, we’ll continue to extract value from the data that lenders are used to getting from us and we innovate by providing new forms of data that can help the many Americans who either face barriers or sometimes pay more for credit because of a lack of credit history or having a credit file that’s too thin.
I’m especially passionate about this as I myself was an immigrant and a thin–file customer at one point. When I came to this country, it was incredibly hard for me to develop a credit profile that I felt accurately reflected my financial situation and the (lack of) risk that I, as a borrower, would represent. But I was lucky as my first lender at the time was patient, just as I needed to be. They spent months seeking additional information about my situation, eventually enough to extend a firm offer of credit.
It is not only immigrants who may face this or similar challenges. The impact of COVID-19 has created a difficult economic reality for many Americans. At Experian, we’re dedicated to having a culture of continuous innovation, from the way we work to the solutions we create to help consumers on the road to recovery. Especially during times of economic uncertainty, finding innovative means to effectively assess the creditworthiness of these consumers is critical.
That’s exactly what we focus on at Experian in order to help consumers gain financial access and stability. Alternative data plays a critical role in achieving this. We’re finding new ways to use consumer-permissioned and alternative credit data in the credit scoring process, which can help lenders identify consumers who are excluded from the traditional credit ecosystem, but who can fulfill their financial obligations. I’ve seen firsthand how our data and technology can help transform the way businesses operate and have spoken to many consumers who leveraged our innovative services to help them thrive in society.
Consumers want to be in the driver’s seat of their credit journey and we’re seeing a greater openness to providing data, which in turn enables lenders to make more informed decisions. This change is disrupting the status quo. Experian Boost is a great example of this. It’s a free and first-of-its-kind financial tool that empowers consumers to add positive telecom, utility and Netflix payment histories directly into their Experian credit file for an opportunity to instantly increase their FICO Score and access quality credit. More than 2.5 million have seen their scores improve with Experian Boost.
So, do credit scores still matter? My answer is that credit reports are more relevant than ever. They matter more than the score alone as they detail a consumer’s financial track record and deliver a historical view of how a consumer is managing and repaying debt over time. This information helps lenders determine who can fulfill their financial obligations and ensures consumers continue to have access to credit so I don’t believe credit reports are going anywhere.
As we navigate the road to recovery, it will be critical that all of us in the financial ecosystem work together to safeguard consumers and to maintain the integrity and openness of the credit market. The credit report, augmented by consumer–consented and alternative data, is a foundational pillar to achieve both of those objectives.