Alternative Credit Scoring is now a Must-Have

Alternative Credit Solutions

Alternative credit scoring is not a new concept, in fact, the method first began making headlines as early as 2013. However, additional advancements in fintech, shifting consumer attitudes and recent changes to the market have made it a necessity for the modern lender to utilize.

Using alternative data and analytics to determine a borrower’s reliability provides more opportunities for borrowers and lenders alike — something that is of the utmost importance in the current economic climate.

Behavioral banking: The missing element for lenders

In 2013 alternative credit scoring made American Banker’s list of 10 Big Ideas for the year. Now, years later, it has ranked again. In the publisher’s 9 Big ideas for 2019, the concept of a “behavioral bank” is highlighted. This is a move away from traditional lending practices, and rather than determining pricing and loan offerings based on a borrower’s hard data, it’s based on their behavior.

By tracking the habits of a potential borrower, both in general and specifically regarding their finances, banks and private lenders can personalize their offerings depending on a customer’s lifestyle. In the specific example given by AB, a bank in South Africa rewarded members of a specific promotional program points for going to the gym or purchasing healthy groceries.

In essence, this is very similar to the data alternative credit scoring requires to come to its conclusion. By collecting information on borrowers’ past payment history, like if they ever missed or defaulted on a loan, and other personal information such as utility bills and rental experience, lenders can gain a comprehensive understanding of their finances and risk.

As a lender, it’s always important to know their customer and their risks. Even in current conditions, where an individual may be experiencing new financial hardships, analytics and alternative data is best for identifying long-term borrowing behaviors that matter the most to a lender.

Another method that seamlessly integrates into behavioral finance is psychometric testing. While more popular outside the U.S., some lenders will ask potential borrowers to complete a short psychometric test that provides insight into their personality, intelligence and integrity, among other things. These answers can help lenders determine the likelihood of a borrower paying back their loan in full.

The loosening of tight credit standards and a move toward understanding a borrower on a  personal level poses new prospects for lenders who have recently experienced a decline in their inbound leads.

Connect with new audiences online

Today, the most important benefit of alternative credit scoring remains largely the same: Lenders can reach underserved audiences with personalized loan offers while mitigating risks.

A recent study conducted by YouGov and ScoreSense revealed that 53% of Americans are turned down for loans and taking on other debt solely due to having poor credit (widely accepted as being a score below 670). Traditional credit scoring only provides a very narrow view of a customer based on their past financial borrowing experience but doesn’t take into account their other history that could prove they are a reliable consumer.

Considering the same report found that the majority of Americans either have three or more credit cards (38%) or no credit cards at all (28%) — both of which can negatively impact a credit score — judging a borrower’s reliability just based on this information is not beneficial. The reality is, a large portion of the population has no or poor credit scores due to a nonexistent borrowing history or a period of trying to regain their financial strength. However, they still need loans. These potential customers are often difficult for financial services firms to engage with when basing their evaluations on traditional credit scoring models.

The reality is that lenders are still missing crucial information on a borrower’s creditworthiness that would help them tailor their offerings and mitigate risks. Alternative credit scoring increases credit access for borrowers of all ages, especially those in lower-income brackets. On the flip side, lenders are given an opportunity to properly serve these audiences. In the digital age, where alternative data like utility payments can be securely shared with financial institutions, it’s easier than ever to gain this information and use analytics to aid in the decision-making process.

The pressing need for alternatives

Clearly, the benefits of alternative data also extend into times of economic uncertainty. In another article by American Banker, Barbara Sinsley, chief legal officer for Remitter USA and meldCX, highlights that alternative data may be the key to protecting consumer credit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (or any economic crisis).

A scoring system that takes human behaviors and habits into consideration alongside financial history protects borrowers whose credit has been affected by uncertainty. Perhaps they lost their job and missed a payment or cut back on using credit altogether during this time, it should not automatically make them ineligible for a loan (this would be unsustainable for lenders as well).

Elena Lonenko, a Forbes Councils Member, further argues that a FICO score can’t tell if an applicant is recently unemployed or suddenly has a reduced income that affects their credit. Alternative scoring is the solution to help these borrowers receive the loans they need and, in turn, help stimulate the economy and provide lenders with more qualified leads.

Building trust and novel opportunities

Using alternative data sources alongside analytics as part of the credit scoring processes helps lenders fill in the gaps if a borrower’s traditional financial history is lacking. New fintech initiatives are creating lending analytics technology that, with an applicant’s permission, can examine their past transactions and spot habits in spending, income, payments and even employment history.

Since applicants are given the option to share this information, they are in control of their data and build trust with lenders who ensure their facts are kept confidential. This serves as the foundation for lenders to serve entirely new communities and build meaningful relationships with borrowers as the economy continues to recover.

If anything is certain, it’s that alternative credit scoring models are here to stay as more borrowers and lenders become aware of its benefits. GDS Link offers private lenders and financial institutions of all sizes a dedicated risk management and credit scoring system to help optimize their data usage.

With a platform that organizes and streamlines all of the internal, traditional and alternative data, lenders can lend more, profit more and risk less.

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