How Equifax is Helping Expand Access to Credit
At the Virtual Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) Law & Industry Conference on July 12-14 2021, Peter Maynard, Senior Vice President of USIS Data & Analytics at Equifax, answered critical questions during the session, “Serving the Underserved: An Innovative Industry Focuses on Financial Inclusion.” Other presenters during this session included Michael Umlauf of TransUnion and Alpa Lally of Experian. The questions asked by moderator, Francis Creighton of CDIA, focused on the credit invisible, innovation, and consumer credit data.
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Below are Peter Maynard’s answers during the July 13 session.
Jump ahead to a specific topic:
Who are the credit invisibles, what are their characteristics, and why is it so hard to address?
Peter Maynard: We have the credit invisibles but also the credit insecure. The credit insecure are people who may have some credit they haven’t paid yet or have had a poor experience with credit in the past. The credit insecure may have student loan debt or a collection account. They enter the file in a way that is not positive for them. There are not many ways for them to get access to credit. There is no set stereotypical, “where is the credit invisible.” There are many different flavors of how this evolves. This is hard because it requires coordination between us as lenders, data providers, and consumers to work together to make this happen. This forum opens up a dialogue that says, “how do we come together to help people get the access they need?”
Walk through some of Equifax’s innovation when it comes to consumers’ access to credit.
Peter Maynard: Within Equifax, with events of last year, we put together a global team to say, “what can Equifax do to focus our efforts and resources on this (financial inclusion)?” We have a direct to consumer business and are looking at how to educate consumers and provide them with the right level of services. Another way is community outreach service, which entails working with specific institutions in Atlanta and St. Louis by helping their communities build credit access. Equifax has been working with government partners and has specific products that will help.
We recently released a new credit card product where we combine our data that is unique at Equifax. This combination includes our national communication telephone utility exchange data with credit data to score more people. We are looking at how to get those insights out there to our lenders so they are confident about lending to people with thin credit files but may have alternative data.
Also, like other credit bureaus, we have been looking at consumer consent data. This is something that can allow consumers to opt in and leverage payments over time in their favor. We have our cash flow insights product and our payment insights product that is our partnership with Urjanet. This allows that sort of data to enter in the ecosystem so that consumers can get benefits and gain access to credit products they deserve.
What are the changes we have to make to continue to move in the right direction?
Peter Maynard: Consumer permission data is critical and Equifax definitely focuses on this. There are two other things Equifax has begun to do. The first thing is having conversations with our clients. However, we weren’t being crisp enough with saying, “if you are interested in building a new credit segment strategy and if you are a lender and wondering what the right products are, we have teams to tell you this is the type of data you should use.” We have better analyses to show where the value could be for them and how they can lend to these consumers confidently. We were looking at things slightly different and noticed that we showed the value of our data but not the credit invisible population. We were instead showing the whole population. Now we have case studies that show the credit invisible. This has been very positive.
The second thing is that we have been having conversations about delivery, platforms, and technology because a number of our clients are interested in this. We are trying to help them with where they are now and not where they are going to be in a couple of years. We work on how we surface APIs and how do we surface the datasets, to make the last mile execution easier for them. It is interesting to do all this, but most importantly make sure we deliver the right signal at the right time.
What is one cool news thing you can tell everyone that Equifax is doing?
Peter Maynard: Working with customers and solving real problems is where we get our joy at Equifax. Currently, we are in the process of migrating to the cloud and that has been awesome with unleashing data. We are kids in a candy store with the streaming data and are able to process even more data then we have had before. We are able to test things we have not been able to test.
With new kinds of data coming into the system, how do we ensure data integrity for what’s coming in?
Peter Maynard: For Equifax, it is all about can you trust the data. Questions include, is the data going to be there every day, is the data going to show up on time, and is the data going to be used confidently for every consumer and every decision made. We hold ourselves to this high bar and take this very seriously. It is a continuous improvement of process. We are always identifying places on how to get the supply chain better. If we ever want to get to machine learning we need to focus on the data quality. If our clients don’t trust the data we won’t be able to fulfill that machine learning. For us this is one of the number one things.
How does Equifax learn about new types of data types?
Peter Maynard: We launched InnovationX with our clients. This is where they bring their data and insights into our data and insights. We combine our data assets with their assets to see what we discover. Another piece is working with partners. Partners may have some business hypotheses and we can evaluate them together to improve coverage and performance. There are so many universities that are hungry for data, so we make our platforms available as well and find it rewarding that we can teach and help them.
How can we get the mobile phone providers to report the installment payments that consumers are engaging in regularly to purchase their devices?
Peter Maynard: The consumer consent route is really good. Equifax is behind this. We have a partnership with the National Communication Telephone utility exchange. Mobile phone providers report positive and negative data through them. If lenders use that data it can be used for other credit products. There are avenues that are out there. It would be awesome if all utility, telephone, and mobile companies reported in, but it’s a journey.
For more information on serving the credit invisible visit our website.
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