Credit Score Battles
Thanks to increasing competion among data analytic firms, more consumers than ever before will have credit scores.
The struggle that is generating this activity pits market leader FICO against relative upstart VantageScore over market share.
FICO, formerly known as Fair Isaac, is the grandfather of credit analytics. It was founded in 1956 and has a close association with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three national credit bureaus.
VantageScore is the seven-year old organization jointly founded in 2006 by those three credit reporting bureaus to develop an alternative to using FICO’s algorithm, for which they need to pay a licensing fee. The two organizations have been locked in slow motion struggle to overcome the other ever since as the credit bureaus have both relied upon and resented FICO, according to Barry Paperno of Credit Scoring Expert for Credit.com, a website which both advises consumers on credit issues and markets credit cards.
“From the bureaus point of view, they feed their data to FICO which put it through the formula and then sells it back to them as a score,” Paperno said. “It’s not a surprise that they would want to try to cut out the middleman.”
Vantage has rolled out two previous versions of its score since its founding and released the third, dubbed VantageScore 3.0, last week. The company said the new score will provide the ability to score between 27 million and 30 million additional consumers who had been considered previously “unscoreable,” often because they lacked conventional credit histories.
“The VantageScore 3.0 model is both a new model, and new path forward for VantageScore Solutions and the credit scoring industry. The model was built with a lender’s implementation and risk management needs in mind, in conjunction with a deeper understanding for what information consumers need to become better managers of their own credit,” said Barrett Burns, CEO of VantageScore Solutions in a prepared statement about the new scoring model. “Today’s competitive lending environment dictates that lenders need access to as many creditworthy consumers as possible within their target universe, demanding the highest level of predictive performance from the credit scoring models they use. The VantageScore 3.0 model facilitates this, and provides risk managers a level of predicativeness that will allow them to confidently extend credit to tens of millions of consumers that were previously invisible to them so that those consumers have a greater chance to access mainstream credit, which is one of our principle goals.”
VantageScore claims to be used by seven of the top 10 major financial institutions but did not identify them or say whether they used the VantageScore exclusively. The company has also not yet said whether any credit unions use the score, a reticence that VantageScore Burns explained as having roots in the company’s desire not to appear to be colluding on marketing it scores.
That possible impression exists because VantageScore’s ownership by the three big credit bureaus and has already been the subject of a lawsuit from FICO, which FICO lost.
VantageScore said its new model has included a scorecard to generate scores for those consumers with little or no credit activity. The new model also includes data from rentals utilities and telecom payments to help generate scores.
In this regard the new VantageScore is similar to a new effort announced last week between FICO and FactorTrust to generate new scores that will address financially underserved consumers.
FactorTrust, a leading aggregator of payment data from financially underserved consumers and FICO, announced their new partnership which they said will incorporate more data from under served consumers in credit scoring models.
The companies said adding data from under served consumers into widely used credit models will allow lenders to better judge – and lend – to consumers who may have thin or even non-existence credit bureau files.
“Alternative data can be a valuable supplement to traditional data sources for risk assessment,” said Andrew Jennings, FICO’s chief analytics officer and head of FICO Labs. “By combining alternative data, advanced analytics and decision services, lenders can now make better credit decisions on people who don’t have a credit history, and who have therefore found it hard to obtain credit.”
“The demand for alternative financial services continues to grow as consumers look for instant, efficient and secure products that they haven’t been able to get from traditional lenders,” said Greg Rable, CEO for FactorTrust. “I am excited that this partnership will provide an opportunity to under banked-focused lenders to offer more product choices to these consumers by having a broader view of credit behavior. Lenders will be able to offer more products, more tailored to their consumers.”
FactorTrust has been aggregating data from financially underserved consumes since 2005 and has been working to challenge stereotypes about them, reporting, for example, that 32% of financially underserved consumers own their own homes.
Rable called the timing of the VantageScore announcement “interesting” but maintained that FactorTrust had been working for some time with FICO, as well as with lenders who have a history of lending to the financially under served and those who want to enter that market. He said this in part to explain that the FICO/FactorTrust partnership may not result in widely distributed new scoring products immediately.
“This is not something that you can do quickly and just run up an underserved score,” Rable said. “That is what some have done in the past and it did not work that well. If you want to do it right, you have to take the time to properly analyze data from under served borrowers.”