What the FICO!?
The turn of the new year traditionally means buying a new calendar, starting a new diet and hunting for a new job, but for 2019 there's something else new – a new credit score that can help millions of Americans increase their access to loans, credit cards and other financial products.
It's called, UltraFICO. It's a score that analyzes consumer activity in banking data that reflects responsible saving and spending activity, including checking accounts, savings accounts and Money Market accounts. While the traditional approach to credit scoring has focused on the past – limited to the historical record of a consumer's borrowing and payment patterns – UltraFICO can shine a spotlight on each person's current success at managing money.
“Our goal is to help empower consumers and to give better access to credit for more consumers, all while promoting fair lending,” said Alex Lintner, president, Consumer Information Services, Experian.
This shift from looking only at the past to start including current financial behavior can help improve credit access for the majority of Americans – especially consumers whose credit scores fall in the gray area of the upper 500s to lower 600s and those with scores that stop just short of a lender's cut-off point. UltraFICO also reflects the behavior and financial responsibility for those consumers who are relatively new to credit, such as recent graduates with limited credit histories or those who've overcome previous financial distress and have rebuilt their financial standing.
UltraFICO is a joint effort between Experian and FICO, the firm that invented credit scoring, as well as the financial data and tech experts at Finicity. FICO developed the model for the new score, based on classic FICO Score. This model will be implemented through Experian with the borrower data aggregated through Finicity. The new score is being rolled out in 2019 and should be widely available by the middle of the year.
Taking back control
One notable feature of the UltraFICO score is that it's the first to grant consumers a measure of control over what accounts are included in calculating their scores. In the new model, consumers opt-in with Experian to get an UltraFICO score when a conventional score is inadequate, by selecting their banking and cash accounts that should be used to calculate the new score. Finicity gathers that data and, based on the new FICO model, Experian generates the new UltraFICO score. Using this model, 70 percent of consumers without negative balances in the past three months and an average savings balance of $400 would see an improvement in their scores.
Although standards vary from lender to lender, a score of less than 670 on the credit score scale of 350 to 850 typically puts a lender in the subprime category. While scores have improved steadily since the end of the recession – with 53 percent of consumers carrying a score of better than 700 – 26 million borrowers who'd be classified as subprime would see their scores improve with the additional cash management data includes in the UltraFICO score. This would be especially valuable when it comes to making lending decisions involved the estimated 7 million consumers with “thin” histories of borrowing and credit, where the potential borrower doesn't have a large enough credit record to receive a full, qualified credit score.
“This changes the whole dynamic of the lender and customer relationship,” said Jim Wehmann, executive vice president, Scores, at FICO. “It empowers consumers to have greater control over the information that is being used in making credit risk decisions. It also enables a deeper dialogue between the consumer and lenders to help both parties make better financial decisions. It's a game changer.”
What's the takeaway?
In this way, the UltraFICO score can broaden the potential customer base for lenders to include otherwise responsible and credit-worthy borrowers whose financial behavior is trustworthy but who haven't established lengthy borrowing histories. It makes the UltraFICO score a way to solve what's long been the “Catch-22” of credit: New and young borrowers can't get loans because they don't have a track record of borrowing, but can't establish that needed credit history because they can't get loans. UltraFICO also offers other firms in financial services and technology a way to offer consumers credit educational tools designed to create an awareness of credit scores and how to improve them.