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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Data that Deepens Financial Access: Experian and Lendup

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Data that Deepens Financial Access: Experian and Lendup

Mallory Kwiatkowski

Today’s show brings us two fascinating guests.  Alex Lintner is President of Consumer Information Services for Experian, and Sasha Orloff -- who is a previous guest on Barefoot Innovation -- is founder and CEO of LendUp. They recently joined forces to explore using new kinds of data to widen financial inclusion. We all sat down to discuss it at the LendIt conference this spring in San Francisco.

Credit scores are a great tool for evaluating the creditworthiness of many consumers, but as Alex explains, not for all of them. He and Sasha think -- as do I -- that we need a fuller view into what Alex calls the consumer’s financial “reputation.” Experian estimates that 100 million people in America need this kind of broadened evaluation. We know that many consumers with low or no credit scores are actually creditworthy, and in fact could prove it if we had systems that could look closely at their financial behaviors and situations beyond reported credit history.

Traditionally, though, we didn’t have efficient ways to get that information because, in the analog age, when the current systems were designed, data was scarce and costly. Today, in contrast, we have massive volumes of digital information we can access and analyze, instantly and efficiently. This creates the ability to do what used to be impossible -- make financial services more inclusive, without sacrificing lending soundness.

Toward that goal, LendUp and Experian undertook a joint research project to look at the benefits of capturing data on customers’ performance on single-payment loans. The study produced really striking results -- the overwhelming majority of consumers in the study came out with positive impacts on their credit scores.

And as Alex explains, single-payment loans are just one kind of nontraditional data. In today’s digitized world, there are many other factors that we can begin to capture methodically and build into routine credit scores. Experian is now routinely doing this, offering a new score called Clear Early Risk.

In our conversation, Alex and Sasha share insights drawn from their own lives and talk about the many situations in which people have trouble accessing credit when they need it. Some of these consumers are young people or new immigrants with thin or no credit file. Some are facing life changes like a family death or divorce. Some are contending with emergencies like loss of a job or medical bills. Our discussion also tied these kinds of individual challenges into big shifts underway overall in lifestyle and in technology -- the advent of mobile financial services, the rise of the gig economy, and expanding use of artificial intelligence.  In addition, we touched on the future of the Community Reinvestment Act, which is due for much-needed, tech-driven modernization.

Using alternative credit risk data has complex implications for fair lending regulation, especially in the US and especially regarding “disparate impact.”  US policy bars use of credit practices that have a disproportionate adverse effect on “protected classes” like women and minorities, unless the lender can demonstrate a business need and show that less-discriminatory alternatives are not available. The criteria for proving this are not clear today, and I’m among the many people who think that clarifying them is essential to expanding financial inclusion by fostering use of new data. Despite having the best of intentions, policymakers have inadvertently made hard-to-score consumers the riskiest market to serve, due to the regulatory risk arising from uncertainty. That chills efforts to address these customers’ needs by many mainstream and high-quality lenders.

The CFPB is exploring this issue through its evaluation of alternative data and issuance of a “no action letter” for Upstart. A similar effort is underway, also, at the new nonprofit FinRegLab, which is run by Melissa Koide and funded by the Omidyar Network. I chair FinRegLab’s board, and we’re conducting empirical testing of alternative data -- specifically cash flow underwriting -- including how these new methods relate to disparate impact.

Today’s show is a glimpse of a promising future, harnessing innovative technology to produce lending that is more inclusive, and also more sound.

More Links

Episode Transcription

Podcast with Al Ko - Episode recorded last year with Al Ko of Intuit

LendUp Infograph

Alternative Credit Data trends and reports

Op-Ed by Sasha on innovation in credit scoring

More on Sasha and Alex

Sasha Orloff is CEO and co-founder of LendUp. LendUp’s mission is to provide anyone with a path to better financial health. The company builds technology, credit products, and educational experiences that haven’t existed before for the emerging middle class -- the 56% of Americans shut out of mainstream banking due to poor credit or income volatility. It has originated more than $1 billion in loans. With offices in San Francisco, CA and Richmond, VA, LendUp is backed by debt and equity financing from venture and social impact investors including Y-Combinator, Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Victory Park Capital and Yuri Milner’s Startfund. In June, both Nigel Morris and Frank Rotman of QED Investors joined the LendUp board of directors.

Prior to founding LendUp, Sasha held roles in risk management, finance, online acquisitions and customer insights on Citi’s consumer credit team, and most recently served as Senior Vice President on Citigroup's Venture Capital team. He previously worked for the Grameen Foundation Technology Center and The World Bank. He has a B.S. in applied math and economics from the University of California, San Diego and an MBA from Georgetown University.


Alex Lintner is President of Experian’s Consumer Information Services, overseeing the company’s US consumer credit bureau and the National Consumer Assistance Centre (NCAC). He’s responsible for all aspects of Experian’s consumer credit activities within the business-to-business marketplace, including delivery and management of value-added credit risk, marketing, and collection products to help clients manage and optimize their customer relationships. Alex was previously CEO and President of Vertafore, a $450+ million revenue insurance industry technology provider. Prior to that he was President of Intuit’s Global Business Division and also Senior Vice President of Strategy, Government Affairs and Corporate Development. He’s also spent 15 years as a consultant, starting as a Business Analyst at Dr. Hoefner & Partners in Munich, Germany and later serving as Vice President of The Boston Consulting Group in their London and San Francisco offices.

More for our listeners

Our next guest on the show will be another community bank CEO, Mike Butler of Radius Bank in Boston.  Upcoming episodes include a fascinating conversation with Congressman Gregory Meeks on financial innovation and policy; a talk I recorded this year at LendIt with my friend Greg Kidd of Global ID; and three discussions with regtech firms -- JWG in London, Compliance.ai, and Alloy.

Speaking of LendIt, I was a guest this month on Peter Renton’s Lend Academy podcast, and he’ll be on our show soon as well. I was also a guest in June on the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation podcast, CFTC Talks, with Andy Busch. And here are my two podcasts with the CFTC, one with Chairman Giancarlo and a recent one with innovation head Dan Gorfine.

It’s not too early to register for the fall’s premier fintech event, Money 2020, in October in Las Vegas. I’ll again be MC for the regulatory track, which, remember, is on Sunday -- be sure to plan accordingly!  I’ll also be speaking on the Revolution Stage, which is new this year, about regulation innovation. Also watch for Regtech Rising in December, which I’m helping to plan.

We’ll also be posting information on my collaboration with Brett King on his new book on the future of finance -- we’ll have a show and events on that as well, and I’ll be a guest on Brett’s great radio show Breaking Banks this week, on July 5.

Please remember to give Barefoot Innovation a five-star rating on iTunes to help us expand the show. I hope you’ll sign up to get emails that bring you the newest podcast, newsletter, and blog posts, at www.jsbarefoot.com.  Follow me on Twitter and our Facebook fan page. And please send in your “buck a show” to keep Barefoot Innovation going!

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Until next time, keep innovating!