Equifax recently expanded its offerings connected with alternative data so finance companies still can cater to consumers with thin files or soft credit backgrounds.

Developed in partnership with Urjanet, Equifax introduced Payment Insights, a cloud-based solution that promotes greater financial inclusion, regardless of the consumer’s traditional credit score. Payment Insights is meant to empower consumers to share utility and telecom payment history with banks or lenders when applying for loans and other services.

According to the Federal Reserve, 63 million American adults are either unbanked or underbanked. Equifax said these individuals may rely on high-cost alternative financial products and services such as check cashing services or pawn shop loans to meet their day-to-day financial needs.

Helping more of these consumers obtain access to mainstream financial services and products requires new insights into individual financial history, according to the credit bureau.

“Urjanet data has shown that more than 90% of U.S. adults have at least one household utility service in their name,” said Mark Luber, chief product officer for Equifax United States Information Solutions (USIS).

“The Payment Insights product was designed with the understanding that utility payment information is a powerful source of data when traditional credit insights may not be available,” Luber continued in a news release. “Broader visibility into a person’s ability to pay has the potential to positively impact a person’s financial profile.

“We are giving lenders smarter insights that improve the consumer experience, by uncovering qualified applicants who may have otherwise been hidden from view,” he went on to say.

Equifax highlighted that Payment Insights is designed to make it easy for consumers to share utility payment history.

The cloud-based, API-driven product can allow finance companies and other lenders to seamlessly integrate the data into review processes, while meeting industry-leading standards for protection of consumer data security, confidentiality and integrity.

Individuals simply provide consent to connect their utility accounts from a lender’s branded experience, and up to 12 months of data is immediately delivered directly from the utility provider to the lender in tradeline format.

Equifax said the report pulls account information, obligation details and payment histories to give finance companies and lenders a more holistic view of the applicant.

“Urjanet and Equifax share the belief that consumer-permissioned data will play an increasingly important role in the financial profiles of consumers worldwide,” said Shannon Johnson, head of financial services and chief strategy officer at Urjanet.

“With Payment Insights, consumers can share information from a network of thousands of utility providers covering almost 90 percent of the U.S. population to create a more complete financial portrait. We’re enabling lenders to better reach underserved markets and quickly qualify more borrowers,” Johnson said.

Equifax indicated Payment Insights is available now and joins its suite of consumer-permissioned alternative data offerings, including Cashflow Insights, a solution designed to expand access to credit with bank transaction data.

Equifax advanced analytic capabilities and differentiated data assets also include The Work Number database, The Kount Identity Trust Global Network, The Equifax Commercial Financial Network (CFN), DataX, the IXI Network, PayNet and Ansonia Credit Data.

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