Are Your Friends Creditworthy?

How many friends do you have? Are they really friends? And does that same standard apply to your Facebook friends? Think hard, because your answers to those questions could spell the difference between you getting a loan, and not getting a loan.

It was bound to happen eventually. We all know how our use of social media leads to the creation of mountains of data about each of us. Marketers look at all that data to decide which commercial messages are most appropriate. Political campaigns analyze meta tags from Tweets to decide whether we’re swing voters, and which ads we should get. And now, we’re beginning to learn how bankers are combing through Facebook relationships to help gauge creditworthiness. On a related front, a growing number of tech startups is coming up with tools and methodologies to meet this need.

Let’s back up a second. How did we get from FICO to Facebook? What exactly do social networks have to do with loan applications?

Quite a lot, it turns out. The belief is that we typically connect with like-minded people, good or bad. In ye olden days, that meant asking for references from friends and family. Now, technology plays that role. Hence, if you have Facebook friends who defaulted on their loans, and if you interact with them on a regular basis, you might be the type to default too.

The companies offering these services see their mission in a more positive light. Lenddo, for example, says it helps the emerging middle class use social connections to build their creditworthiness and access financial services. However, could the same information be used to block a loan?

It was only a few years before Mark Zuckerberg dreamed up the almighty Facebook that British anthropologist Robin Dunbar developed what we know as Dunbar’s Number. Using research conducted on primates and building on the size of the average human brain, the theory suggests that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom any individual can maintain social relationships. Dunbar posited that the number is about 150.

Random as it sounds, the figure comes up at numerous points throughout history. From Roman military history on down, the smallest autonomous military unit, the company, has typically been capped at 150 soldiers. Neolithic farming villages peaked at 150 members. Hutterite communities historically split when they reached 150.

For the record, Dunbar’s influence is now being recognized throughout the tech world. The Facebook crowd knows him well, and other firms are using his ideas to fuel their product development for the social media world. It’s why the messaging and photo-sharing service Path specifically limits users to 150 friends.

So maybe it’s a question we need to ask ourselves: Are all those Facebook friends really friends? At best, they might devalue the term; at worst, they could hurt our credit rating.

It’s not only Facebook, of course—as adherents of Big Data know, virtually every kind of online activity generates data points that contributes to the algorithm that computes the eventual credit score. What did you buy off eBay? What kinds of things do you get from Amazon? How active are you on PayPal? Who do you follow on Twitter?

To be sure, the genie is not going back in the bottle. Any given service we use regularly now might fall off our radar tomorrow (think MySpace), but the basic premise of social networking, and the behavioral changes the practice has induced, are here to stay. It’s unfortunate that a random re-Tweet or Facebook post can have such severe consequences. It’s also the reality.

What We’re Reading: Finovate, Consumer Spending and Security Technology

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • The Buzz at Finovate: New Security Tech

American Banker

Security has taken on increased importance this year in light of recent data breaches that have put millions of dollars on the line and the ongoing threat of distributed denial of service attacks. Reflecting this industry-wide sense of alarm, at this week’s FinovateSpring there were several startups focused solely on providing authentication to bank customers. “Information security has always been a space with a ton of vendors, both small and large,” says Jacob Jegher, a Celent senior analyst. “[But] it’s great to see increased emphasis on security at Finovate.” He says it’s time for the banking industry to “up the ante with regards to authentication, identity management, and overall fraud prevention.”

Read more

  • Study Shows Widespread Ignorance on Credit Scores

American Banker

A large percentage of Americans know little about their scores, a new survey found. The survey shows widespread misunderstanding about how scores are calculated and how they can be improved. Between one-quarter and two-fifths of adults can’t answer basic questions about their scores, according to the survey released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions. Two-fifths of respondents did not know that credit card issuers and mortgage lenders use scores to make decisions about credit availability and pricing, the survey found.

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  • The Next Wave of Mobile Banking

Business 2 Community

In the U.S market today, retail banks offer a standardized mobile banking application. This provides the convenience and ease of banking for the “on the go” customer. In general, mobile banking is an expanding market and has changed the way customers manage their funds. However, it is arguable that the user experience of each of the retail banks applications is similar.

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  • Banking security and five essential layers

CIOL

There have been significant changes in the threat landscape for online banking. In order to protect customers using Internet-based products and services, such as applications, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FIEC) and other regulators have instituted significantly more stringent requirements for financial institutions. Ensuring a compliant security program requires the execution of a good, multi-faceted authentication solution.

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  • 5 Things You Don’t Know Because You Weren’t at Finovate

Credit Union Times

FIS Wants To Be Your Mobile Main Man. The Jacksonville, Fla., tech behemoth may not have a rep for cutting edge tech, but Doug Brown, a vice president, was at Finovate with authentic tech hipster Chris Gardner – presently CEO of Paydiant, a mobile payments platform, and a serial tech entrepreneur whose cloud-based technology is powering some of FIS’ mobile offerings. The message: FIS has the mobile tech a credit union or bank needs. For instance: Brown demoed FIS’ Cardless Cash Access which lets a consumer withdraw real money from an ATM using only a smartphone (no debit card required).

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  • Banks should follow Apple, Starbucks in branch redesigns

Fierce Finance

It’s certainly true that banks are rationalizing the sheer number of branches they support, especially in regions where the costs outweigh the returns. But banks are also investing in the branch experience, which has led to lots of design and technology enhancements. By redesigning branches, banks are aiming to modernize the bank experience. This modernization has gone through many incarnations over the past decade.

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  • FBI Briefs Bank Executives On DDoS Attack Campaign

InformationWeek

FBI expedited security clearances so it could share classified info on Operation Ababil, a distributed denial of service attack that continues to disrupt U.S. financial websites. The FBI recently granted one-day clearances to security officers and executives at numerous banks so it could share classified intelligence on the Operation Ababil campaign that’s been disrupting U.S. financial websites for almost a year.

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  • 5 Hot Opportunities for Start-ups

Inc.com

Fresh numbers from Intuit shine a light on where consumers are spending the most–and where you might want to look for new business ideas. One way to find a hot business idea is to follow the money: Where are consumers spending the most? If that’s your approach, consider Intuit’s recently released findings from its Consumer Spending Index. It’s based on anonymized and aggregated data from more than 2 million Mint.com (an Intuit-owned budgeting tool) users who have agreed to share their demographic information such as age, gender, income, and location. The index measures spending habits from January 2009 to April 2013 and shows consumer spending is up nine percent from four years ago, and significantly so in certain sectors.

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  • The Next Generation of Cross-sell

Payments Journal

Too many financial institutions assume that cross-selling means offering products to every customer who walks through the door. According to Russell Lester, Director of Analytics at Intuit Financial Services, getting consumers to adopt lower cost services or channels can be a very profitable form of cross-sell. The cost of depositing a check using RDC on a mobile device is 10% of what it costs a bank to deposit a check in the branch. Using the previous example of an unprofitable DDA customer, it is easy to see how “cross-selling” them on RDC could result in a lower cost (and thus more profitable) relationship.

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What Goes On Your Credit Score?

During a segment on Good Morning America, Mellody Hobson discusses what affects consumers’ credit card scores. While this is common knowledge for FI’s, are your customers informed about how their financial habits are affecting their credit scores? Providing brochures and online information about credit scores will help your customers and members become more educated about how their day-to-day actions can affect their credit score.

Below, Mellody offers tips to help consumer effectively manage their credit scores.