How Technology is Shaping the Future of Consumer Credit
Consumer credit has been constantly evolving for more than 5,000 years, but the reality is that the most drastic changes to the industry came fairly recently.
Modern credit systems are now powered by sophisticated algorithmic credit scoring, the use of trended and alternative data, and innovative fintech applications. While these developments are all interesting in their own right, together they serve as a technological foundation for a much more profound shift in consumer credit in the coming years.
The Future of Consumer Credit
In today’s infographic from Equifax, we look at the cutting edge of consumer credit, including the new technologies and global trends that are shaping the future of how consumers around the world will access credit.
It’s the final piece of our three-part series covering the past, present, and future of credit.
The biggest problem that creditors have always faced is well-documented. There is more to a borrower than just their credit score. Yet creditors do not always have a 360 degree view of a consumer’s creditworthiness in order to better assess their overall score.
Called “information asymmetry”, this gap has gotten smaller over the years thanks to advancements in technology and business practices. However, it still persists in particular situations, like when a college student has no credit history, or when a rural farmer in India wants to take out a loan to buy seeds for crops.
But thanks to growing amounts of data – as well as the technology to make use of that data – high levels of information asymmetry may soon be a thing of the past.
Forces Shaping Credit’s Future
Here are some of the major forces that will drive the future of consumer credit, addressing the information asymmetry problem and making a wide variety of credit products available to the public:
1. Growing Data
90% of the data in all of human history has been created in just the last two years.
2. Changing Regulatory Landscape
New international regulations are putting personal data back in the hands of consumers, who can control the personal data they authorize access to.
3. Game-changing Technologies
Machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks are giving companies a way to garner insights from data.
4. Focus on Identity
Authenticating the identity of consumers will become crucial as credit becomes increasingly digital. Blockchain and biometrics could play a role.
5. The Fintech Boom
The democratization of data and tech is allowing small and niche players to come in and offer new, innovative products to consumers.
The Credit Revolution
No one can predict the future, but the above forces are shaping the credit industry to be a very different experience for consumers and businesses. Here are how things could change.
More Data, New Models
Current credit scoring algorithms use logistical regressions to compute scores, but these really max out at using 30-50 variables. In addition, these models can’t “learn” new things like AI can.
However, with new technologies and an unprecedented explosion in data taking place, it means that this noise can be converted into insights that could help increase trust in the credit marketplace. New algorithms will be multivariate, and they will be able to mine, structure, weight, and use this treasure trove of data.
|Artificial intelligence||Machine learning can “learn” from massive data sets, and apply these lessons for better scoring.|
|Bayesian||Models can update probabilities as more information is available, helping to better predict creditworthiness.|
|APIs||Application programming interfaces (APIs) make it easier for developers to use technologies, data, and to build new applications.|
|Neural networks||Brain-inspired AI systems designed to replicate the way that humans learn are used for deep learning. This enables the processing of raw, unstructured, and often abstract data for new insights.|
Neural networks will be able to look at a billions of data points to find and make sense of extremely rare patterns. They will also be able to explain why a particular decision was made – and at a time where transparency is crucial, this will be key.
Data Will be in the Hands of Consumers
Today, much of consumers’ financial data – such as loan repayment histories – is held almost exclusively by banks and credit agencies.
However, tomorrow points to a very different paradigm: much of the data will be directly in the hands of consumers. In other words, consumers will be able to decide how their data gets used, and for what. In Europe, changes have already been made to transfer control of personal data to the consumer, such as the PSD2, GDPR, and Open Banking (U.K.) initiatives.
Experts see the trend towards open data growing globally, and eventually reaching the United States. Open data will allow consumers to:
- Regain control of checking, mortgage, loan, and credit card data
- Give up more information voluntarily to unlock better deals from creditors
- Grant access to third parties (fintech, apps, etc.) to use this data in new applications and products
- Gain access to better rates, new lending models, and more
Identity Will Be Just as Important
As transactions become more digital and remote, how lenders verify the identity of borrowers will be just as important as the lending data itself.
Why? Credit is based around trust – and fraud is the biggest risk for lenders.
But fraud an be prevented by new technologies that help detect anomalies and prove a borrower’s identity:
Distributed, tamper-resistant databases can help secure people’s identities from fraudulent activity
Fingerprints, facial recognition, and other biometric identification schemes could help secure identities as well
New Game, New Players
With the vast expansion in types and volume credit data, new technologies, and standardized data in the hands of consumers, there will be a new era of third-party companies and apps that can provide useful and relevant services for consumers.
Here are just some emerging fields in lending:
|P2P Loans||Does a bank need to be an intermediary?
With peer-to-peer loans, you are matched to an appropriate lender/borrower.
|Microlending||Lending doesn’t always need to be in big amounts, like for a mortgage or auto loan.|
|Alternative credit scoring||Psychometric testing or the use of other data streams can be used to power this less traditional form of lending.|
|Niche services||With an open playing field, companies will fill every gap imaginable.|
In the future, consumers may not have to even request credit – it may be automatically allocated to them based on behavior, age, assets, and needs.
Consumers will have more control, and more options than ever before.
Charting the Rise of America’s Debt Ceiling
By June 1, a debt ceiling agreement must be finalized. The U.S. could default if politicians fail to act—causing many stark consequences.
Charting the Rise of America’s Debt Ceiling
Every few years the debt ceiling standoff puts the credit of the U.S. at risk.
In January, the $31.4 trillion debt limit—the amount of debt the U.S. government can hold—was reached. That means U.S. cash reserves could be exhausted by June 1 according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Should Republicans and Democrats fail to act, the U.S. could default on its debt, causing harmful effects across the financial system.
The above graphic shows the sharp rise in the debt ceiling in recent years, pulling data from various sources including the World Bank, U.S. Department of Treasury, and Congressional Research Service.
Raising the debt ceiling is nothing new. Since 1960, it’s been raised 78 times.
In the 2023 version of the debate, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is asking for cuts in government spending. However, President Joe Biden argues that the debt ceiling should be increased without any strings attached. Adding to this, the sharp uptick in interest rates have been a clear reminder that rising debt levels can be precarious.
Consider that historically, interest payments on the U.S. debt have been equal to about half the cost of defense. More recently, however, the cost of servicing the debt has risen, and is now almost on par with the defense budget as a whole.
Key Moments In Recent History
Over history, raising the debt ceiling has often been a typical process for Congress.
Unlike today, agreements to raise the debt ceiling were often negotiated faster. Increased political polarization over recent years has contributed to standoffs with damaging consequences.
For instance, in 2011, an agreement was made just days before the deadline. As a result, S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ for the first time ever. This delay cost an estimated $1.3 billion in extra costs to the government that year.
Before then, the government shut down twice between 1995 and 1996 as President Bill Clinton and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich went head-to-head. Over a million government workers were furloughed for a week in late November 1995 before the debt limit was raised.
What Happens Now?
Today, Republicans and Democrats have less than two weeks to reach an agreement.
If Congress doesn’t make a deal the result would be that the government can’t pay its bills by taking on new debt. Payment for federal workers would be suspended, certain pension payments would get stalled, and interest payments on Treasuries would be delayed. The U.S. would default under these conditions.
Three Potential Consequences
Here are some of the potential knock-on effects if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by June 1, 2023:
1. Higher Interest Rates
Typically investors require higher interest payments as the risk of their debt holdings increase.
If the U.S. fails to pay interest payments on its debt and gets a credit downgrade, these interest payments would likely rise higher. This would impact the U.S. government’s interest payments and the cost of borrowing for businesses and households.
High interest rates can slow economic growth since it disincentivizes spending and taking on new debt. We can see in the chart below that a gloomier economic picture has already been anticipated, showing its highest probability since 1983.
Historically, recessions have increased U.S. deficit spending as tax receipts fall and there is less income to help fund government activities. Additional fiscal stimulus spending can also exacerbate any budget imbalance.
Finally, higher interest rates could spell more trouble for the banking sector, which is already on edge after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.
A rise in interest rates would push down the value of outstanding bonds, which banks hold as capital reserves. This makes it even more challenging to cover deposits, which could further increase uncertainty in the banking industry.
2. Eroding International Credibility
As the world’s reserve currency, any default on U.S. Treasuries would rattle global markets.
If its role as an ultra safe asset is undermined, a chain reaction of negative consequences could spread throughout the global financial system. Often Treasuries are held as collateral. If these debt payments fail to get paid to investors, prices would plummet, demand could crater, and global investors may shift investment elsewhere.
Investors are factoring in the risk of the U.S. not paying its bondholders.
As we can see this in the chart below, U.S. one-year credit default swap (CDS) spreads are much higher than other nations. These CDS instruments, quoted in spreads, offer insurance in the event that the U.S. defaults. The wider the spread, the greater the expected risk that the bondholder won’t be paid.
The US now has higher credit risk than Mexico, Greece, and Brazil pic.twitter.com/je4klBvHZ6
— Genevieve Roch-Decter, CFA (@GRDecter) May 11, 2023
Additionally, a default could add fuel to the perception of global de-dollarization. Since 2001, the USD has slipped from 73% to 58% of global reserves.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to steep financial sanctions, China and India are increasingly using their currencies for trade settlement. President of Russia Vladimir Putin says that two-thirds of trade is settled in yuan or roubles. Recently, China has also entered non-dollar agreements with Brazil and Kazakhstan.
3. Financial Sector Turmoil
Back at home, a debt default would hurt investor confidence in the U.S. economy. Coupled with already higher interest rates impacting costs, financial markets could see added strain. Lower investor demand could depress stock prices.
Is the Debt Ceiling Concept Flawed?
Today, U.S. government debt stands at 129% of GDP.
The annualized cost of servicing this debt has jumped an estimated 90% compared to 2011, driven by increasing debt and higher interest rates.
Some economists argue that the debt ceiling helps keep the government more fiscally responsible. Others suggest that it’s structured poorly, and that if the government approves a level of spending in its budget, that debt ceiling increases should come more automatically.
In fact, it’s worth noting that the U.S. is one of the few countries worldwide with a debt ceiling.
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