Companies that develop credit scores have a strong interest in making sure the credit scoring systems they provide to the industry are as predictive and robust as possible so that lenders will opt to select and use their credit scoring system when evaluating the potential risk of their customers. This is especially critical in today’s tight credit market where lenders are extremely cautious about extending new credit.
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One way scoring companies accomplish this goal is by periodically redeveloping the models that generate the credit score. Generally speaking, scoring companies will update their credit scoring system every three to five years and release that new version to the market. Both FICO and VantageScore have released updated score versions in the last several years. Lenders are encouraged, but not necessarily required, to evaluate and adopt the newer version.
For comparison’s sake, think about how a software developer will periodically update and release new versions of their products and services. The basic features and functionality of the product remain relatively the same (Windows 7 vs. Windows Vista, for example), but the new offering usually includes enhancements that improve its value. While consumers are encouraged to upgrade to the newest version, not all people do—or will do so at a later date.
The same holds true for credit scores, but it is less apparent to consumers how and when this takes place, as each lender and various entities (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example) determine whether they will transition to the updated score version. They don’t necessarily communicate what version of the credit score they are using.
An added layer of complexity comes into play now that all consumers can go out and directly request their own credit score and credit report. The version a consumer may obtain directly on his or her own may differ from other scores provided by lenders, such as the credit score version used in a lender’s risk-based pricing notification.
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Why Redevelop the Credit Scores?
Credit score developers like FICO and VantageScore frequently validate and test their credit scoring systems to ensure they effectively predict future credit risk. The scores are designed to remain robust and stable and to hold up over micro and macro-level changes. The fundamental credit behaviors that were predictive of high risk credit behavior in the past continue to be very predictive of future credit risk today. Namely—consumers who don’t pay bills on time, heavily utilize a lot of their available credit, and frequently apply for credit continue to represent high credit risk today as in the past.
At the same time, the scores need to be updated to ensure they reflect more recent consumer credit practices, accommodate new types of credit offerings and reporting practices, and can incorporate new and advanced analytic techniques the score developers have been researching and testing since the last version released to market.
For example, the first versions of the FICO scores did not factor “rate shopping logic” into the scores that consider consumers’ rate shopping trends when inquiring into auto, mortgage and student loans. The consumer-friendly rate shopping treatment logic was incorporated into later versions of the FICO score and is now considered a “standard” feature in all credit scores.
Another example: The more recent versions also reflect the fact that all consumers (high risk and low risk alike) use more credit today compared to the early 1990s. Consider that the growing use of credit cards to pay for groceries, stamps, and to make bill payments online is a relatively recent development. As such, newer score versions likely weight credit card usage patterns differently compared to previous versions.
The result of the redevelopment effort is a credit scoring system that is more predictive and more reflective of recent consumer credit and reporting dynamics—thereby providing a better score for lenders and consumers.
[Resource: Get your free personalized Credit Report Card]
Image: Annie Pilon, via Flickr.com