I’m joining RevolutionCredit as Chief Scientist

RevolutionCredit logoA note on my new job. I’m joining the FinTech startup RevolutionCredit as Chief Scientist. In this role, I’ll work on developing the next generation of credit scoring methodologies in the financial technology and behavioral science field. Applying behavioral science to both (i) identify “upwardly mobile” people: those with characteristics of her significantly higher creditworthiness than their credit score would indicate; and (ii) nudge consumers toward better financial behaviors. The role requires a blend of behavioral economics, statistical analysis and financial capability development. NYCA partners, Lerer Hippaeu Ventures, Omidyar NetworksAccion and several other elite FinTech investors are backers of RevolutionCredit, as they seek to expand financial inclusion and give consumers globally the credit and financial identity they deserve.

Here’s an example of how people’s behavior can be nudged by different approaches. Note: this is not something RevolutionCredit has done, but it gives you a feel for the realm in which the company operates:

What positively affects borrowers’ repeated use of payday loans?

  • University of Chicago Researchers presented three different types of information to people who had just obtained payday loans.
    1. Actual annual percentage rate (e.g. APR exceeding 400%)
    2. Dollar cost of payday loans over time
    3. Realistic look at how many weeks it would actually take to pay off the loan
  • Researchers then tracked subsequent payday loan borrowing by the three different groups.
  • Of the three types of info, borrowers exposed to the actual dollar cost of a payday loan were favorably influenced (‘nudged’). The time it would take to repay also had an effect. The crazy-high APR information? It actually had little to no effect.
  • The ‘nudged’ borrowers reduced their usage of payday loans (pdf link to study).

These sorts of behavioral insights represent an emerging field, one that has been built on the research of titans such Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and Richard Thaler. Dan Ariely hits on these areas with his Predictably Irrational work. It’s a realm that holds significant benefit to consumers, and to lenders as well.

I will use the R programming language a fair amount in this role. I’ve already done some work with it, as you can see in my recent post analyzing whether the Hot Hand exists in basketball (yes, but it’s rare).

This job reunites me with Zaydoon Munir. He and I worked together at eFinance in the early 2000s. It was there that I built statistically rigorous credit scorecards for eFinance client Hertz Equipment Rental. It took several weeks, and was one of those big projects that was tough, but afterwards is a signature accomplishment you always remember. Some details of the project are in the embedded PDF below.

This new position is certainly a change from what I’ve been working on the past few years (innovation management, social business). It builds on things I’ve done earlier in my career (Bank of America, eFinance). I’m looking forward to diving deep into this role, and helping consumers access opportunities for better financial health.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.