Digital fluency and a thirst for convenience are making the UK’s borrowers more capricious and cost-sensitive than ever, says Richard Carter, Managing Director, Equiniti Credit Services, in this collection of predictions for 2018. Interest rate rises, and new regulations will add fuel to this fire next year, and lenders that can’t keep up will get burned.
1) Lowest price wins
In the digitised age of credit price comparison sites, brand loyalty equals bought loyalty. In 2018, lenders must earn their custom by delivering market-beating products. As interest rates continue to rise, the lenders that can drive down the cost of credit stand to prosper the most. Simply reducing margins, however, makes little business sense. But in a rising market there is a balance to be struck between protecting profit and increasing sales. Some may be willing to take a short term hit to capitalise on the rising market conditions, taking the view that volume sales justify smaller margins.
Adoption of automated and agile credit technologies will help lenders to drive down costs, reducing time-to-revenue for new products and enabling savings to be passed on to the customer in the form of more competitive rates.
2) Lenders adjust to curbing enthusiasm
The rise in interest rates are also likely to have a knock-on effect on what borrowers use credit for.
Recent research from Equiniti Credit Services indicates that borrowers’ use of credit is split equally between funding aspirational items such as cars and holidays, and managing existing debt. To offset rising rates, 2018 will see lenders adjust their standard payment terms, allowing monthly repayments to remain consistent. It remains to be seen whether credit will continue to fund aspirational items at the same rate, especially since the falling pound has already driven up the cost of foreign travel and overseas goods considerably.
3) Application declines will no longer mean ‘no’
Regardless of whether lenders adjust their repayment terms, rate rises will still have an impact on affordability assessments, meaning borderline candidates will be excluded from products they once qualified for. This will trigger an increase in declined credit applications, before customer expectations have time to recalibrate.
In 2018, lenders will start to turn this to their advantage. Instead of abandoning the customer at the point of decline, they can automatically identify suitable alternatives, ideally from their own portfolio, or from other lenders. Doing so enables them to protect their relationship and ensures their customer doesn’t tarnish their credit score from repeated declined applications. Agile credit technologies hold the key to this win-win scenario, by providing a whole of market view and matching applicants to alternative loan products instantly, at the point of decline.
In a market where consumers can identify an alternative provider in a split second via a comparison site the ability of a lender to hold their attention throughout a decline and then convert them to an alternative product is a valuable coup.
4) Contact centres will need to be rethought
Equiniti’s 2014 research report revealed that 61% of consumers preferred a telephone call or face to face meeting to explore a loan application. In 2017, that figure has dropped to just 48%. We can expect this trend to continue next year, reflecting a growing desire for self-service applications. In response lenders should be rethinking their use of contact centre resources next year. As simple queries are increasingly resolved online, the role of contact centre staff will elevate to handle more complex queries, and lenders must prepare their resources accordingly. Outsourcing this function to a dedicated specialist partner is a cost effective and efficient way to manage both sporadic call volumes and complex queries, and ensures all calls are handled by skilled, FCA accredited individuals.
5) PSD2 will change everything
Driven by the advent of the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) in January, APIs are being opened up across the banking industry, enabling customer-permitted apps and services to access never-before-seen levels of transaction data. Lenders must embrace this new world. Here, data is the new currency, and the combination of customer-centricity and low cost is the key to attracting – and keeping – new customers. The regulation amounts to EU-sponsored digital transformation in financial services, and outsourcers will play a crucial role in helping lenders keep up, stay relevant and harness their use of new data sources to learn more about their customers and get ahead of the competition.
6) Social media data begins to play a part in credit decision making
Thanks to digitalization, the sharp decline in verbal and face-to-face communication means lenders must seek alternative ways to get a sense of who they are dealing with. Social media platforms provide a window into borrower’s lives and give lenders a data source that can be used to contribute to their assessment of an applicant. Sure, social media data will never determine whether to grant or decline a credit application, but as automation and AI technologies continue to be applied to this space in 2018, there is no reason why a lender shouldn’t include social media data in the mix.