Fair Isaac Corp., the creator of the widely used FICO credit score, released a new credit index this week that could help more borrowers qualify for a mortgage. The FICO Resilience Index, created to supplement the FICO score, is aimed at helping lenders assess a borrower’s ability to withstand an economic downturn, even if they have a low credit score.
The index culls personal financial information from before and after the Great Recession to measure a person’s chances of paying bills on time during economic volatility. Measuring on a scale of 1 to 99, lower scores indicate greater financial resilience in an economic downturn while higher scores indicate more sensitivity to economic shifts. “Our hope is that it will allow lenders to continue to be able to make prudent loans,” says Joanne Gaskin, vice president of scores and analytics at FICO. “Lenders are going to feel more comfortable continuing to approve borrowers rather than denying them.”
In the current economic environment, the FICO score alone may not be “a clear indicator of a consumer’s current financial health,” says George Ratiu, realtor.com®’s senior economist.
Fair Isaac’s new scoring tool places less weight on missed payments and greater emphasis on lower account balances and credit use. A traditional credit score evaluates the chances a borrower can meet their payment obligations based on their previous payment history. A higher FICO score indicates a person is less likely to default on their loans.
FICO says more resilient consumers in an economic downturn tend to have fewer credit inquiries in the last year, fewer active accounts, lower total revolving balances, and more experience managing credit. For consumers who have a low FICO score, the new index may help them look more creditworthy in the eyes of lenders, Jim Wehmann, executive vice president of FICO Scores, told Forbes.com. “Using this tool, lenders can have this visibility and lend confidently to millions of consumers that may have below-average FICO scores,” Wehmann says. “A robust 680 may perform better than an average 720 credit score.”