Whether you’ve abstained from the act, or jumped on the trend of snapping selfies – photos of yourself typically taken using a smartphone or webcam and shared on social media – chances are you’ve been exposed to the phenomenon. (In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries named selfie word of the year. Here’s U.S. President Obama taking a selfie with U.K. and Denmark Prime Ministers Cameron and Throning-Schmidt.) What you probably haven’t been aware of is the ability of these selfies to work in your favor when it comes to affirming your credit-worthiness. That’s right: publishing lower-quality self-portraits online has the ability to support your case for receiving a loan from a formal lender. At least that’s the claim of Cheese4Credit, a software provider about to begin what’s predicted to be a robust round of Series A fundraising. Cheese4Credit, which extends their proprietary technology to a host of credit providers, bills themselves as next in line in the movement of harnessing nontraditional client data to support the credit-worthiness of low-file individuals.
For those with their eyes on trends in credit scoring, this won’t come as a big surprise. Over the past few years we’ve seen organizations professing their ability to discern credit-worthiness using psychometric testing, GPS activity, and data generated on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. As with these predecessors, the premise is that mainstream credit scores – for example FICA – unduly penalize potential borrowers with high interest rates or cut them out of the system altogether for the misgivings of missed payments or a lack of borrowing experience. Cheese4Credit does take into account individuals’ FICA scores, but only as one element in their formula to determine credit-worthiness and, as their website indicates, just to “identify any red flags.”
So, how does this vanity-fuelled credit unlocker work? To qualify, photos need to be taken on Instagram. Your social standing and reputation on the social media platform, which Cheese4Credit indicates factor heavily into your credit-worthiness, is assessed by your number and “quality” of followers, their followers, and the number of “likes” your photos receive. You get bonus points if your sphere of influence includes big names like The New York Times or Bill Gates, as well as popular celebrities like Canadian tabloid sensation Justin Bieber.
The second piece of the puzzle is the photos themselves/yourselves. Cheese4Credit outlines in no uncertain terms elements of selfies that add to, and detract from, one’s credit-worthiness. Here are a few of them:
- Location: Instagram enables geo-tagging, which Cheese4Credit technology is able to assess using filters on per capita wealth or vacation destinations.
- Symmetry: Are you positioned in harmony with your photo’s border and your surroundings?
- Color Composition: Photos where individuals’ outfits fit with acceptable or even trendy (think the most recent fashion month) color schemes, bode well for their banking future.
- Selfie Sticks: These apparatus (sticks, pictured in the embedded photo above) grant preferential angles and range for selfie taking. They also help ensure photographers’ arms don’t find their way into their selfies. Cheese4Credit likes selfie sticks, and in their credit-worthiness formula, it shows.
- Cats: Apparently the cat trend is over. Among the handful of items that bring down your credit-worthiness (making kissy/duck faces, is another), is including cats in your photos.
We were a little skeptical on assessing credit-worthiness as Cheese4Credit has done, so we asked CFI Managing Director Elisabeth Rhyne for her thoughts on the idea: “Everyone is more creditworthy next to a puppy or a bunny rabbit,” she said…
Happy April Fools Day! Did we get you? (Much love and respect to our industry friends working to expand credit access to those deserving!)
Photo credit: Flickr/César