Yves Lavoie is Flinks' Content Strategist. He writes stories that help people get a fresh perspective on open banking and the growth of fintechs.
Equifax Canada’s Lisa Nelson on driving relevant innovation as a 100-year-old institution
By Yves Lavoie on March 12th, 2019
The road to open banking is not straight nor is it always clear. Actually, most of it is still uncharted territory. Along the way, visionaries, builders and enablers lead the change in the finance and banking industry.
We wanted to sit down and talk with them so we launched a podcast — Connect.
This is episode 2, where we talk with Equifax Canada’s President, Lisa Nelson, on how a centenarian institution can drive relevant innovation, create an ecosystem of trust, and help people live their financial best.
No time? No worries! Read our 4 key takeaways from the conversation
It’s not about what you are, it’s about what you do
Really successful companies know exactly what they’re in the business of doing. This understanding allows them to focus innovation on solving real-life problems. While Equifax Canada is mostly B2B company, what it’s really doing is empowering consumers by filling the data gaps that would otherwise prevent them to access the services they need.
Data is not enough — meaningful data matters
In the era of business intelligence, access to data isn’t enough. Data needs to be made meaningful. New types of data and analytics tools can enrich a consumer credit profile, authenticate a person’s identity and reduce fraud in real-time — helping businesses answer the questions that block them from making the right decisions and moving forward with their clients.
The future of credit is bright(er) for underserved populations
Accessing credit can be hard or even downright impossible if you’re a newcomer to Canada with only a checking account, a young person with a thin credit file, or if you’re on your way to rebuild your credit score. Currently underserved populations will see better access to credit and services catered to their needs thanks to new ways of scoring, such as analytics based on transactional data.
The value of open banking? “As the consumer, you own it and you control it”
According to Lisa, open banking must be based on consumers’ consent to share their data with trusted businesses, and have benefits that drive them to engage. So, basically, consumers owning their data gives them control over where it goes and how it’s used. In a market-driven open banking space, businesses wishing to use data will need consumers to choose to opt in.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
100 years young
Adam: Equifax has been for a long time one of the cornerstones for the modern credit system and, by extension, the financial services ecosystem and the economy as a whole. Today we’re here with Equifax Canada’s president, Lisa Nelson, to discuss how her organization tackles the impacts of new technologies in the financial services sector. Specifically, we’re really eager to hear about Equifax’s approach to innovation, chat about Lisa’s perspective on the state of our industry, and get a sneak peak on how they’re working to enable their clients to get and stay ahead of the curve.
Lisa, welcome to the show.
Lisa: Thanks, Adam.
Adam: Most Canadians are familiar with the name Equifax. They more or less understand their credit score and everything else, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Would you mind just first explain your business and help people understand what you do and really what that role is in the lives of average consumers?
Lisa: The purpose for Equifax even existing is helping people live their financial best. And when you think about that, you think about all the various events in our lives that include information about our financial lives — renting my first apartment, buying a home, buying a car, leasing a car. There are life events every day that the credit industry is enabling to make smoother and less costly for every one of us as a consumer. Equifax’s role is to work within that ecosystem, serving consumers and our business customers to make that process efficient and fair.
When you look at the Equifax business in Canada, a lot of people think about “my credit report” or “my credit report and my score”. And that’s true. We serve the vast majority of Canadian lenders. We also provide services to the telecommunications industry. We provide insights to the government. We’re very deep in the automotive space and the mortgage space. So, all of these life events not only impact the consumer but impact the businesses serving that consumer.
Adam: Where do you see the unique thing that Equifax provides to really enable those things moving forward?
Lisa: Part of it is just simply our presence in the Canadian economy and the fact that we serve well over two-thirds of the needs of that standard credit insight being sought after by businesses. In addition to that, a very unique component of what Equifax brings to the table is the fight against fraud And so when I look at our business just last year, it grew nearly 20% in the fraud space. And when we talk about fraud, we’re talking about authenticating a consumer’s identity. We’re also talking about with a large consortium of lenders and other industry players where there’s known fraud, to be able to pull that data together and share those fraudulent identities to help fight fraud. Those are a couple of areas where we’re playing.
A newer space that we’re working in is income and employment verification, working with employers to gather income and employment data that we can then provide to those that want to verify income and employment with the expressed consent of the consumer. When we work to enable consumers, we’re talking about empowering consumers, giving them more control over what’s being accessed and why. So that’s definitely a path that we’re on that we intend to become stronger with especially in our work with all of you here at Flinks.
Adam: Looking back on everything you did — you mentioned the fraud products and everything else — what’s something that really excites, really makes you proud?
Lisa: I would say what makes me most proud over the last couple of years is really working to transform our company to be sure we’re thinking about that customer first. And if you put the customer at the center of everything we do and we know that our customers exist to serve their customers or the consumer, what we’ve been able to accomplish is some really nice growth. Almost triple our historic growth rates because we’re focused on the needs of our customers and their customers. That has translated into, as I mentioned, stronger fraud performance. It’s also translated into new product innovation.
We manage our business by measuring innovation. We focus on what are the new ideas we’re bringing forth to our customers, those new insights that help them win in their business. And so we measure that innovation called our Vitality index by what percentage of our revenue is derived from solutions that are less than 3 years old. And that’s a real strong motivator for our team to make sure we’re constantly thinking about what our customers need next.
Adam: I was looking up this morning. I didn’t realize that Equifax was founded in 1899 which is insane. Outside of banks, there’s very, very few companies that are still active and relevant today that have that kind of history behind them. The idea that you can take a company that’s that level of experience behind it, and actually you can see that they’re still focused on putting out new products and making sure that things that were made in the last 3 years, are making 10% of revenue. It’s a pretty crazy metric.
Lisa: It is. And, in Canada itself, we’re celebrating our 100th-year anniversary this year. Our theme is “Cheers to 100 Years.” And, we’re looking forward to the next 100 years, because we intend to be relevant every step of the way.