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Financial Data Aggregation

Paving the way for smoother mortgage transactions.

Executive Summary

Financial data aggregation is paving the way for smoother mortgage transactions, but there are still some bumps in the road. This white paper provides lending executives with an overview of the current uses and limitations of direct-source financial data in the mortgage space and highlights opportunities for advancement in the field.

What is financial data aggregation?

Data aggregation is the process of gathering data and presenting it in a summarized format for data analysis. Since the accuracy of insights from data analysis depends heavily on the amount and quality of data used, aggregation efforts typically involve the retrieval of large quantities of data directly from one or more authoritative sources.

Data aggregation is useful in many business contexts. Marketers use data aggregation to better understand their audiences and shape marketing campaigns. Product strategists use data aggregation to optimize pricing. And in mortgage lending, aggregation of the financial data required to make underwriting decisions is an essential ingredient in the digitally driven credit decisioning process.

Lenders can use aggregated information from consumer bank, retirement and brokerage accounts to verify applicants’ assets, employment and income and gain a holistic view of their overall cash flow and creditworthiness — in essence, the consumer’s financial DNA. When compared to manually collecting and reviewing information from physical bank statements (whether printed or digital), the combination of direct-source data aggregation and straight-through processing provides greater purchase certainty, yields a more accurate assessment of applicants’ ability to pay and minimizes delays, opportunity for error and fraud risk.

Consumers are increasingly willing to grant lenders permission to grab their transaction data directly from financial institutions; however, imperfections in the data aggregation process have led most lenders to continue supporting document-driven methods of financial data collection alongside more streamlined approaches. Until these potholes are paved over, mortgage lenders will not be able to realize the efficiencies of requiring all applicants to share their financial data.

To unpack the pain points in financial data aggregation, one must first understand its two component processes: authorization and retrieval.

Authorization

Authorization is the process by which loan applicants grant data aggregators permission to retrieve their account, balance and transaction information from a financial institution.

Credential-based access (a username and password) is the most widely used method of authorization. With this method, the consumer selects their financial institution from a list and supplies the username and password associated with their account. The data provisioner then securely presents the credentials through to the financial institution to gain account access.

The potential failure points of this method are many fold. Today, nearly eight in ten Americans bank online — but that leaves 20% who do not have online banking access. Those who do may not provide the correct username/password combination, or they may provide the right username/password combination but specify the wrong financial institution.

Another potential issue occurs when the financial institution identifies a mismatch between the data provider’s IP address and the IP address typically associated with the consumer. When this happens, the consumer may be asked to submit to a multi-factor authorization protocol such as answering security questions or supplying a one-time code. But consumers aren’t always able to correctly answer security questions, and one-time passwords sent via phone or email may not reach the consumer if their contact info has changed since opening the account.

A newer authorization model called token-based access sidesteps many of the challenges presented by credential-based access. Modeled on open standards like OAuth (used by Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter), token-based access lets consumers grant provisioners access to their data without sharing their passwords with the data provider. With token-based access, control of the consumer experience is transferred to the financial institution for first-party consumer authentication. After successful login, the consumer consents to third-party data sharing and control is passed back to the data provisioner.

This method avoids IP mismatch issues, since credentials are entered directly by the consumer from a known device. It also gives consumers greater self-determination over the sharing of information, as consumers must explicitly consent to sharing information with data provisioners and can revoke that consent at any time.

What Lies Ahead

Already, data aggregation is enabling faster, more fraud-resistant loan transactions. Access to financial data happens at digital speed and eliminates the traditional paper chase, and lenders can quickly and easily refresh data without burdening consumers if a second verification is needed between loan qualification and closing. Yet even more exciting are the opportunities that lie ahead in the data aggregation space.

More Data for a Fuller Financial Picture

Historically, financial data repositories have been designed with a focus on recent data — i.e., transactions completed within the last 30 days. Data aggregators are now working with financial institutions to establish real-time access to historical data going back 12 months or more. With years’ worth of transaction data, creditors will be able to make much more deterministic assessments of borrowers’ creditworthiness.

Greater Consumer Self-Determination

Some data aggregators have been thwarted by financial institutions’ efforts to obstruct access to consumer financial data. Although often done in the name of protecting consumer privacy, data obstruction actually undermines a bank’s relationship with its customers. That’s because banks don’t own a consumer’s financial data — they are merely custodians of it. Just as financial institutions have a responsibility to protect consumer data, they also have a responsibility to share data with third parties upon a consumer’s explicit request. By educating consumers on their ownership of their own financial data, we can democratize access to consumer-permission data.

Global Standardization

Groups like the Financial Data Exchange (FDX) are working to establish global, industry-wide standards for the sharing of consumer financial data. If achieved, this data standardization would establish baseline minimums for API data payloads and greatly improve the quality and consistency of aggregated data. Such standardization would also pave the way for more widespread use of technologies like federated identification, which allows a single electronic identity to be used across multiple financial institutions.

About Formfree

FormFree is a market-leading fintech company whose revolutionary products AccountChek and Passport are changing the credit decisioning landscape and encouraging lenders nationwide to incorporate a more holistic view of each borrower’s financial DNA. To date, thousands of U.S. lenders and brokers have ordered millions of FormFree’s patented verification reports representing over a trillion dollars in loan verifications. FormFree delights borrowers and lenders with a paperless experience, reduces origination timelines by up to 20 days and offers automated analysis and standardized delivery to lenders and investors using a secure ReIssueKeyTM. For more information, visit https://www.formfree.com/ or follow FormFree on LinkedIn.