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FriendlyScore review September 2019

Looking to borrow money without a credit history? FriendlyScore may be able to help.

FriendlyScore is a London-based startup that takes a new approach towards credit scoring: using social media to judge the creditworthiness of potential borrowers.

If your credit report is a white sheet, FriendlyScore aims to provide a solution, so long as you don’t shy away from sharing your data. Here we’ll explain how it works and help you figure out if it’s a good idea for you.

Before we dive in, it’s worth clarifying that there is no such thing as a single, definitive credit score for an individual. Your score with Experian will be different to your score with Equifax, for example (although if you have a good score with one, you’ll probably have a good score with the other). Now FriendlyScore is introducing its own score to the mix, and it’s calculating it in a pretty innovative way.

Explain FriendlyScore to me in three sentences

FriendlyScore tries to bridge the gap between borrowers who may be trustworthy but don’t have a credit history and lenders who would like to lend them money but are unable to prove their willingness or ability to pay the loan back. You download the app, decide what information you want to share and immediately receive your credit score. Depending on the results, FriendlyScore will present you with a range of loan options from its partners.

How does FriendlyScore work?

Here’s what a consumer’s journey with FriendlyScore typically looks like:

  1. You download the app and decide what information you want to share. FriendlyScore lets you make separate decisions for every social media account and also lets you opt in or out of other information sources, such as bank details and GPS data. The more you agree to share, the higher your score is likely to be.
  2. FriendlyScore calculates your credit score. FriendlyScore says it uses more than 800 data points to assess your creditworthiness. We don’t know precisely how the algorithm works, and at first glance, the whole process may seem a little arbitrary and privacy-threatening. In a 2015 press release, FriendlyScore said that “for example, there are strong correlations between hours of activity online and creditworthiness, as there is between the level and quality of interactions with friends and creditworthiness.” This provides an insight into the kind of information that the algorithm is after. However, what makes it slightly less creepy is that no human will ever see the information – it’s all between you and the AI. Also, you may feel a bit better knowing that Google probably already “knows” more about you than FriendlyScore ever will.
  3. You are presented with a series of options. Once you get your score, you should also be offered a bunch of loan options from FriendlyScore’s partners. The problem is, FriendlyScore doesn’t say anything about its lender partners in advance, so you may end up sharing all of your data just to find out that you don’t trust any of the providers, or you might be offered a terrible deal.

You may also be asked to use FriendlyScore directly by a lender that you’re applying with. In that case, things work in a similar way, but FriendlyScore will tell the lender your score directly once it’s done calculating it.

For now, only a minority of lenders uses FriendlyScore, and it’s nowhere close to being valued as highly as a score produced by one of the main credit reference agencies. However, as big data becomes more and more deeply embedded in our society and the socialisation of the financial industry progresses, things might change in the future.

Who is behind FriendlyScore?

FriendlyScore, which was born with the support of StartupBootcamp, is the brainchild of Gideon Valkin and Emilian Siemsian. Valkin originally studied at Harvard and joined the company after moving to London and finding it difficult to obtain credit despite “a prestigious university degree, a job at a top bank and a clean credit slate in two other countries.” He has now moved on to work for challenger bank Monzo. Since late 2016, the CEO of FriendlyScore is ex-Standard Chartered Bank director Loubna Bazine. Siemsian, who was educated in Poland and used to work as a developer, acts as chief technology officer.

FriendlyScore opened for business in 2015. It isn’t a lender, but it acts as an intermediary between lenders and borrowers and, since 2018, has held a licence from the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) for “credit broking, providing credit information services and providing credit references.”

What is the good and the bad of FriendlyScore?

Pros

  • It theoretically presents a viable alternative for people who don’t have a credit history
  • You can choose which data you want to share
  • It’s regulated by the FCA
  • No human will see your data
  • If you take out a loan, it will then help you build your regular credit history

Cons

  • Not many lenders use FriendlyScore at the moment
  • The criteria through which the score is calculated aren’t entirely clear
  • You are granting access to a whole lot of personal data, even though it won’t be reused or sold
  • You have no clue of what the loans you may be offered look like before sharing your data

How much does FriendlyScore cost?

FriendlyScore makes money by charging its partners – that is to say, the financial institutions that use the credit rating service. It comes at no cost for consumers.

FriendlyScore also says that it doesn’t resell the data it collects at any point, and just uses it to calculate the user’s credit score.

Alternatives to FriendlyScore

If you’re not comfortable with giving away all that information, you’ll be relieved to know that there are a bunch of alternatives for people with little credit history that you can look at, such as:

  • Credit builder credit cards. They have a high interest rate, so you really need to clear your balance in full every month, but they usually don’t charge an annual fee and thus allow you to build up a credit score and get monthly credit for free (as long as you use your card correctly). Compare deals on our credit builder credit cards page.
  • LOQBOX. LOQBOX is an interesting “hybrid” product that allows you to save while improving your credit score at the same time. We’ve explained how it works here.

You can also learn more about how to handle and improve your regular credit score by taking a look at our dedicated bad credit hub.

The bottom line

In order to help UK consumers, FriendlyScore must persuade a decent number of lenders to trust its scoring system and to take it as seriously as those of the long-established, incumbent CRAs.

Frequently asked questions

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