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Marketplace Lenders Have Duty to Report Credit Data

Online marketplace lenders have been experiencing unprecedented growth over the past few years. A recent Morgan Stanley research report found that in the U.S., loan volumes by these lenders have doubled every year since 2010, reaching $12 billion last year. Analysts predict this growth will continue at a compound annual rate of 47% through 2020.

Despite their growth and success in reshaping the credit ecosystem, far too few are reporting credit data to consumer reporting agencies. If this trend continues unchecked, there will be negative repercussions on our financial landscape, affecting consumers, small businesses and online lenders themselves.

Online marketplace lenders have an important obligation to themselves, consumers, business owners, and the industry as a whole to report data in order to ensure lending decisions are based on the highest quality information available.

Marketplace lenders rely on credit bureau data to make informed risk determinations for consumer and small business loans. As marketplace lenders expand their share and help fund more consumer and business loans, data reporting by these lenders is crucial to strengthen the accuracy of the data on which they rely. In short, marketplace lenders need to be good stewards of the system, doing their part to support the value of information available for the entire industry.

Beyond fulfilling a responsibility to the industry, more thorough reporting by online marketplace lenders can minimize their own incidence of delinquencies and the need for collections.

For example, data reporting offers marketplace lenders proven "carrot and stick" leverage with payers. When customers know lenders will report late or delinquent payments, they are more likely to resolve outstanding debts which may hurt their ability to obtain future loans. On the front end, lenders who report tend to attract borrowers looking for better loan rates and lower fees, who also have a good payment history.

While data reporting is currently voluntary for marketplace lenders, increased participation would likely mitigate looming regulatory concerns about the new sector. Data reporting might seem like a daunting challenge for online marketplace lenders used to moving at fast technological speeds, but accurate information is crucial to ensuring truly sound lending decisions.

Joining other data furnishers will also help marketplace lenders respond to the needs of millennials who make up a significant chunk of their customer base. The latest research from Experian reveals that 47% of millennials expect to use alternative finance sources in the near future, and 57% reported they are willing to use alternative companies and services that innovate to meet their needs. In fact, 13% said they've already taken out a loan from an alternate or nonbank lender.

But millennials also have a greater expectation of transparency from businesses they choose to patronize. For online marketplace lenders, data reporting offers an opportunity to create a positive experience for their customers, giving them credit for making payments on time, which in turn enables them to access financial products that are more affordable in the future.

As the online marketplace lending industry continues to grow, lenders can take advantage of the many benefits of data reporting, while fulfilling an important responsibility to the broader credit ecosystem.

Ashley Knight is the director of consumer product marketing for Experian.

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