With its plan to buy the consumer information division of R.L. Polk & Co., Atlanta-based Equifax Inc. is poised to begin providing its credit card-lending customers with a new service: lists of consumers who should receive "invitation to apply" offers.
R.L. Polk has been in this business, but Equifax has not.
Equifax, one of the big three credit bureaus, is making a play to expand beyond its core consumer credit reporting business. The company has offered pre-screening services for some time, but most of the offers resulting from those lists are "pre-approved" letters.
"Invitation to apply" offers have proliferated within the past year, though, because lenders who send them are under no obligation to offer credit to consumers who respond, said Lee Kennedy, president and chief operating officer of Equifax.
By contrast, lenders who send out "pre-approved" offers are generally required to extend some offer of credit as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Polk, which provides consumer demographic and lifestyle information, will allow Equifax to provide "one-stop-shopping for its customers," said Thomas Chapman, Equifax chairman and chief executive officer. "Banks had been adding lifestyle data to the information we provided. Now we are a total solution to them," he said.
Equifax, which agreed to purchase the Detroit-based unit of Polk for $260 million, is forming a new direct marketing unit to handle the enhanced services Polk allows it to offer.
Mr. Chapman said "invitation to apply" offers allow lenders to reach consumers who may not have a stellar credit history. "Polk can go deeper into the population, a huge portion of which may not be credit users," he said.
Lifestyle data will allow Equifax to identify consumers who may not have credit records and otherwise would remain unknown to the company.