The Atlanta credit bureau Equifax Inc. and the McLean, Va., wealth analysis company IXI Corp. have developed a way for financial institutions to examine not just how deep customers' pockets are, but also how likely they are to actually spend their money.
The two companies said Monday that IXI, which tracks almost $10 trillion, or about 42%, of the country's investment assets, agreed to provide Equifax's financial institution clients with information about the average wealth in a consumer's neighborhood.
The institutions will incorporate the data into their decisions about selling customers new products and services, Equifax said.
"The banks, they're not spending a lot of money on acquiring new customers. They're trying to figure out how to do more business with the customers they've got," Kevin Dean, Equifax's vice president of business development, said in an interview.
Bankers can use the service to decide which customers can afford and are most likely to be interested in products and services for the wealthy, he said. If customers who live in a wealthy neighborhood contact their banks, "rather than a CD offer, they may invite you to speak with their private banker."
Two of Equifax's clients (which the bureau would not name) are testing the service. IXI said it will continue offering its data to clients on its own, and that its contract with Equifax is non-exclusive on both sides, though its "preference would be to further develop our relationship with Equifax."
Dann Adams, Equifax's president for U.S. information solutions, said the combination of wealth and credit information sets "a precedent in the marketplace." In the current economic environment, "our banks and our customers are looking for more value-added tools."
Equifax added income and salary information to its database last year, when it bought the employment information company Talx Corp. Mr. Adams said the partnership with IXI increases his bureau's data analysis capabilities.
"If we look at our business holistically, we really are able to answer the propensity question … what's the propensity to pay?" Mr. Adams said. Before working with IXI, the bureau could not determine "what's their ability to pay, meaning, they've got great credit information, but do they really have the ability to pay?"
IXI breaks its asset data down into neighborhood-level, or "Zip [code] plus four," averages.
Tom Dailey, the president and CEO of IXI, said offering customer-specific data would violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but the service will help banks "segment and target" their customers to sell them new products and services or tailor their marketing campaigns to specific neighborhoods.
"You have to have a predictive ability to look at your marketplace out there, not only for cross-sell or up-sell opportunities, but also to help you in your decisioning process," he said.
John R. Ulzheimer, a former Equifax executive and the president of educational services at the lead aggregator Credit.com Inc., said he was unaware of any others that link wealth and credit information to the same extent. "I see value in it," he said. "Especially now, lenders are looking for new ways and new data sources" to help sell products and services to their current customers and understand potential ones.
The new service also would solve a basic problem for banks, which often must rely on customers' estimates of their worth, Mr. Ulzheimer said. "Certainly when consumers fill out loan applications, through no fault of their own, it's difficult to figure out what their net value is," he said. "I think this helps to fill out a missing and often inaccurate component of a consumer's application."