Britain’s unseen problem: 5.8 million people ‘invisible’ to the financial system

UK, 9 November 2018: New research by Experian has revealed that there are 5.8 million* people in the UK who are virtually invisible to the financial system, because there is insufficient information available about their financial track record.

The campaign which is fronted by British food writer, Jack Monroe aims to raise awareness and educate consumers of the importance of ‘thickening’ your financial file. An issue close to Jack as she experienced recurring setbacks in her credit ‘journey’ repeatedly turned down for an overdraft, and often struggling to make ends meet.  Although a successful author, Jack remains an ‘Invisible’ and wants others to know the steps that can be taken to help build a financial footprint.

These ‘Invisibles’, consumers with little or no financial information (sometimes referred to as those with ‘thin-files’ or ‘no-files’) can find themselves excluded from mainstream finance, or face higher costs to access the type of financial products and services that most people take for granted. This deficit of relevant financial information can also present problems for people trying to access crucial public services, owing to difficulties verifying their identity using online credit-report driven services.

More than a million (1.2m) of the group live in households in the ‘squeezed middle’ where total incomes are forecast to contract over the next few years[1], making them particularly vulnerable to higher borrowing costs at a time when they may need credit the most.

However, it is not just those on the poorest incomes that are affected by this issue, they come from a variety of backgrounds - including families on average incomes, middle-aged adults with low income and pre-retirement households. Young people in their 20s, renting affordable accommodation are also more likely to be financially invisible, as well as members of the older generation who may have paid off their mortgage and have limited need to borrow.

Jack Monroe, Food Writer said: “Due to a lack of financial data, no one could lend me even fifty pounds. My only options were high interest lenders or pawning my own goods. Even with a book deal, I still could not borrow from mainstream lenders. However, realising that my situation was not permanent, that there were small steps that I could take to improve my financial visibility offered me hope.  Everyone should be able to access affordable financial services, I hope my story will help others to seek out the necessary advice to help build their financial visibility.”

James Jones, Head of Consumer Affairs at Experian UK&I, said: “When people apply for finance, lenders review your credit report from one or more credit reference agency to help them decide whether to lend.  While many people’s reports contain a wealth of relevant information on which to base this decision, almost six million people are invisible or virtually invisible and this can cause them problems.

“The obvious impact of being financially invisible is low credit score and limited borrowing options, certainly at competitive interest rates. And it can also hamper online identity verification, making it difficult to access a wider range of services, including those provided by the public sector.

“Unfortunately, for millions of people in the UK, a lack of information might be hampering their access to appropriate mainstream financial services, leading to a scenario where people are paying more for goods and services and have much less choice.”

Make yourself more visible: Tips for consumers

  • Get on the electoral roll – helps verify your name and address to banks and other lenders, and can also help your credit score
  • Quick wins for building a credit history
    • Open a regular bank current account – this will add an account record to your credit report and, as long as you manage the bank account responsibly, will support future credit score calculations
    • Get a monthly mobile phone contract – phone providers register details on how you manage your account with the credit reference agencies, helping build your track record
    • Arrange to have the regular household bills in your name, such as energy, water and broadband – for those paid via a monthly credit account (ie not prepay) many of these providers now share payment information with the credit reference agencies, which can help further bolster your payment history
    • For tenants, arrange for your monthly rental payments to appear on your Experian report to make sure your credit history includes this important financial commitment - visit expieran.co.uk/RentalExchange for more details
    • Apply for an appropriate credit card using a comparison and eligibility service to make sure you choose a card you’re likely to be accepted for based on your current credit score. Use it for occasional purchases each month, keep the balance low and repay in full each month.
  • Space out any applications that involve a hard credit check (eg most of the above accounts) – applying for several new accounts within a short space of time can look concerning and will hit your credit score
  • Whenever you’re planning to apply for credit, always use a comparison and eligibility service to help you shop around without damaging your credit score and reduce the chance of being refused
  • Be patient. Building a credit history is a marathon not a sprint. Track your progress using free credit score services such as at Experian.co.uk
  • If you are refused credit, use our interactive step-by-step guide tool to find out what to do next.

“While education and awareness plays a key part, we believe there are also actions the industry and government can take to help people avoid financial exclusion caused by a lack of relevant financial data,” added Jones.

“Introducing new and more appropriate data sources is an important element. Our pioneering work with The Big Issue Invest on the Rental Exchange, which is recognising rent payments on credit reports for the first time, is already benefitting 1.2 million social housing tenants. We expect 79% to see a noticeable improvement to their credit scores as a result of the addition of this new data.”

Visit our website to hear Jack Monroe’s story and the stories of other ‘Invisibles’ who have faced financial exclusion because a lack of relevant financial information on their files.

ENDS

Media contact:

Weber Shandwick for Experian

Tel: 020 7861 0762 / Email: experian@webershandwick.com

About Experian

Experian® is the world’s leading global information services company. During life’s big moments – from buying a home or a car, to sending a child to college, to growing a business by connecting with new customers – we empower consumers and our clients to manage their data with confidence. We help individuals to take financial control and access financial services, businesses to make smarter decisions and thrive, lenders to lend more responsibly, and organisations to prevent identity fraud and crime.

We have 16,000 people operating across 37 countries and every day we’re investing in new technologies, talented people and innovation to help all our clients maximise every opportunity.  We are listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and are a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Learn more at www.experianplc.com or visit our global content hub at our global news blog for the latest news and insights from the company.

[1] Experian economics suggests there is pressure over the next few years on household income growth because of inflation, the slowing of the service sector and, although unemployment has fallen, wage growth has been subdued.