Sarah Jackson, Director, Equiniti Credit Services
Sarah Jackson, Director, Equiniti Credit Services

Credit Chameleons – Lenders must tune in to changing customer attitudes

It is said that in time everything changes. Certainly, how most of us feel about borrowing money is likely to change, possibly many times, over the course of our lives.

Lenders keen to secure repeat business, therefore, must also change. This means innovating in product design. It also means keeping close track of how their customers’ attitudes are shifting as the years go by.

There is, for example, mounting evidence that aspirational borrowing is growing across a variety of different age groups. Research from Admiral has revealed that more than half of millennials admit to buying a car to live up to a perceived status bolstered on social media, with 64% of young drivers reliant on credit to fund the purchase.

At the other end of the age spectrum is the growth in ‘later life’ borrowing among over-65s. As people live longer they want new experiences and have greater expectations of their retirement and lifestyle.

Figures from the Centre for Economics and Business Research predict that pensioners will owe a staggering £86 billion by the end of the year, up £8 billion from 12 months ago. While much of this is driven by equity release and other housing wealth-based products, unsecured lending on cards, hire purchase and consumer finance are growing.

Generation Xers sandwiched in the middle are using micro debts to fund consumer desires too. Almost half (46%) of those we spoke to aged 36-59 said personal loans would most likely pay for household goods, holidays or to expand their monthly budget.

These findings echo what HSBC has dubbed “trend spenders, people who aren’t afraid to stretch their finances provided they can maintain a certain lifestyle – which the bank says represents one in six people in Britain.

Better intelligence on credit profiling and customer data can support the challenge lenders face in keeping pace with consumer ambitions around lifestyle and loans. It can also combat the drift in customer loyalty that epitomises today’s lending landscape.

Accurately designing a portfolio of products that align with different customer motivations takes time, and this is where the smart application of technology can make a substantial contribution.

It strengthens insights into age behaviour to shape product design and streamlines development, enabling quicker product launch and revenue generation. Outsourcing enables valuable creative resources to refocus on adapting to trends in the market, demonstrating a lender’s understanding of customer needs and strengthening relationships as a result.

Using technology to accurately match consumers with the most appropriate products increases sales conversion. For instance, although millennials are the least likely to own a credit card they are using credit to fund their social lifestyles, meaning they could be incentivised by a product that offers retail reward points at their favourite shops or restaurants. This would align with their lifestyle needs and enable them to build up their credit rating with confidence.

Then, there is the continued rise of a ‘mobile first’ approach to banking products. App-based loan applications and management appeal to tech-savvy millennials and generation-Xers, and increasingly older customers too, as they appreciate the convenience of applying for credit without needing to visit a branch.

But whichever age group, data is the common denominator in helping lenders to respond intuitively and intelligently to customer life stages, especially at a time when aspirational borrowing is blurring the line between generations.

Flexible, automated and agile technology support is a valuable resource in helping lenders to stay ahead of expectations when it comes to the fluctuating needs of consumers, young and old.

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