A Better Way to Verify Credit

Posted on July 7, 2021
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The 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator follows five highly successful programs produced by FIS and The Venture Center. This year’s Accelerator will be conducted entirely virtually. In our FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature series, we’re peeling back some layers and getting to know the 2021 cohort founders. We hope you enjoy hearing from the cohort companies – be sure and save the date for Demo Day on August 26!

For our next Founder Feature, please meet Justin Wickett, Cofounder and CEO of Informed.IQ. Informed.IQ automates verifications of consumer credit applications in real-time per your lending policies with 99% accuracy. Learn more at informed.iq.

The Venture Center: Where did the idea for Informed.IQ originate?

Justin Wickett: As an early Product Manager at Lyft, the ridesharing company, I got deeply exposed to the vehicle financing process. I watched thousands of drivers struggle at dealerships across the country to verify their income, residence, identity, and insurance before they could get a car and begin driving on the Lyft platform. Some drivers would have certain earnings, like ATM deposits and Paypal deposits counted as income, whereas other drivers would ignore those earnings. Mistakes were often made when factoring in overtime, commissions, tips, and bonuses causing some drivers to receive worse rates than others. The process suffered from a  lack of transparency and seemed always to take a lot longer than anyone wanted.

When I joined Credit Karma as Director of Product, I realized the problem was a lot bigger than just what I witnessed in vehicle finance. I watched as Credit Karma members waited weeks to get their personal loans funded. During that time, loan officers at the financial institutions had to perform tedious and repetitive manual verification tasks that took them away from deepening their relationship with the individuals applying for credit.

I knew that there had to be a better way using Computer Science and Machine Learning to automate these verifications to speed up funding, reduce errors, and mitigate unconscious bias. So we started Informed.IQ! 

 TVC: What problem is it solving?

Wickett: We’re trying to offload the monotonous work that loan officers and processors do so that they can focus on higher-order tasks. For example, loan officers have to be great at finding the most recent paystubs in a 50 page PDF file containing all sorts of documents. What if three paystubs are all included on a single page? What if a single paystub spans three different pages? We solved these problems by training up a series of different machine learning models, all working in unison as part of a data processing pipeline.

Loan officers often deal with cases where employer names do not match — maybe the applicant claimed to work for Longs Drugs, but CVS Pharmacy issued the paystub. We solved these problems by leveraging our backgrounds in graph theory and leveraging the contributory database that we maintain for the consumer lending ecosystem. Loan officers are also expected to memorize the different websites out on the Dark Web where falsified documents can be manufactured and downloaded. So we developed web crawlers to track these and began using AI to help lenders identify fraudulent templates and features on paystubs based on what loan officers had historically verified as fraudulent.

We do this for many other verifications involving retail installment sales contracts, promissory notes, odometer statements, appraisal guides and bookout sheets, ancillary product contracts, and many more. 

TVC: Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? If so, how did you overcome that feeling?

 Wickett: Not once. We have an opportunity to lower the cost of credit in the United States and make the loan origination process more transparent and consistent, taking the human unconscious bias out of it. So many financial institutions see this opportunity and are counting on us to make it possible for them. If we don’t do it, another start-up will. Our team is passionate about the mission and is supported by incredible investors from Nyca and US Venture Partners. We love what we do, and we especially love seeing the code and machine learning models we’ve built strengthen the financial system.

TVC: Who has been your most influential mentor? 

Wickett: My first boss at Zynga. Michael Kane taught me how to improve products using a data-driven approach. Both Michael and his boss, Manual Bronstein, have incredible product instincts combined with a relentless focus on data analytics. I’ve learned so much from both of them in terms of defining and building effective products as well as managing teams.

TVC: When did you decide to apply for the FIS Fintech Accelerator, and what do you hope to gain from it?

Wickett: We decided to apply for the FIS Fintech Accelerator after we knew we had achieved product-market fit and our software was being used nationwide by Ally Bank, Westlake Financial, and numerous other consumer lenders. We saw the FIS Fintech Accelerator as a great opportunity to showcase the results we were seeing to a wider swath of banks and financial institutions. I also am looking forward to learning best practices from others who have tackled similar challenges that we are facing, such as how to scale up quickly in a remote environment while keeping the culture intact. The program is very selective and receives high accolades from CEOs and Founders who have gone through it.

TVC: Tell us a quote that has helped you navigate life and/or work!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

TVC: What’s something you love about your team?

Wickett: The team at Informed.IQ works incredibly hard to lower the cost of credit, but we also have a lot of fun too! On weekends, you’ll find us hiking together in the Marin Headlands, ordering fried chicken from our favorite restaurant Proposition Chicken (vegetarian options available too!), and making weekend snow trips to Tahoe!

Thanks to Informed.IQ for contributing to the FIS Fintech Accelerator’s Founder Feature series! To visit the 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator, click here. For questions, please email founders@venturecenter.co.