Credit Scores: Not Just for Credit Anymore


A credit score, like it or not, is something that exists for all of us. Pioneered by a company called Fair Isaac (now just known as FICO), the credit score provided powerful advantages to credit granters in two key ways. First, using massive samples of consumer payment data, FICO analysts were able to tease out what characteristics were predictive of an individual’s willingness to re-pay their debts. With this knowledge, the company built sophisticated algorithms to automatically assess and score consumers. This approach is obviously more efficient than manual credit reviews by humans, but it offered consistency and dependability as well. Second, FICO reduces your credit history to a single number in a fixed range. The higher the number, the better your credit. This innovation made it possible for banks and other to write software to offer instant credit decisions, online credit approvals and more. Moreover, a consistent national scoring system made it easy for banks to both manage and benchmark their credit portfolios, as well as watch for early signs of credit erosion.

There’s little doubt that credit scoring was a brilliant innovation, but is it so specialized it can’t be replicated elsewhere? Well, it appears that creative data types are seeing scoring opportunities everywhere these days.

Consider just one example: computer network security scores. There are several companies (and FICO just acquired one of them) that use a variety of publicly available inputs to score the computer networks of companies to assess their vulnerability to hackers. Is this even possible to do? A lot of smart people in the field say it is, and pretty much everyone agrees the need is so great that even if these scores aren’t perfect, they’re better than nothing.

You may also be asking whether or not there is a business opportunity here and indeed there is. Companies buy their own scores to assess how they are doing and to benchmark themselves against their peers. Insurance companies writing policies to cover data hacks and other cybercrimes are desperate for these objective assessments. And increasingly, companies are asking potential vendors to provide them with their scores to make sure all their vendors are taking cybersecurity seriously.

While scoring started with credit, it certainly doesn’t end there. Are there scoring opportunities in your own market? Put on your thinking cap and get creative!