Amex taps Nova Credit’s tech to underwrite immigrants to the US

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American Express is using credit reporting startup Nova Credit‘s technology to underwrite newcomers to the U.S., the companies announced Friday.

With no financial history in the U.S., newcomers face difficulties accessing credit. American Express claims to be the first U.S. payments company to offer immigrants the opportunity to acquire U.S. credit scores, based an analysis of credit profiles in other countries carried out by Nova Credit’s underwriting tool.

The tie-up with Amex helps Nova Credit expand its network, while for Amex, the agreement will help the company reach more customers. Nova Credit’s platform, which is called Nova Credit Passport, translates a foreign credit score to a U.S.-equivalent credit report during the card application process.

“We want to help remove a barrier for millions of people who have been otherwise ignored by the U.S. financial system,” said Sara Milsten, senior vice president of new member acquisition for U.S. consumer services at American Express, in a statement. For now, reports from Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, and the U.K. can be considered, but more countries will be added with time.

Sarah Davies, head of credit risk and analytics at Nova Credit, said the company shared Amex’s objectives, noting that its underwriting technology advances financial inclusion. “What we’ve done with tech is to show that the same [financial] ethics and values that exist in [immigrants’] home countries are [available] in the U.S.,” she said. “There’s a lot of transparency in our data in our methodology.”

See also: How credit startup Deserve aims to reach the ‘unscoreables’

The startup licenses its software to institutions to allow them to underwrite more customers. Its capabilities are embedded into the Amex card application process. According to Nova Credit, Amex is the first U.S. partner institution which has progressed beyond the pilot stage.

Nova Credit, which was established three years ago, has so far raised $19.4 million, per Crunchbase. Davies noted that the company plans to expand the network of credit bureaus with which it partners and make its solution available to additional institutions outside of the U.S. Other fintech companies that target immigrant communities include card startups Deserve and Petal; and Stilt, which offers loans for people living in the U.S. who are on work or student visas.

Leslie Parrish, senior analyst at Aite Group, recently told Bank Innovation that startup innovation in the credit sphere also is pushing traditional credit bureaus to change their approaches. “[Traditional] credit scores are lagging indicators,” said Parrish. “The mainstream bureaus are moving in that [alternative data] direction and the critical question is how quickly it will be adopted.”

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