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Improving Small Business Lending: Q&A with Ascentium

Ascentium Capital, an innovative commercial lender, wanted to expand its growing small business portfolio while keeping risk in check. I recently had the chance to speak with Chris Miller, VP of Decision Analytics at Ascentium, on how the company makes quick lending decisions for its small business customers.

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Please tell me a bit more about Ascentium Capital and what makes you unique?

Chris: Ascentium is a commercial lender with a focus on equipment and technology leasing. We’ve grown in five years to have over $1.2 billion in assets and to be the third-largest private-independent finance company. We see ourselves as a small business lender working on making life easier for small business owners. We do that by making access to capital easier using our proprietary finance platform combined with exceptional service. Our basic premise is we can make an application decision in two hours, though it only takes about an hour on average. We work fast but never sloppy, and a lot of time is spent making sure of that.

You’ve been a customer of FICO for some time now, correct?

Chris: Correct, Ascentium Capital has been using version 6 of the FICO® Small Business Scoring Servicesm solution (SBSS sm solution) since it was a new company, about five years ago. Our leadership team had experience using SBSS at previous institutions and liked it. We upgraded to version 7 recently, once we started tracking it against the older version and noticed the lift in predictive power.

What do you like about the newest version of Small Business Scoring Service?

Chris: SBSS is really unique in terms of how it blends consumer and commercial data, and fits it to business needs. There’s nothing else out there that scratches that itch. We noticed it had a lot of improvement for our customer base. When the scores were developed, SBSS version 7 used population data including the recession. It made it easier to figure out who makes it through the tough times, who is more stable. When we can understand the overall health of the businesses we are looking at, we can make the best decisions on which ones to bring on as customers.

What results have you seen using version 7?

Chris: We have seen a 10.6% lift in predictive power. The updated score is much better at identifying who is riskier and those tougher decisions is where it helps the most. We are now able to take better chances on people. The reliability and flexibility is also something that is unique. This is particularly important to us because we rely on our technology. Our business is fast decisions, and having a reliable, flexible infrastructure is crucial to us.

How has your experience been with FICO?

Chris: When it came to the process of working with FICO and getting the new system deployed, the strength was the technical experience of consultants. Having someone who knows so much about the history of the industry and products was fantastic.

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We’d like to thank Chris Miller for taking the time to speak to us. If you’d like to learn more of the story and how the SBSS solution makes those tough lending decisions, read the full case study.

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