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In an ideal world, your prescreen marketing would get to a qualified loan customer first following a trigger. But too often, financial marketers don’t get to that customer at all.

“Any time you talk about prescreening in detail, someone will eventually ask, ‘why can’t we find everybody on the prescreen file?’” says Rich Walker, Executive Director of Data-Driven Marketing at Deluxe. “It’s the question we get most frequently, and the answer is simple: because they’re frag files.”

These marketers are frustrated, and understandably so. “They’re sending direct mail to everyone passing their criteria, but their online and in-person businesses are catching people that direct mail is missing,” says Walker.

When a customer becomes an approved account without ever being in the mail, it’s often because of sheer luck—they walk through your door or stumble across your website. This is just the type of top-quality customer you would typically target with a preapproved offer, but they’ve never shown up in your prescreen data before.

How is that possible? And more importantly, how many more potential customers just like them are you missing out on?

Why do frag files happen?

It all comes down to the push-and-pull mix of speed and accuracy, explains Walker: “The primary reason frag files occur is because of insufficient single-bureau data and shrinking time-to-market windows during the marketing stage.”

And given the choice between speed and accuracy, most mortgage marketers would choose speed—with good reason. “Marketing responsiveness declines every week after a trigger occurs, so rapidly identifying and targeting prospects is critical for maximizing return and winning their business before your competitors can,” says Walker.

How do frag files hurt marketers?

There are two main types of frag files, and they both result in loan marketers targeting the wrong people. “No matter which type of frag file you have on your hands, the outcome is a reduced reward for your efforts,” says Walker.

1. Split files

The most common occurs when information about a single consumer gets split into two or more files. The story of split files is one of lost opportunity and lost ROI: not only are you missing out on qualified potential customers within your data set, you also have no way of knowing.

Walker explains how this might look in action with a hypothetical example: “Your criteria may say you need four trades to mail a customer. The list from your bureau shows two trades from an R. Walker, and two trades from a Rich Walker. Because of split files, you have no way of knowing they’re both me—let alone that I meet your criteria.”

2. Aggressive consolidation

The other type of frag file occurs when the opposite of splitting happens, and the files of two or more unique individuals are mistakenly combined. A common example is a father and son being rolled into a single profile.

While they’re less common, consolidated files are just as bad for marketers as split files. “In the worst-case scenario, you extend a firm offer of credit to someone who shouldn’t have qualified in the first place, and your institution takes on risk that could have been avoided ,” cautions Walker. He adds that even the best-case scenario here is a missed opportunity: “You extend a firm offer of credit to one individual, when it could have been two.”

Imagine these two scenarios scaled up across millions of trades, and you get a sense of how widespread the problem is.

How to prevent frag files and find more customers

The most efficient way to turn your prescreening around is to work with an outside partner—such as Deluxe—that specializes in sourcing and analyzing data to drive lending. We’re equipped to hit the ground running quickly and seamlessly, so you can prevent frag files and find more qualified customers without disrupting or delaying your campaign timing.

3 reasons to work with an outside partner

Cleaner data

While any bureau will do its best to remove and combine duplicate files for a single individual, there isn’t always enough time to make those matches before the files are due to the FI. “Work with an outside partner who specializes in this, so you can get truly clean data without sacrificing speed to market,” says Walker.

No slowing down

Speaking of speed, there’s a reason FIs are willing to rush to market: “Waiting just three weeks from the trigger event can reduce responsiveness by 50 percent,” notes Walker. An outside partner has the capacity to combine and clean up data from all three bureaus quickly.

Tri-bureau access

At Deluxe, we find that clients who engage a second bureau see 10% lift in rate of response—regardless of what that bureau is. And those that engage a third will see 10% lift beyond that. “Multi-sourcing lets you not only expand your prospect pool, but also make that expanded pool more accurate and worthwhile,” explains Walker.


Get truly clean data without sacrificing speed to market.