The Future of Financing

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Innovation pays off for Synchrony and its retail partners

As part of Synchrony’s “Envision” conference in Chicago earlier this year, Home Furnishings Association CEO Sharron Bradley and I had the chance to visit the Synchrony offices and Innovation Station. There are apparently four of these “Innovation Stations” across Synchrony that use new ways of working like a startup and agile methodology to test new tech.

The concept is to bring together some of the brightest tech minds, put them in a comfortable progressive workspace with all sorts of ergonomic desks, big screens and computing power and let them loose on issues that impact business; Synchrony’s and yours.

In the span of an hour we stopped for about ten minutes at each team member’s work station to learn what they do and what they are working on. Without over selling it, I have to say we felt it was one of the most valuable and jaw-dropping hours we have spent in a long time.
There were three specific target areas this Synchrony Chicago team is focusing on that we were able to dig down on — all relating to data. Here is an overview, in broad terms of what they are working on.

Predictive Modeling

Just as the name implies there are projects afoot at Synchrony right now that are finding ways of looking at the immense amount of consumer data available, identifying trends and then predicting the next purchase for a shopper. The implications are mind-blowing. If these tech whizzes can reasonably predict when a customer of yours might be ready for their next purchase, then Synchrony could send that customer a specific offer that would help induce that sale. Imagine that! (BTW, the humongous data storage hub at Synchrony is dubbed “The Lake.”) Let’s dip our toes in further.

Fraud Detection

A huge issue for finance companies and retailers is fraud from what are called “synthetic” accounts. These are the accounts created when someone gets a little bit of legitimate personal information and then creates a fictitious person. This is not straightforward identity theft because the fraudsters are essentially creating a new person.

Synchrony’s Innovation experts took on this challenge to see if they can get better at detecting these types of synthetic accounts. In one test, their algorithm not only sniffed out a number of these synthetic accounts, but it also helped them find a bunch of legitimate accounts. In other words, they have figured out a better way to approve many accounts that were flagged as suspicious. That may have made it easier for customers to receive credit and for you to make a sale. By weeding out fraud in a new way, the Synchrony team has managed to open credit lines for many people who would have been denied in the past.

“Mind-Reading”

OK, I am calling this future capability mind-reading even though it is really an example of how “machine learning,” a branch of AI (Artificial Intelligence) based on the idea that systems learn from data, identify patterns and help consumers make decisions could change furniture shopping forever. There is a technology breakthrough Synchrony is exploring that lets its computers figure out what colors you like if you submit a personal picture from your vacation to Maui. It gets better. Take a picture of your living room, and this program is designed to not only identify your color likes/dislikes but to predict what furniture style you prefer. Then it makes pertinent suggestions on any category you ask, from sofas and chairs to throw pillows and lamps, all in that style and color range. Think that might help close a sale?

The disclaimer here is that all these projects are just that — exploratory works in progress. However, I can only hope that they are not far from making their way to the marketplace. Can’t wait!

About the Author

Mark Schumacher
Mark Schumacher is Vice President of Membership Development & Marketing for the Home Furnishings Association. He can be reached at 800-422-3778 ext. 310.