Scoring Engine

1. Definitions
To start thinking about Higson as a scoring engine, we first need to understand the concepts of a credit score, a scoring model, creditworthiness and a FICO score.
1.1. What is a credit score?

When a borrower comes to a lender, the institution (bank or credit card company) must evaluate their creditworthiness. Depending on available customer data, such as payment history or credit types, the lender will decide: to offer a loan or not.

If there is a significant risk that the borrower will fail to make the required payments, the lender should deny the application. A borrower’s credit score is simply a numerical expression of their creditworthiness. A credit score can be used for various financial transactions, such as mortgages, private loans, credit cards or car loans.

1.2. What is a scoring model?

Simply put, a scoring model is a mathematical model that takes many input variables (the customer’s data) and converts them all to a single score that represents the customer’s creditworthiness.

The higher the score, the more likely the borrower will pay their bills. Scoring models often come in the form of numerous decision tables that compute partial scores, which are then weighted and added together.

1.3. What is a FICO score?

A FICO score, introduced by the Fair Isaac Corporation, is one of the most widespread scoring models. There are many different versions for particular market segments (e.g. automotive lending or mortgages).

Even if the exact structure of the FICO model is secret, some components are widely known, such as payment history, current debt, length of credit history, types of credit used or recent loan searches.

2. Higson as a Scoring Engine
Now that we have defined the basic scoring concepts, let’s look at how Higson can be used to implement various scoring models.
2.1. What is a Higson?

Higson is a Business Rules Management System focused on performance. It is designed to easily handle large decision tables. The Higson engine uses in-memory indices and a carefully designed matching algorithm to search large decision tables (1M rows and more)in a few microseconds.

Moreover, Higson offers a scripting language that allows users to write short functions that expand the capabilities of decision tables.Both software developers and operational staff can modify such functions or tables without touching the application’s code. The changes are immediately reflected in any application that uses the Hgson engine.

2.2. Sample scoring model

Suppose we have a scoring model that defines a credit score as the weighted sum of partial scores (metrics) for different categories:

final score = w1*s1 + w2*s2 + ... + wn*sn

Each score is a number from 0 to 100. These components evaluate different aspects of the customer’s data, for example:

  • s1 depends on the ratio of the loan amount requested to the customer’s total income,
  • s2 depends on the maximum number of days of arrears in the last 12 months,
  • s3 depends on the average utilization on customer’s credit card accounts in the last 6 months,
  • s4 depends on the ratio of the current debt on active loans to the customer’s total income,
  • s5 depends on the number of loan applications in the last 6 months,
  • s6 depends on the number of active credit accounts,
  • et cetera.

Our sample model uses customer data which implements the following object model:

    personal                   : PersonalData
    credits                      : Credit[]          // all active and closed credits
    totalIncome              : decimal         
    loanRequestsNum   : integer           // num. of loan requests in the last 6 months

    type              : text                     // {auto, mortgage, ...}
    active            : boolean             // whether this credit is active
    value             : decimal
    history          : HistoryEntry[]    // collection of history entries

    date                    : date
    daysOfArrears   : integer
2.3. Implementing scoring model in Higson

To warm up a little, we’ll start by implementing the simplest indicator – s5, which depends only on the number of loan requests in the last 6 months. This can be achieved by using Higson’s most basic concept, called a parameter. Higson uses parameters as decision tables to produce outcomes based on the input.

The following is an example of s5 expressed as a parameter:

In other words, based on the customer’s data or context, the s5 parameter will produce the proper outcome. This parameter can be interpreted as follows:

  • when the number of loan requests is equal to 0 then s5 score is 100,
  • when the number of loan requests is in [1, 2] then s5 score is 95,
  • when the number of loan requests is in [3, 5] then s5 score is 88,
  • for any other input value, the score is 75.

All parameters in Higson come in the form of decision tables. They define condition columns and the outcome or multiple outcomes. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

Let’s take s6 as the second example. This indicator depends on the number of active credit accounts. The collection customer.credits contains all client’s credits, both active and closed, so we will use a Higson function to find the number of active ones.

The following is an example function named util.credits.countActive:

def credits = ctx.get(‘customer.credits’)
def num = 0
for (c in credits) {
      if (c.getBoolean(‘active’)) num = num + 1

return num

This sample function is implemented in the Groovy programming language. It takes all credits from the customer’s data, iterates all of them and counts only those that have the “active” property set to true.

As Groovy is a very expressive language, the same function can be written with far fewer keystrokes:

return ctx.get(‘customer.credits’).count { it.getBoolean(‘active’) }

Once we have a dedicated function that counts active credits, we can create a parameter or decision table that takes this function’s result as an input. The following table is an example of s6 parameter.

As you can see, the previously defined function – named util.credits.countActive – is bound to the condition column which means that Higson engine will call this function and get its return value to find the final outcome. For example, if function returns 5, then the outcome of s6 parameter will be 92.

If we need to make s6 indicator dependent on two or more conditions, all we have to do is add more input columns to decision table, as in the following example:

3. Higson
building blocks
To build any solution in Higson we can use parameters defined in the form of decision tables and functions written in a scripting language. Now let’s take a closer look at these core concepts.
3.1. Higson parameters
  • Each Higson parameter is a decision table consisting of:
  • definition of conditions, or input columns,
  • definition of outcomes, or output columns,
  • a matrix built from input and output cells,
  • some meta configuration (matching mode, caching, sorting, etc.).

Each input column (condition) takes a value from some source. There are two types of sources:

  • value may be a valid path in the domain model (for example: customer.personal.age is a valid path to a number - the customer's age),
  • the value may be taken from an outcome of another parameter or function.

Each condition column has a defined matcher, which is used to check whether the input value matches to a condition. Higson comes with many useful matchers:equals, between, in, not-in, regex, like, contains/all, contains/any, etc.

On the other hand, each output column holds a potential parameter’s value. This potential value will become the outcome if all conditions in the same row evaluate to true.

Higson parameters can return a single value, several values (a vector) or even a matrix of values. In combination with different matchers, different matching modes and input sources, it is quite a powerful tool in a developer’s hands.

The following screenshot presents a real-life example of a parameter defined in Higson Studio.

On the above screenshot you can see a parameter that has 6 conditions and 4 outcomes.Conditions include age and value of the vehicle (between matcher), name of the previous insurer (in matcher) and the insurer’s profile code (default matcher). The Higson rules engine will find the best matching row and return its 4 output values.

Typically, all Higson parameters are fetched from a database and converted into an in-memory index when used for the first time. The in-memory index allows matching rows to be found in a few microseconds. The index structure guarantees O(1) lookups if all conditions use default matchers.

It is not uncommon to see a project with more than 500 parameters (decision tables), with many having more than 100k rows, and some larger than 1 million rows.

3.2. Higson functions

Although Higson decision tables are a very powerful means to express business logic, sometimes this may not be enough. For such situations Higson offers a scripting language. In other words, developers or business users can write functions that behave exactly the same as a decision table does – they consume certain inputs and produce an outcome.

Users can write functions in Groovy or JavaScript (whichever they prefer) with help of the Higson standard library. The functions let them implement any business logic they want.

The following is an example of a Groovy-based function:

def age = ctx.getNumber( 'client.age' );                              // read client's age from model

def factor = 1.8;
if (age > 65) {
   factor = math.log(10, age);

def tariff = higson.getNumber('tariff', ctx);                    // get value from tariff parameter
def baseFee = higson.getNumber('base.fee', ctx);       // get value from base.fee parameter

def fee = baseFee * tariff * factor;

return math.round(fee, 2);                                                    // return fee rounded to 2 digits

Higson functions can read domain models, evaluate parameters or call other functions. They can perform any logic dependent on domain model data. Higson functions come with a standard library in the form of predefined objects that enable developers to:

  • read data from domain model (context),
  • read parameters,
  • call other functions,
  • operate on dates and strings,
  • perform common math operations,
  • perform smart type conversions,
  • write statements to log files,
  • read hierarchical business configurations.

The following screenshot presents a real-life function edited in Higson Studio.

Functions and parameters together form a coherent ecosystem:

  • functions can depend on values evaluated from parameters,
  • parameters can bind functions to condition columns,
  • parameters can define outcome as a call to a function.

Let’s see how this can be leveraged:

The above parameter:

  • defines the first condition as bound to insured.age from the domain model,
  • defines the second condition as bound to value returned by the client.status function,
  • the output column often uses literals like: 3.0 or 4.5,
  • but sometimes it delegates evaluation to a function call like: $f factor(50).

Many projects developed for the insurance or finance industries have proven that Higson parameters and functions together can handle any business logic.

Key Features
Configure instead of coding
Replace programming work with configuration and take control over product development and deployment.
Development cost decrease
Higson decreases development costs because it supports separating business rules from the hard code and managing them through the user interface.
Structure of your business
The only rule engine with a nice tree structure for your rules. Our structure corresponds with your business, so it’s super easy to navigate and it's presented in a user-friendly interface.
Shorter time to market
With every additional product or service referring to Higson configuration, time to market shortens, because you can reuse existing decisions on tables and business rules. Additionally Higson lets you modify business rules and parameters on the fly.
Hyper efficient and scalable
Higson Runtime is extremely fast. According to our benchmark, even 100,000 calculations can be processed in around 90 seconds.
If you want to make sure that your changes work properly, Higson lets you check them using the tester option.
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