When Niem Green was 14 years old, he worked for his aunt’s cleaning service. It was there he met the man who would inspire him to enter the banking industry.
“I had just finished cleaning a bathroom, when I saw the valet pull up a green Mercedes Benz SL600,” Green said in a recent interview. “I loved that car, and since it was green I took it as a sign. I had to know who was driving that car. When he came out, I asked if it was his car and how he got it.”
The owner of the luxury SUV told Green he was an investment banker, and spent the next 20 minutes explaining the role to him. After this interaction, Green began learning and reading up on the industry, even getting some inspiration from the film Pretty Woman.
The Dover resident started working at Chase while still in high school, and spent the next 15 years working in lending and banking as a credit analyst and credit underwriter.
That’s where he realized that a person’s credit score revealed a lot about them.
Statistics show that financial matters are among the top causes of divorce and failed relationships. Because Green is a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, he began thinking of ways he could use his underwriting skills to help people build lasting relationships.
In 2006, he started Credit Score Dating. While similar to other popular dating sites — in that members pay a monthly fee ($19.99), upload a photo and fill out a dating profile — Green’s brainchild separates itself from the rest by using members’ credit scores to help find a compatible suitor.
Green, who initially read books and watched YouTube videos to learn about HTML and algorithms, said Credit Score Dating’s algorithm must be calibrated every month, due to an ever-changing economy and various factors that ultimately affect members’ financial situations.
Although members are asked to submit a self-reported credit score, the site’s team doesn’t put a lot of reliance on the scores. Instead, they ask members to answer questions that will reveal traits that are consistent with people who have poor credit.
“It’s not all about the score,” Green said. “People can put down any number on paper, just like they can log on to other sites and say they are six-foot-five and look like Denzel Washington. We look for behaviors.”
This means people will not be matched solely because their credit scores are similar. Green said matches are chosen based on their stability, ability and willingness to pay.
“Not everyone with a bad credit score has it because of ignorance,” he said. “Sometimes their scores are based on things that are out of their control, like medical issues, divorces or job layoffs.”
If nothing else, Green hopes Credit Score Dating can be used as an icebreaker to start the conversation about money. In his experience, he has seen couples self destruct because they were afraid to discuss finances and hid habits, such as gambling and overspending.
Green’s grandparents’ relationship was the “prototype” for the website.
“My grandmother was a homemaker and my grandfather worked a blue-collar job. Each week, he would give my grandmother his paycheck and trust her to handle the bills. She worked magic,” Green said proudly. “They were able to put four kids through college, took us all on vacation every year and they stayed together until death did them part. I want to help other couples find that.”
More than ten years after its inception, Credit Score Dating has more than 500,000 members worldwide, Green says. In 2014, he left his position as a brand ambassador with Discover to build his brand full time. Along with Credit Score Dating, Green is a published author (his latest book, Credit Score Dating: The Sexiness of Credit, was released last November) and motivational speaker.
“My mom encouraged me to take the leap and pursue this full-time,” he said. “She told me, ‘You are ready. Take the training wheels off, and just ride the bike.'”
The 34-year-old has been pushing forward ever since. He started Daydream Financial, a company that helps people learn about budgeting and credit repair.
Presently, Green is the only full-time employee at the company’s New Castle headquarters, but he does have a core group of four other employees he works closely with. The entrepreneur says he has big things in store for his budding empire. He is currently shopping his credit score dating reality show around to networks, StyleMyDate.com (a dating site that matches members based on their fashion sense) launched in May 2017 and he hopes to develop an official ad campaign in the near future.
While Green remains busy with work, he is still searching for his perfect match (his heart is currently shared by his mother and teenage daughter). He does not date Credit Score Dating users, because he feels he has an unfair advantage. For now he is happy just being able to have an impact on people’s lives.
“Being able to inspire is the most rewarding part,” he said.