Argyle v TWN
Illustration of Brian Geary

Brian Geary


Argyle vs. The Work Number: The Case for Direct-Source Data

9 reasons legacy data reporting models don’t cut it for modern income and employment verifications

For decades, if you wanted to avoid manual income and employment verification tasks—like calling an applicant’s employer or painstakingly processing paystubs and W-2s—resorting to verification databases like The Work Number was your only option.

Many income and employment verification databases are owned by credit bureaus (like Equifax, in the case of The Work Number), and they all follow the same model: purchase consumer data from employers and payroll providers, aggregate that information in a large database, and resell it to third-party service providers like lenders and background check providers in the form of verification of income (VOI) and verification of employment (VOE) reports.

This legacy model was established more than 30 years ago, long before our current era of on-demand information, transparent data sharing, and frictionless digital services. And, in many ways, it hasn’t kept pace.

Luckily, options have changed. Thanks to tech-forward solutions like Argyle, you can now connect to a consumer’s employer or payroll account and stream real-time VOI and VOE data directly from the source.

Below, we outline nine ways that Argyle’s powerful payroll connections and direct-source income and employment data outperform TWN when it comes to essential verification processes.

1. Cost

TWN’s prices are high to begin with, given that a single VOI or VOE report can run up to $100. When you consider that most lenders are also paying full price for each and every reverification, the costs add up even faster.

Partnering with Argyle instead can save you an average of 60-80% on your total verification costs.

That’s because Argyle doesn’t purchase consumer data. Instead, consumers opt into using Argyle to transfer their data directly to you. With Argyle’s direct and continuous data access, you can receive the consumer information that you need, when you need it, at an affordable price.

2. Coverage

TWN covers around 125 million U.S. workers, based on data they shared in early 2022. In contrast, Argyle covers over 220 million U.S. consumers, including gig and federal workers, who have traditionally been excluded from verification databases’ coverage.

Argyle’s advantage lies in the fact that we have dedicated the past five years to building the most expansive and trusted network for income and employment data and invested in the most incredible engineers in the game to make it happen. Every day, a quarter of Argyle’s team is focused exclusively on the connectivity, integrity, and security of our network, which currently covers more than 450 employer platforms and payroll providers, including 95% of the Fortune 1000.

But we’re not content to stop there, and we’re always working to increase our coverage and conversion rates. Since we rely on consumers to provide their account credentials, we make it as seamless as possible by investing in single sign-on authentication. That way, consumers can connect all of their payroll records at once and with just a few clicks.

In other words, our coverage is singularly reliable, and it’s growing every day.

3. Conversion

In a straight, one-to-one comparison, TWN sees hit rates that hover around 30%, while Argyle consistently sees 50%.

What that means is that Argyle returns complete income and employment reports more often than TWN.

As with our coverage, we continuously apply learnings from over five years of experience to optimizing digital VOI and VOE processes for maximum conversion. In fact, we recently implemented a platform-wide refresh to make Argyle the most intuitive and frictionless verification experience in the industry.

4. Documentation

Databases like TWN don’t give you access to any of the key source documents behind the data you’re given—or anything beyond a basic work and salary history. That means your customers will be obligated to manually track down and upload the forms you need.

In contrast, Argyle not only provides access to standardized VOI and VOE reports at the click of a button, we also deliver background documents like digital paystubs, W-2s, and 1099s.

These critical forms are all accessible through a centralized, intuitive dashboard, and they’re always up-to-date and ready to go—so you can spare your customers the hassle of providing them.

5. Continuous access

Purchasing a VOI or VOE report from TWN and other verification databases is a one-time deal. The data you receive lives in a static, retrospective document that doesn’t automatically refresh or update over time. If you need to reverify a consumer for any reason down the line (a given for lengthy onboarding cycles like mortgage loans), you’re forced to purchase another report.

With Argyle, once a consumer grants you access and connects you to their payroll account, you get an ongoing, 24/7 view of their income and employment data.

Argyle also offers over 170 data fields, from job titles and hire dates to gross-pay details like base pay, bonuses, and commission rates. So, whether you’re verifying a consumer for a mortgage or a background check, you’ll find the exact data you need.

6. Accuracy

Equifax—and TWN specifically—have been the subject of several complaints over the years, with consumers claiming that TWN’s VOI and VOE reports drastically misrepresent their work history.

This is in line with greater concerns over the accuracy of credit bureau-generated products, including credit reports. In a 2021 study, over a third (34%) of surveyed consumers found at least one material error in credit reports issued by the likes of Equifax. These ranged from typos in personal details like their name and address (which could derail a background check) to flawed transaction records, like a settled credit card balance listed as past-due.

These errors aren’t just a problem for consumers. When you make a business decision based on inaccurate data, you risk turning away worthy applicants or approving those who pose a risk to your bottom line.

In comparison, Argyle allows consumers to connect you to their employer or payroll account, so their income and employment data flows directly into your platform. In other words, you get a pre-verified, one-to-one reproduction of exactly what’s in their official records.

The reliability of Argyle’s data is what allows service providers like Solo and Column Tax to guarantee 100% accuracy to their customers—and follow through on that promise.

7. Latency

TWN states that its database is updated every pay cycle—but even if that’s the case, most pay cycles are two weeks or longer. That means a consumer’s income and employment data could be several weeks or even months old by the time it gets to you.

If a consumer has since lost their job or experienced a substantial dip in earnings, you’ll be none the wiser. And if you need evidence of continuity of income to confidently extend a loan, mortgage, or any other financial service, you’ll be using outdated data to calculate your level of risk.

Argyle takes a different approach. We plug you directly into your customers’ payroll records, so all data is streamed in real time, and you get an up-to-the-minute view of their income and employment activity and employment status.

Embedding Argyle into your onboarding flow also means you receive automatic alerts whenever there’s a significant change to your customers’ income and/or employment status. You’ll know right away if an active customer is laid off, starts a new role, or gets a raise, so you can make smarter business decisions based on the latest information.

8. Security

Everyone remembers the 2017 Equifax data breach. It put almost 147 million consumers at risk for identity theft and fraud, exposing sensitive information like their names, addresses, birthdays, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and more.

While TWN’s database is managed separately, the company is owned and operated by Equifax, and TWN itself has experienced similar security issues.

Argyle, on the other hand, makes protecting consumers’ data a top priority, and we make our security practices fully transparent.

Among other steps, we’ve completed the most rigorous and comprehensive compliance standards in the industry, including a SOC 2 Type 2 certification (as well as ISO 27001, PCI DSS, GDPR, and CCPA audits) examining the security, accessibility, and confidentiality of our data.

9. Trust

When you buy consumers’ data from TWN, you’re essentially accessing their personal information behind their back, even if they’re aware that processing their application will involve some behind-the-scenes verifications.

Consumers have made it clear that they’re not happy with the idea of employers and payroll providers selling their private data—or with service providers purchasing it—from verification databases like TWN without their active, fully informed consent.

In fact, one recent study found that consumers are increasingly prioritizing transparency when it comes to sharing their data with banks and other financial institutions.

That’s why Argyle is committed to consumer-permissioned data sharing, which empowers take control of their income and employment data. We never sell their information, and they can choose who has access to it and for how long. In turn, Argyle helps you build trusting relationships with your customers—and, ultimately, boost their lifetime value.

The bottom line

The world of financial data sharing is evolving fast, and models that buy and sell stale income and employment records are the way of the past, not the future. Today, the smartest verification processes are about working with consumers and tapping into more efficient, cost-effective, and accurate data that comes direct from the source.

Get better verifications with Argyle

To learn more about Argyle’s industry-leading Income & Employment Verification solution, reach out to a member of our team—or register for a free account to begin exploring our tools live.