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Ten Companies Using Alternative Data for the Greater Good

October 7, 2021 | Allison Karavos

Encouraging Financial Inclusion for the Underbanked and Underserved

At one point, it was impossible for people to buy things without having the actual cash in hand, right then and there. And then dawned the age of credit. While credit has taken many forms (layaway plans and credit cards, installment plans and payday loans, mortgages and Buy Now, Pay Later products), one thing has remained constant: to get credit, you need to qualify for it.

As fintechs and credit providers evolve, so has the way lenders handle their credit risk decisioning. A traditional credit score (based on things like credit history, payment history and debt ratio) is no longer the only way to evaluate creditworthiness – and, it naturally precludes a large number of people who may not have much of a credit history to evaluate (i.e. minorities, recent immigrants, younger consumers, the financially underserved).

This is where alternative data comes in. A broad term that essentially refers to all credit data not currently reported via traditional credit scores, this type of data strengthens a person’s ‘profile’ and provides a more robust, comprehensive view of the risk associated with lending to them. The types of alternative data keep growing, but the term includes things like rental payments, utility records, social media presence, telco data and open banking info.1

Financial Inclusion and Supporting SMEs

Using alternative data and deeming more people creditworthy is clearly good for business—it means organizations can more accurately predict risk and say yes to more peopleand enables lenders to grow and scale their business in a way that traditional data might not allow. But there’s more to it than that. Not only is alternative data good for business, it’s good for their consumers also. Companies all over the world are finding unique and inspiring ways to use alternative data to promote greater financial inclusion for thin-file/no-file clients (also known as the underbanked/unbanked), and to support greater access to credit for SMEs/MSMEs.

While this list is in no way comprehensive (there’s just too many amazing organizations doing awesome things) – here are ten unique companies using alternative data for the greater good.

  • Bankly – In Nigeria, Bankly helps their users digitize and grow their cash in a safe, sustainable manner. Using technology and human touchpoints to digitize cash, they are able to generate data to create a digital/financial identity, which ensures their thin-file customers gain access to broader financial services including credit and insurance. Seventy-five percent of their users identify as underbanked, including such underserved populations as farmers, market traders, artisans and transport workers who are often paid in cash and can’t easily access traditional banking services.
  • Davinta – Indian-based Davinta is an AI-based digital platform focused on offering credit and other financial products to women living in rural areas. The company leverages data from both traditional and alternative channels to recommend tailored financial products to their customers. To date, Davinta has acquired nearly 15,000 registered users, the vast majority (12,000) of which are women. As they say, they are not just another financial inclusion enterprise, but endeavor to “create wholesome social inclusion of the larger Indian society towards equal life opportunities.”
  • Esusu – This American company uses rental payment data to help underserved populations build credit history. Serving low to moderate income households in the U.S. (which means largely visible minorities), their proprietary platform reports rent payments to the three major credit bureaus in the region, allowing customers to build credit and unlocking future opportunities that may have otherwise been out of reach.
  • Fairbanc – Headquartered in the United States but operating in Indonesia, Fairbanc offers a highly-scalable closed-loop credit platform for micro-merchants, enabling them to access the supply chain and more easily purchase fast-moving consumer goods. With a focus on financial inclusion for women, Fairbanc has access to a customer base of 650,000 unbanked micro-merchants in Indonesia, with nearly 260,000 of them being women. Their AI/ML platform analyzes transaction data and history to grant instant digital credit lines; and with their ‘Pay Later’ API integrated directly into Unilever’s order-taking tables, merchants need only a basic phone to participate.
  • Fundfina – Operating in India, Fundfina is a financial marketplace powered by open banking architecture and machine learning analytics. Focused on MSMEs, the organization partners with local financial institutions to serve more than 150,000 customers across India, who would otherwise find it difficult to access traditional credit thanks to a lack of credit history. Combating the slow, complex lending process that is typical in India, Fundfina enables thin-file credit assessments through its proprietary digital engine (they’ve developed their own credit scoring method, TrueScore, looking at transactional data and payment history), curating the most appropriate financial products and even offering cashflow management tools to promote financial literacy.
  • Kiu Global – With a technology platform geared towards MSMEs and farmers, this Vietnamese organization aims to ensure efficiency and productivity, while leveraging data for access to capital. Serving the unbanked/underbanked, Kiu Global helps to mitigate knowledge gaps in business best practices, accounting and financial management while using its own AI Credit Scoring Platform to score the loan repayment ability of these small businesses. Analyzing fraud, transactional data and historical loans, Kiu uses predictive analysis to create a credit score, helping their underserved customers get access to much-needed business loans.
  • Oriente – Based in Hong Kong, Oriente has built a digital-first infrastructure designed to ignite economic opportunity for unbanked consumers and underserved merchants. Using real-time alternative data and insights, Oriente enables thousands of merchants to increase conversion rates while lowering risks. Their proprietary identity infrastructure uses AI and machine learning to make it hassle-free for unbanked consumers to get digital credit, and even enables them to build their credit profile if they pay on time.
  • Paycode – Designed for those in remote, rural areas, South Africa’s Paycode provides financial services technology solutions to unbanked citizens, using biometric data collection for identity verification and to securely authenticate banking transactions. By partnering with local financial institutions, their complete alternative banking and payment platform has been able to create low-cost bank accounts for first-time users, with over four million end-users across eight countries so far.
  • TiendaPago – An innovative emerging fintech operating in Mexico and Peru, TiendaPago targets ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses for financial inclusion, providing closed-loop working capital financing. Their mobile-based platform uses data related to inventory purchases to assess creditworthiness of merchants, ensuring that merchants can pay distributors for the correct amount of inventory they need to adequately provide for their customers and grow their business. Merchants typically have limited cash funds available to pay distributors, resulting in higher price points for inventory and limiting sales.
  • ZigWay – Based in Myanmar, Zigway aims to help low-income families gain more access to household essentials in an affordable way. Offering a monthly subscription service that enables households to purchase quality staples like rice and cooking oil in bulk, they provide savings of up to 20 percent for participants. Using a proprietary, machine learning-based credit scoring model, ZigWay is able to offer participants flexible payment plans. They even promote accessibility and inclusion by empowering ‘Super Users’ to help register their neighbors, request services and make payments on their behalf. To date, they’ve piloted their services with over 500 customers, delivering enough food for over a million meals.

The story of alternative data – what it means, how it’s utilized, who uses it – will keep changing and evolving as more and more fintechs and data providers find unique ways to incorporate it in their businesses. But the value of using it for credit decisioning is clear – not only does it enable a more complete view of your customers, it also allows for greater financial inclusion, better access to credit for SMEs/MSMEs, and it can help you grow your business in ways you may never have imagined.

Inspired? Discover how incorporating alternative data into your credit risk decisioning can offer you a more holistic view of your customers. Get the eBook.