Paving the way for a brighter future through SME lending
Developing modern solutions and removing barriers, paves the way for a brighter future through SME lending
SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) are known as one of the biggest business sectors in each economy, being important contributors to job creation and global economic development. They create more than 50% of employment worldwide.
SMEs have gained importance in developing economies. Although SMEs have some weaknesses, they are less affected by economic crises due to their flexibility and ability to keep up with changing conditions. SMEs are vital establishments to create an effective innovation ecosystemThis is shown by recent studies that SME’s can contribute to over 55% of GDP and over 50% of total employment.
SMEs can find it increasingly difficult to borrow money from traditional banks because of strict requirements. It is often seen that SMEs are riskier than large institutions as it is difficult for banks to evaluate them in the same way since they often do not have solid accounting systems. This difficulty in assessing their creditworthiness often impacts the bank’s ability to provide affordable credit. As a result, many SMEs are forced to look at alternative solutions such as expensive credit lines charging high interest rates or offering costly collateral. Neither of these options are sustainable for small businesses.
SMEs need fast decisions and a more agile, digital approach. This is where Creditinfo and local Fintechs are working in collaboration to support the sector. Together, we specialize in using technology to quickly assess each SME’s entire data footprint and then provide tailored financial solutions. Based on our experience in Africa, we can assess the credit risk an SME poses by using real-time data from multiple sources, including e-wallets, credit bureaus and credit scores. The traditional method, consisting of manual processes and hard copies, is now an outdated approach in the digital world.
Digital SME finance, using alternative data, offers an extraordinary opportunity for addressing some of the challenges. Every time SMEs and their customers use digital services, conduct banking transactions, make or accept digital payments, use their mobile phones, or manage their receivables and payables through a digital platform, they create alternative data. This real-time and verified data can be analyzed to determine both capacity and willingness to repay loans.
Specific SME assessment methodology can also be applied. For example, small companies tend to have a greater level of owner centricity. Therefore, blending business and personal data can enable the development of highly predictive blended scorecards that utilize the payment behaviour of business owners and managers and company credit data to produce a more comprehensive risk assessment.
Help is also needed from Central Banks to continue to support this sector. We are seeing reforms happening globally where Central Banks are implementing mandates for all banks to lend a set percentage of their credit portfolios to SMEs. Boosting the availability of finance for the SME sector, the reforms aim to ease the flow and reduce the high cost of credit to a sector that is considered an engine of growth for the future.
SME lending is rapidly growing, and by putting the customer needs first and using new solutions and data, we can begin to shift the status quo. Globally there is a shift toward digital lending solutions, which can support a level playing field for SMEs. By transforming this lending sector as a whole, we can make it more accessible for small businesses to grow and continue making a difference.
Joe Bowerbank – Business/Commercial Development, Creditinfo Group.