> Posted by Center Staff

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The volume of data in the digital universe doubles in size roughly every two years, estimates indicate. The phrase “data rich” has become common business parlance. In the financial inclusion sector, big data is revolutionizing credit underwriting, product development, client segmentation, financial capability-building, and more. But how is this revolution actually happening? For many banks, it’s through partnerships with fintechs. Ujjivan, one of the largest microfinance institutions in India, recently chartered as a small finance bank, had until recently a limited portfolio at the SME level, which was hindered by high operating costs. This changed thanks to a partnership with the Bangalore-based fintech Artoo.

This partnership is described in CFI’s new joint-report with the Institute of International Finance (IIF), How Financial Institutions and Fintechs Are Partnering for Inclusion: Lessons from the Frontlines. We discovered dozens of partnerships between mainstream financial institutions and fintechs in emerging markets, and we detailed the workings of 14 of them. The partnership between Ujjivan and Artoo is just one example among many of how financial institutions are increasingly turning to fintechs to improve how they effectively collect, use, and manage data.

The Value of Better Data Management

Traditionally, banks collected a great deal of information on loan applicants, but much of it remained in paper form, in loan folders stacked high in offices. With the advent of core banking systems, banks spent a great deal of time transferring data from paper to computer. And once on the computer, much of the richness of the data has gone unused. Largely the data has not been leveraged effectively due to siloed digital infrastructure, inefficient legacy systems, and restrictive or uncertain regulatory requirements. More useful data management relies on the ability to efficiently obtain, store, retrieve, structure, clean, and analyze large bodies of data. This is a monumental task, and best practices and requirements are rapidly changing. Therefore, partnerships with fintechs to help improve data management across an organization can be of tremendous value, helping financial institutions lower costs, identify customer potential, reduce fraud, increase cross-selling opportunities, and expand their customer base.

The Partnership between Ujjivan and Artoo

Beginning in 2012, the partnership with Artoo provides Ujjiva with a digital field application, which is a cloud-based platform that digitizes the entire credit process, including loan generation and underwriting so that field officers enter customer data directly into the system via phones or tablets. As part of this work, Artoo supports Ujjivan’s data management. The platform deepens Ujjivan’s ability to track sales and portfolio performance. Artoo allows agents to capture more data points and consequentially creates more quality data for the bank to use in credit decisions. Data is captured on the Artoo platform, but is still owned by the bank.

Artoo’s platform has led to a 40 percent decrease in loan-processing time and a 50 percent rise in the number of loans processed per agent. The boost in efficiency resulting from the partnership with Artoo has enabled Ujjivan to expand its SME customer base from 60,000 to 200,000 clients in three to four years, an increase of over 230 percent. Following a pilot where the companies split costs, Ujjivan now pays Artoo a subscription fee for the functions it uses.

Regulatory Challenges for Data Management

All the financial institutions we spoke with that were creating partnerships in this area faced regulatory challenges surrounding the movement and use of data. For Ujjivan, regulations required that all customer data be stored on servers in India. Artoo had to switch its system from Amazon Cloud Services, with servers housed in the U.S., to a local Microsoft-based cloud service provider.

Meanwhile, in the case of partnerships between banks and fintechs that provide alternative credit scoring capabilities, we saw regulation limiting the flow of data from the banking institution to the alternative risk modeler, and vice versa. This is indeed a point of much contention in many markets and creates some tension in partnerships. Banks seek to maintain control over customer financial data, fearing that fintechs that gain access to data will use it for their own business purposes.

For more on bank-fintech partnerships, including other standout examples, read the report: How Financial Institutions and Fintechs Are Partnering for Inclusion: Lessons from the Frontlines.

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