Conventional SME finance policies are designed to address conventional constraints to SMEs accessing the financial services which they need to manage risks, meet supply orders, and invest in new technologies and market opportunities. Yet technology and innovative approaches are transforming the business of SME finance, mitigating conventional challenges and risks and in some cases presenting new risks. Continuing with only conventional policy responses may be duplicative and waste resources, and may also fail to address emerging risks. This has important implications for the World Bank Group’s approach to SME Finance.
Information asymmetry raises the costs and risks of providing financial services, and therefore reduces access and leads to higher pricing of financial services for many SMEs. Yet data availability is rapidly expanding, and data brokers are increasingly able to address information asymmetry.
- “Big Data” Analytics - the analysis of alternative data sets such as cell phone histories and transactional data, represent new ways for assessing the creditworthiness of enterprises currently without access to finance. For example, Experian MicroAnalytics (global) and Cignifi (Brazil, Ghana, Mexico, US) deliver credit scoring based on airtime usage. This type of approach could open up access to credit for mobile payments customers in the developing world. ZestFinance (US) combines data from thousands of potential credit variables, gleaned from alternative credit databases and web crawling to offer a ‘big data underwriting model’.
- With increasing technology and internet access, the expansion of “digital footprints” allow for alternative ways to assess borrower creditworthiness and spot and prevent identity fraud. For example DemystData (Hong Kong, US) and Lenddo (Colombia, Mexico, Philippines) use online reputation and social media analytics.
- The lack of financing sources available to many SMEs, linked to constraints in the use of collateral and the availability of information, is cited as a major concern in the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys. Typical policy responses include secured transactions frameworks (collateral laws, movable assets registries), credit lines, state banks, partial credit guarantee schemes, and encouraging competition and diversification.