Philippines - CIBI: The Face of Financial Inclusion

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Dec 2018
Philippines, December, 04 2018 - Finally, the Philippines has an answer to the perennial problem of access to credit that hinders growth of the micro and small enterprises. This time, access to credit is becoming more inclusive as companies and individuals’ credit worthiness are no longer weighed based on their hard assets but on their reliability as a good payor based on their credit history.

Marlo R. Cruz, a former banker, now heads the country’s lone local credit information and credit score company CIBI Information Inc. Cruz sees the opening of floodgates of opportunities for all Filipinos, especially the unbanked sector, to access credit without hard collaterals.

CIBI

CIBI Information Inc., also known as CIBI, is at the forefront of this effort towards financial inclusion. By being the Philippines’ first and only local credit bureau since 1982, CIBI is nurturing its expertise through its vast affiliation, effective methods and renowned credibility, validated by esteemed clients and recognized by the Philippine government.

Through its partnerships with internationally acclaimed consumer credit score providers, CIBI is a premier source of globally-accepted credit scores to support the financial growth of every Filipino, locally and abroad. CIBI knows every Juan better and aims to contribute in the growth of the economy by transforming the “unbanked” into bankable individuals.

CIBI’s credit scoring system is derived from robust local data that makes it an effective tool in supporting efficient credit channel facilities for financial institutions; easing loan application approvals; and helping the development of MSMEs.

“CIBI is your local gateway for credit information and background checking services expertly designed to global standards. Because in transforming the lives of every Filipinos, there is only one credit bureau you can trust,” says Cruz.

Cruz recalled that 36 years ago, someone was able to pull off financial paper and absconded to Canada illegally bringing with him P200 million. This has forced then Central Bank Governor Jaime Laya to establish a central information repository with Credit Bureau Information Inc., but the law had no teeth.

The government had decided to sell CIBI to the private sector in 1997. The BSP and Securities Exchange Commission’s stakes were bought out by private investors in 2007.

The responsibility to run CIBI was offered to Cruz, who at first was very hesitant but was persuaded because as user of credit information he is in the best position to run this kind of institution.

He was formerly a Division Head for Credit at PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. in 1997-2007. Marlo has his expertise in leasing, credit and finance for over 28 years of practice. He also administered Credit Management Association of the Philippines (CMAP) as President in 2003, 2005 and 2006; and became an SEC Accredited Compliance Officer in 2004.

When RA 9510 or the Credit Information Systems Act was put into law, the new CIBI management rehabilitated the company. CIBI became one of the four government accredited credit information bureaus and the only local firm with special accessing entity of the Credit Information Corp. (CIC), the central credit information repository of the government. It was up against the giants – Transunion of Chicago, CRIF of Italy, and Campuscan of South Africa. Their clients are all lending institutions such as banks and even the Social Security System.

Cruz has also scaled up their capability by doing value addition to the data they accessed from CIC. That is where they came up with the credit risk rating for companies and credit score for individuals.

Credit risk rating/score

CIBI is using a 3-digit numerical determination of credit worthiness of an individual with the lowest at 300 and 850 as highest. The score is based on all data available in the CIC and in the market.

From the gathered data, CIBI analyzes the individual’s credit worthiness. Most of these data include an individual’s payment history of his loans, utility bills, cellphones, among others. CIBI has moved up from a mere credit information provider to a functioning credit bureau.

“We now moved to the next level meaning we are now determining the credit worthiness of the individual,” he said. The credit score or risk rating will be used by their clients as basis to grant or deny an individual’s credit application.

But CIBI still maintains their credit information function especially in their dealings with BPOs to ensure that employees handling backroom services of the bank is clean.

The credit bureau service is just taking off and just in time for the new challenge as they spearhead in changing and innovating lending systems in the Philippines from asset-based or physical collateral of assets and into risk-based through the determination of a company’s credit risk rating and an individual’s credit score.

Cruz explained that the determination of credit worthiness can only become predictive if the individual has a robust data to analyze. For instance, an individual who pays his phone bills on time can have lower credit score, than an individual with more credit history like bank loans, utility bills, SSS loans and Pag-Ibig, credit cards, among others.

“The more robust data you have, the more predictive you become,” says Cruz.

As such, Cruz has encouraged everyone to build a credit history.

“I am doing this to my children by getting credit cards and pay them on time because you are young and you are already developing a credit stature,” he adds. The credit score will build a profile of your payment habits, the regularity of your payments.

New oil

“Credit information has become a business,” he says. For example, if a trader or manufacturer does not know a certain company in Singapore, who wants to do business with him, he can go to CIBI to check on the potential partner’s credit information like financial capability, corporate information, how profitable the company, how reputable the company as part of its due diligence process.

“This is to ensure that they are not dealing with fly by nights,” says Cruz. Unfortunately, information gathering is still 50 percent physical and 50 percent from online. With artificial intelligence (AI), Cruz said analytics can now be done easily. For BPO dealings alone, the information analysis has a turnaround time of 3 days from what used to be 30 days.

Innovation

CIBI now employs roughly 80 people, of whom 40 percent are data analysts and 60 percent in backroom services but Cruz wants to reverse this by investing in technology and innovation.

According to Cruz,35-40 percent of their capital expenditure goes to technology and innovation because the returns come in the form of efficiency. Clients are demanding as they need to approve loan applications in minutes.

Banks are also moving towards outsourcing this task. Old banks are a little bit slow to outsource but the younger banks are more aggressive to outsource this non-core function because their core business is to lend money.

“We still continuously seek because the opposite of success is complacency so if you start to become lazy you will lose so we continuously seek ways for data partners and data sharing so the more data we have the more reliable the more predictive our scores be,” he adds.

Data collection though is also expensive. They have soldiers on foot, researching in various agencies, in insurance firms and utility firms. Digitization is also brightening up although the Philippines is still far behind against the more mature economies.

“It is just only recently 5-10 years ago that data has become the new oil,” he says. For CIBI, Cruz said they could probably hit data maturity in about 10 years as the available data in the market is expected to hit ten zillion by 2028. Digitization is also expected to accelerate with new ways of updating, new shape and form of data collection boosted by the tech savvy millennials.

Growth

With new revenues coming from its credit bureau services, Cruz expects a high growth trajectory in the next 2-3 years for CIBI. Growth this year could hit 30 percent, similar with its 20-30 percent growth in the last 3-4 years.

“The introduction of credit score will provide equal opportunity to all Filipinos and is inclusive because even if you have no assets you can still avail of credits. The unbanked and underserved sector cannot just access credit but access to cheap credit,” he adds. This means more demand for credit information and credit scores.

As provider of credit information and analytics, Cruz forecasts CIBI to become a regional player in Asia in the medium term or within ten years. To accelerate their expansion, CIBI is partnering with country data providers abroad.

“The advantage is we can throw the whole company to assist any client and organizations. Second, we have the heritage for the last 36 years. We know the Filipinos and we are present nationwide,” says Cruz, noting they have a full-service branch in Cebu and a satellite office in Davao while Luzon is serviced by the Makati head office.

“CIBI is second to Transunion for the credit bureau service but for credit information I can say without bragging we are the biggest and largest,” says Cruz.

Inclusive

In risk-based, your credit worthiness depends on the value of your assets. If someone pawns a 3210 Nokia, he will get lower credit than the other person pawning a Samsung Note. But in a risk-based, your good credit score can command lower interest rate.

“You are now empowered to demand for lower interest rate because you are a less risky borrower,” says Cruz.

CIBI observes data privacy policy with utmost care. They do not issue a credit information without prior consent of the owner. It is always a tripartite relationship – borrower, lender and credit bureau.

“We invest so much in systems and firewalls to protect your data,” he says.

“At CIBI, we are very strict. No one can release data unless there is a real clear demand and you have given prior consent,” he adds.

CIBI employees are banned from bringing in their phones inside the office to avoid leakages. There are also levels of hierarchy in the approvals.

Challenge

According to Cruz, the challenge for a credit bureau is data and trust.

“You will not play around with data but responsibly manage these data,” stresses Cruz. Second, there is the big challenge of letting all Filipinos understand the value of credit score and how this could empower Filipinos, especially the underserved, the unbanked, to be part of the financial system.

“We have obligation to educate all borrowers or Filipinos of the value of credit,” he adds. “Even if you are given access to credit, you need to be a responsible borrower,” he adds stressing “You have an obligation to pay your debt and not make any excuses.’

With CIC becoming fully operational this month, Cruz said credit scores will flood the market and others now will have access to credit. CIBI is targeting members of business associations for its first wave of seminars.

A collaborative and consultative manager, Cruz says, “I believe in the power of the team, I am not the only person where all information should come from.”

“I do not see myself as anyone better than any person in any organization except that I have bigger responsibility,” says Cruz.

A Catholic, Cruz is active in their parish. “I serve the church to pay for my rent for using the world,” he adds.

On his spare time, he plays golf.

“What I like in golf is the walk, the serenity, the smell of the dew, the greens and the fresh air but I must admit I love the peace, the change in atmosphere, which is clean and you get to commune with yourself because you play against yourself. Even if there are other partners, your shot is still your shot,” he adds.

Lessons learned

He likened his learning to a clock.

“Imagine if the tiniest of gears in a clock do not work, what happens? It does not give you the right time then you throw it away. This is similar to our world because if part of our team does not perform, we don’t get the right results we want,” he adds.

That is why, people are the number one asset of CIBI. And Cruz is putting so much equity by continually training, upskilling this asset to become part of a team.

“Creating an island is not the best thing to do, you need to be part of a team but you still have to continuously check and validate things,” he adds.

He has a share of life’s failures though, but what is important is his ability to learn from them. It is just a question of attitude, the desire the turn it around. His values can be gleaned from his prayers.

“My prayer in life is to make me in an instrument of peace. Little did I know the answer is my people, this is my little church as well because whatever decision I make will affect the 79 others, not to count the lives of their families,” he adds as he stressed the importance of family as the basic unit of society.

“The father is the head of the family wherever the father goes the family goes,” adds Cruz as he relates this to his being the head of CIBI.

He said that the principles God has taught in the Bible are the same principles he applies at the office and at home.

“The principle of honesty is still the same at home and at work because everyone is connected with each other,” adds Cruz, who finished management and industrial engineering in Mapua University. He gets sentimental when people leave or drivers drive irresponsibly.

“Maybe am getting old that am getting sentimental,” says Cruz, who looks up to lots of successful businessmen.

His relationship with God is what guides him at CIBI. Under his stewardship, CIBI became the premiere mover of financial inclusion in the country. As such, Cruz has become the face of financial inclusion.



Source : Manila Bulletin
 

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