Identifying Customer Needs and Bringing Credit Services to the Unbanked Citizens of Nigeria in conversation with Dr ‘Tunde Popoola, Group Managing Director/CEO of CRC Credit Bureau Limited, a private-owned credit bureau based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Nigeria’s CRC Credit Bureau Limited is on a straightforward but ambitious mission: to become the largest data provider in Africa.

The transformation process of evolution and expansion into a group structure began on January 1, 2022 — giving institutions a 360 view of customers by using innovative machine learning solutions and advanced data analytics to help organizations deliver superior insights, automate decisioning and rapidly modernize their operations.

What are the direct effects of the changes to your organisation’s abilities?

Group Managing Director/CEO of the Nigerian CRC Credit Bureau: Dr-Tunde-Popoola

Group Managing Director/CEO of the Nigerian CRC Credit Bureau: Dr-Tunde-Popoola

‘Tunde Popoola: Over the past few years, we have been able to deliver superior insights to businesses, automate decision-making, and rapidly modernize their operations. We have stayed committed to developing solutions that exceed customers’ needs, and have launched new products, including the Risk Calculator, Delay Propensity Score, Churn Analytics, and the Account Aggregator platform.

With the Risk Calculator, institutions can now accurately predict how risky a customer is. The algorithm uses a risk scale to classify loan applicants into distinct categories; low risk, medium risk, and high risk, using two years of historical credit data.

We developed the CRC Delay Propensity Score, also known as CRC DPS – a score that assists institutions in reviewing their performing customers to predetermine those that may delay in their payments in the next thirty (30) to sixty (60) days due to social and economic factors. This enables the institutions to develop strategies to better support their customers.

Our Churn Analytics product analyses customer data to identify patterns and behaviours to indicate an elevated risk of churn. By understanding these factors, we are now able to help businesses implement targeted retention strategies to address customer needs and improve their experience.

The Account Aggregator platform collects and consolidates data from alternative sources e.g., financial data etc., easing access to credit and other financial products for individuals and businesses. This product promotes financial inclusion and expands lending through easier assessment of first-time borrowers.

We will continue to develop unique and innovative products that transform business processes in a capacity that cuts across all departments.

What relevant changes to legislation or regulation would you like to see?

In Nigeria, we have the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC), a commission with the mandate to manage the national identity database in Nigeria. A report published by the commission in 2020 showed that over a hundred million Nigerians had no official identity. Since then, the commission has tried to input all individual records into a database to establish or verify identities. All citizens and legal residents in Nigeria, from birth, are now eligible to enroll for National Identification Numbers (NINs). The commission has also partnered with telecommunication companies to ensure that a mobile number is linked to each NIN (National Identification Numbers).

This has made it easier to identify consumers in Nigeria, but there are still limitations. We would like a more inclusive NIN-adoption to simplify the identification of consumers. This will help people build credible profiles that enhance their standard of living.

Can you pinpoint any pitfalls to help newcomers to the industry?

The common data template was developed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for financial institutions. For the non-financial sector, they may not collect some of the information on their customers for some fields from inception. They then need to begin to restructure their data collection process, which increases the amount of time it takes to submit data.

Do you have any anecdotes to illustrate your progress over the years?

CRC was licensed as a credit bureau in June 2009, and from January 1, 2022, we transitioned to a group structure. We have gone beyond providing credit reports and scores to unlocking value for our member institutions by providing insights through data-driven strategies. This has helped with decision-making, transformed businesses, and enhanced stakeholders’ value.

We have also launched a mobile app called CRC Mobile, the first of its kind in our sector in Nigeria, allowing individuals access their credit reports, scores, set up monitors & alerts on their credit profiles, all from the comfort of their mobile phones and online channels.

CRC spearheaded major technological advancements with the introduction of a Data Management Module (DMM), allowing institutions to update the credit profiles of borrowers as they make repayments in real time as well as an Application Programming Interfaces that allows these institutions to fully automate the credit cycle of the customer from review of credit profiles to the submission of data on their customers’ credit profiles as they occur.

As part of our sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives, we organize “You & Credit” webinars, aimed at educating individuals and SMEs on the importance of building and monitoring their credit. In addition to this, we always ensure they are aware of other initiatives that could affect their day-to-day lives. Our guest speakers are renowned people in their various fields and industry leaders providing a holistic view of the topic.

How do ESG parameters and sustainability principles affect the way your industry is run?

We have taken steps to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce in the organization, from ground level to board level. We constantly review our internal operations to ensure we are adhering to the credit reporting guidelines from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Credit Reporting Act of Parliament, and the standards set by the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR).

Employee engagement is particularly important to us, and we organize staff-enhancement sessions to ensure our wellbeing. These sessions enable us to share and discuss updates on market trends, the world’s best practice policies and promote enhancement in knowledge in various disciplines.

We are committed to the conservation of the natural world, by ensuring full automation of all technical processes.

What are the mid to long-term challenges faced by your business?

Every business has challenges, for us, I would say changes in government policies, environmental risks, and natural occurrences such as extreme weather events.

In addition, our business faces the challenge of attracting and retention of skills because of the significant rise in emigration of Nigerian youths with expertise and skills especially in data science, information technology and finance. We also face competition from fintechs, software and data companies who try to render the same or similar services like ours without being licensed credit bureaus.

What has been the single most important requirement to becoming a global business?

Our people and customers are among our most valued assets.

How do you see as the short- to mid-term prospects for your industry?

According to the World Bank, the credit penetration rate in Nigeria increased from 12.1 percent in 2020 to 30.1 percent in 2022. While this is clearly an improvement, it is still relatively low given that Nigeria has a population of over 200 million.

We have seen that credit to the private sector increase year-on-year. This gives us the hope that more Nigerians will access credit facilities in coming years.

What excites you about the business world in general?

A rise in digital transformation and the continuous adoption of technology. There has been an increase in the demand for credit facilities, signifying a mindset shift towards credit. I have been impressed by the introduction of solutions to improve customer experience, such as self-service options, interactive voice response (IVR) software, AI (Artificial Intelligence) chatbot features as well as the use of data and analytics in driving decision making.

What lessons have you learned from your career?

I believe analyzing data is crucial in strategic decision making. The insights can potentially change the course of operations across an entire organization. I have also learnt that successful businesses are built by its workforce. New initiatives are bound to become obsolete quickly, so it is important to always think outside the box. You also must be very consistent and be willing to accept change in the pursuit of your goals. Managing your time, building, and sustaining your relationships with others is also particularly important. One more thing – being able to anticipate and exceed customers’ expectations will play a huge role in deciding whether you will become a market leader.

What motivates and enthuses you?

The ability to develop innovative solutions using technology and enable businesses to make better-informed decisions motivates me to do more. In addition, the ability to contribute to bridging the financial inclusion gap in Nigeria, improving the lives of Nigerians — particularly small business owners.

What is special about your management style?

CRC has a democratic method that promotes a free flow of ideas between managers and team members. This facilitates open communication, collaboration, and participation.

Can you share some management or organization secrets?

We ensure a continuous review of our processes and develop new products and services that meet the anticipated needs of our customers. We monitor and analyze markets to stay ahead of the curve, and we apply continuous customer engagement and relationship management.

What are the key strengths of your team?

Everyone is uniquely skilled and contributes their knowledge. There is a unified belief in the vision of the company, and a culture of open communication and support.

Our support team is vital to the success of the company, as they interface directly with customers. They are the first point of contact for all enquiries and requests.

What are the key traits of a good corporate leader?

There are several traits a good leader should possess, such as critical and strategic thinking, leading by example, integrity, the ability to identify and nurture potential, empower people to think creatively and leading the team to maximize its full potential.

A leader’s role is also to drive innovation and ensure clear communication.

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