In 2014, we established Experian’s social innovation programme to identify and fund new, innovative products and services that help foster financial inclusion, promote financial education and support small business entrepreneurs.
Focusing on social innovation
By building social benefit more deliberately into our mainstream business and utilising our unique insights, we can make a significant difference to consumers and other stakeholders.
We have more than 1,000 products and services and have identified that many have an inherent social, as well as commercial, benefit. Leaders from across our business regions came together during the year to establish a process to champion and facilitate social innovation. Their first task was to assess how our products and services can foster financial inclusion, promote financial education and support small business entrepreneurs. Against these three priorities, this work established that the social reach of just 30 of our products is currently around 10 million people.
For example, our business is supporting financial inclusion and the development of financial services in emerging economies such as Kenya, Ghana and Ivory Coast. In these and other markets, we are enabling better and cheaper access to finance, through support for branchless banking. In the Philippines only 26% of people have access to a bank branch, although 84% have a mobile phone. Working with Experian and a leading mobile phone operator, mBank Philippines has been able to set up a distributed model of branchless banking to offer services for small retailers, who previously had no affordable access to finance.
In the UK and Ireland, our Rental Exchange, created with The Big Issue Invest, provides a secure and compliant way to include a tenant’s rental payment history in their credit report, with their permission. Adding this information to credit reports is ground-breaking. Our analysis of 400,000 records showed that 20% of social housing tenants have credit scores just below a typical mainstream lender’s pass mark. Including their rental payment data will push many tenants into a higher bracket, giving around one million people the potential to access mainstream lending.
In Singapore, we have a successful business focused on supporting small businesses and start-ups. We play an active role in supporting the development of SMEs in Singapore, opening the first SME commercial credit bureau and hosting an annual SME Development conference. Since 2002, some 4,500 SMEs have benefited from this event.
We are tracking the number of people helped by our socially innovative products and verifying numbers through our internal audit team. We are also looking at how we can grow and replicate products with a strong social benefit in new regions, particularly in emerging markets, benefiting the most vulnerable people in society.
Social innovation as a spur to growth
We have taken a big step forward with our social innovation programme over the last year, providing more than four times the funding of previous years to develop new products that start with a social issue. These are exciting commercial propositions that have social benefit as a key performance indicator.
We have also scaled up our communications, engaging our people and encouraging them to think about how Experian’s capabilities could solve a social issue. Businesses in our regions applied for product development funding. A steering group of senior leaders from each region assessed and scored these proposals, guided by Richard Fiddis, Managing Director for Strategic Markets.
In December 2013, we chose seven projects, investing around US$700,000 to support their development. Some were at a proof of concept phase and needed the funds to explore the idea. Others were in a later stage of development or ready to go to market.
In North America, we are investing in three products tackling different issues: helping disadvantaged patient groups manage financial obligations arising from their healthcare; supporting the regeneration of business districts; and enabling schools to identify and find support for pupils’ special needs, much earlier and more effectively.
In Brazil, our online Debt Recovery Portal is bringing consumers together with their lenders, enabling easy access to debt information and facilitating repayments through a better and simpler debt collection process. More detail on this project is on this case study page.
In the UK and Ireland, we are working with the Association of British Credit Unions to use Experian’s credit checking technology, scorecards and data, to develop a service that will reduce costs and enable credit unions to extend more services to consumers, to achieve financial, digital and social inclusion securely and safely. In addition, social innovation funding is also being used to help create the UK’s first social enterprise database – helping businesses to more readily identify and work with the UK’s thousands of social enterprises.
In India, we gave funding to the product described on this case study page to support its final development. We believe it gets right to the heart of tackling financial inclusion, in one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It addresses a welldefined need and enables us to work hand-in-hand with public agencies to deliver India’s national priorities, while supporting our business growth.
We have made huge progress during the last year and we can already see the commercial and social benefits of aligning product development with social innovation. This strategy will support our business growth and so we will continue to invest in this way. It has also allowed us to set ourselves an ambitious goal, to increase our social reach* by an additional five million people around the world, by 2018.
* The number of unique individuals we impact positively in any one year around financial inclusion, financial education and supporting small business start-ups.