This interview is part of a series with fellows of the Finance Innovation Lab Fellowship programme, 2016. The 2017 programme, focused on financial health, is now open for applications.
Credscope is a new credit reference agency with a difference – it is aimed at people who do not have a credit record or have had very little credit in the past.
We spoke to Freda Owusu, the founder, about her motivations – and how it works.
– How does Credscope create credit scores for people with no credit history?
People with little or no credit histories are treated as more risky by banks and credit providers. This problem affects many people, including: professionals from abroad, recent graduates, people who rent, and older people who have never had to borrow. Credscope (registered trademark) uses alternative data such as training, qualifications, and rental payments to score people with little or no credit history, enabling them opportunities to access better value financial products and services. For businesses and social enterprises, this offers an opportunity to increase their prospects from a wider group of consumers, so each side benefits.
– How did you come up with the idea?
The idea came to me after I was refused credit, and discovered it was due to wrong information relating to another person on my credit file. Further investigation highlighted an even bigger problem relating to people who had no information at all, and who are treated as risky by credit providers- estimated at 7million in the UK and over 500million in Africa and the developing world. As an Information Scientist, I realised this was an information rather than a risk problem as such, and decided to do something to fix this. It has taken a long time, 12 years, to get to this point.
– How important was the Fellowship in helping you develop the business?
The Fellowship was very helpful in bringing together a community of entrepreneurs working to solve similar problems for people and planet, and building each other up.
The Finance Innovation Lab offered a safe space for reflection, challenge and refining ideas that will positively impact society and the environment – all in a fun atmosphere!
– How important a cause of social problems do you think financial exclusion is?
Financial exclusion in this context is a problem that affects people across all income groups, and can push working people into poverty, prevent others from getting accommodation they need, or keep yet more people from ‘moving on’ financially and economically. This is unfair and unnecessary in my view.
– Do you feel optimistic that we can solve the problem of financial exclusion?
Globally government policies and financial market practices that are inefficient, drive poverty and keep people working themselves towards financial ill-health remain to be challenged wherever they occur. However, I am optimistic that some forms of financial exclusion can be positively addressed, in particular those caused by lack of information. My vision is that with the support of, and in partnership with businesses and organisations concerned by unfairness, Credscope will help address that need, and enable people to move on financially.
Applications for this year’s Fellowship are open until April 10.
Becky is co-founder of Good With Money and personal finance specialist for Royal London. She's a former finance and business correspondent at The Times and communications director for Trillion Fund, a renewable energy crowdfunding platform.