October 2018 marked two years for CRIF Jordan. What have been your focus and main achievements thus far?
The Credit Bureau Law was passed in 2010 in Jordan, making it possible to establish a credit bureau. Since the law mandated that banks join the credit bureau once it was up and running our focus in the first year was on getting banks into compliance. The second year was about bringing into the credit bureau the non-bank financial institutions, which is all the lenders in the financial sector that are not obligated to join. The efforts were highly focused on adding value to the credit bureau by having more members outside of the banking sector. In 2018, we focused on the leasing and microfinance sectors, as well as insurance companies and telecoms. We have succeeded in engaging seven out of eight microfinance institutions who are members of the MFIs network “Tanmeya." Telecoms are extremely important, and we hope that they will be joining soon. In the Doing Business report published annually by the World Bank, in terms of access to credit, Jordan's rating is highly dependent on the credit bureau coverage. The data from these entities is important to us, and it improves access to finance, especially for non-bankable people and small entrepreneurs.
What role does digitalization play at CRIF, and on which innovations are you focusing?
Financial institutions today are competing for customers through innovation. One of which is offering and processing loans online in a digital format. The Central Bank of Jordan is making efforts to promote digital finance. We are working with banks to ensure they are working digitally with us rather than printing and processing reports.
What is your outlook going into 2019?
I am optimistic. We want to show our older members how much effort we have been putting into bringing more value to them. Second, we want to extract more value out of the data that we have, and scoring is a part of that, as are the value-added services. Third, we want to present some of the services that have been approved and introduce them within the next year or two. We want to focus on the retailer side and include them into our platform. There is a part of the market that is still in the shadows, which we can uncover. We play an important role in bringing all of these people and sectors together. We have been talking about the credit bureau since 1989, but only launched two years ago. We are satisfied in terms of bringing services to life in a short period of time and working with the contributors to improve data quality. To that end, Crif Jordan and the bureau members have done an excellent job as the hit rate reached 78% within the first two years of operations; of 100 people one might inquire about, they will find the information they seek 78% of the time, which is an excellent rate. We hope to reach 80-82% by the time we engage all the other sectors in Jordan. The higher the hit rate, the higher the chance of people accessing finance, as long as they have good credit. Even though the economy is weak and consumer confidence is low, one of the things I am optimistic about is the border between Jordan and neighboring countries such as Iraq and Syria. We will soon resume exports and imports; banks and merchants have to be ready.