First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hayk Hakobyan: We are all doing well. Safe and healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BIZBAZ.
Hayk Hakobyan: I advise SOSV (biggest VC accelerator in the world) and thanks to that, I was exposed to the finance ecosystem in Asia. As a result, I saw that a major broken link in finance was a credit scoring system, which was mainstreamed back in the 1970s, when we had no Internet, no Uber, no Facebook, etc. The only sensible way of assessing a customer would be based on his/her financial information available. There were no other digital footprints available, nor the technology to collect these.
Fast forward 50 years. By and large most financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, etc.) in Asia still use financial repayment history-based credit scoring systems. These systems don’t work due to large and growing rates such as NPL, NPA, etc. Additionally, most of the Asian populations don’t even have a credit score – unbanked/underserved populations: Philippines (77%), Indonesia (80%), etc. – and hence are completely excluded from financial ecosystems.
There are few innovative Fintechs, which came along from 2010 onwards but offer alternative scoring based on one additional source (to financial info) or just one source (mobile phone, Telco, etc.).
Our vision was to offer profiling/scoring that would be descriptive and comprehensive of a person. Each person has data online and on his/her mobile that falls into the following categories: finance, lifestyle, social and health. Hence we have developed a proprietary system that incorporates all these different aspects of a person life and crunches it into a profile and a score that financial institutions can use:
a) to bring/serve the unbanked/underserved populations in Asian countries,
b) improve profiling/scoring outcomes and cross-selling/upselling to existing banking/insurance customers due to comprehensive profiles we provide.
Initially, Gilad and I connected over this credit scoring issue. Then we brought on board the other two co-founders who all felt the same pain and wanted to tackle this “elephant in the room” problem in finance in Asia.
How does BIZBAZ innovate?
Hayk Hakobyan: Innovation is part of our DNA. That’s how we developed this completely new and comprehensive approach to credit scoring, and that’s how we currently adapt based on customer feedback and needs as we go along. For example, our product lineup includes more health and lifestyle data points and some other innovative products, including SME scorecarding, etc.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Hayk Hakobyan: I think if anything, COVID caused more interest and fast-tracked adoption of technologies like ours. Some companies who were previously lukewarm and uncertain how this groundbreaking type of scoring/profiling would work and how health would contribute to it are now in advanced discussions or have become partners to us.
Health is finally on top of mind of financial institutions and Fintechs as they realize a person’s health affects hugely on their ability to honor their financial commitments.
As our differentiation from other innovators and competitors are lifestyle and health data points, we are working to double down on these via partnerships and automation (in terms of data acquisition and collection) as well launching new innovative products.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Hayk Hakobyan: Surprisingly, no hard choices besides business as usual. We are a lean, small and distributed (across Israel, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and India) team that has been working together since day 1 using online tools and we continue likewise till today.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Hayk Hakobyan: Meditation, disconnect (sometimes hard though) from devices during weekends, reading and exercise.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Hayk Hakobyan: We have two types of competitors: Big credit scoring companies like Experian Group and alternative score providing Fintechs like TrustingSocial. We are looking and partnering up with some of the first group of companies and also with the second. Our competitive edge is our proprietary technology and regional/global partnerships in scoring, lifestyle and health. We plan to double down on these.
Your final thoughts?
Hayk Hakobyan: Final thoughts are related to where the horizon is for us. We aim to become the intelligence dashboard for financial institutions. Towards this vision, we already offer comprehensive individual profiling/scoring and will be adding more financial intelligence products as we grow both product-wise as well as geographically.
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