Finance, Innovation

KayaCredit – The First AI-Powered Credit Scoring Service for the Unbanked

“Raise a glass for (financial) freedom”

On Philippine Independence Day, we formally launch KayaCredit (, the first AI-powered credit scoring service for the vast majority of Filipinos who remain unbanked but are economically active.

Together with Bayad Center and our other partners, we have access to the alternative data of 32 million Filipinos who perform regular transactions like paying their bills, loading their phones, sending and accepting remittance, and performing other financial transactions that can tell us about their credit worthiness. Using machine learning, we generate a credit score that is indicative of the borrower’s repayment behavior.

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With this, hard working Filipinos who do not have credit history can access cheaper credit and can choose the best offer from our trusted partner lenders through our loans marketplace.Our team is working with some of the biggest lenders locally and abroad to spur financial inclusion. We will reach 1 million users and lend out 15 billion pesos by the end of the year.

And we are just getting started. We have other projects in the pipeline which we’ll launch in “VIP” — Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines – home to 500 million people with median age below 30 and fast rising incomes. Through finance and technology, we aim to meet the needs and aspirations of the world’s emerging middle class.

Finance, Innovation

Making a Dent Through Fintech

We were invited by the Qatar government itself to exhibit our fintech innovation in Doha for their annual research conference! I’m quite excited because it will be my first time in the Middle East, and there will be other tech companies who are “making a dent in the universe” with what they do – health, energy, robotics, space and humanity. We will also meet with a Filipino community there to explore opportunities for expansion.

I will be going my boss who dared to envision something crazy more than a decade ago. We will be there because of that vision and hopefully, it will pave the way for the unbanked to get more access to financial products to uplift their lives.

Steve Jobs famously said that “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

I was reflecting a few days back and I guess my experiences in commercial banking and development financing were pivotal in the role that I’m taking now. Include that my grad school course which focused on innovation. If you tell me back in college that in a decade, I will be involved in the fintech industry, I would have laughed at you because I got a C in our finance class despite a brilliant tutor and I was a laggard in adopting technology.

I feel the pressure to deliver a system that will make loans, investments and insurances more convenient and targeted even if one has no previous formal transaction history. It’s sort of a breakthrough because we’ll be using machine learning and companies have been lining up to use the product, even willing to be guinea pigs, even if we have yet to fully launch it.

I have always wanted to make an impact. I was able to do it in the lives of the thousands of people who benefited from the loans we released to rural banks and cooperatives, and to the people we trained financial literacy. You can only amplify that through tech.

We’ll be there from March 18 to 22. Drop me a message if you happen to be there!


No Bullshit Personal Finance

Will be conducting a no bullshit personal finance workshop for Clever Manila next month. There will be no sponsors – banks, insurance companies, other financial institutions – for this class so you are asured that it is legit and will not be serving bullshit to sell something.

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What makes it different? Aside from the basics, I’ll try to target the issues that are closest to a millennial’s heart: how much should you pay for in a date? How much should you spend on vacations? How can you better negotiate your salary with your employers? How can you be a tita of Manila by the time you’re 35?

Will also delve into the innovations happening in the finance world – from cryptocurrencies to the impact of deep learning and AI to our finances and daily lives.

“Being clever was when you looked at how things were and used the evidence to work out something new.” 
― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Life gets tricky. Sometimes googling answers and how-to’s aren’t quite enough to help you get your sh*t together. We get that and we’re here to help.

Clever Manila offers classes and workshops with a generous no-BS approach to learning practical skills facilitated by folks who practice what they preach. A mouthful, but sounds cool, right?

It’s no surprise: there are ways to make things more efficient, less confusing, and yep, more worth your while as you deal with this thing called life. How about you let us save you some trouble as you go on hustling and doing your thing?

C’mon, let’s go tap into your burning, clever core.

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Development, Finance

Contributing to the Bayanihan Economy

I just read a paper written by the economist Cielito Habito on the “Solidarity Economy Movement” which started in North and Latin America. It talks about a system that creates inclusive growth for participants in the market economy whether you’re a consumer, firm owner, laborer or a capitalist. One element in this system – the Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) – caught my interest because it’s an easy avenue for people, especially those with money, to contribute to nation building.

It’s a challenge to make people understand social development. I remember giving a talk to one of the biggest universities in Manila on Social Entrepreneurship. The emcee gave an introduction on social entrepreneurship as if the subject is on merging business principles with social media – creating enterprises that maximize the use of Facebook and Twitter. Que horror! If the majority finds difficulty in learning social development, there must be another way to “capitalize” on our population.

One of the current trends is the increasing number of people who want to invest – mostly OFWs and young professionals. I have lots of friends who are not yet 100% sure where to put their money – stocks? mutual funds? in the bank? foreign exchange?

I am averse to putting my money in stocks, mutual funds and even time deposits because these just fuel the machinery of capitalism. Yes, there’s a possibility of a higher yield, but wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to have your investments fund micro lending for the poor, capital for social enterprises, or finance operations of an agricultural cooperative? SRI is another alternative.

SRI involves investors who invest not solely on the basic financial returns, but also on their commitment to social development. On a macro level, these are people who orient their investments toward ethically responsible productive firms, cooperatives, ethical banks, savings & loans solidarity funds, and the like. If you scan the market for these kinds of investments, you won’t easily find available options.

Yet, I know of a corporation that mobilizes resources from commercial banks, international agencies and SRIs (6.0% fixed annual return of investment) to combat poverty in the country. I also personally know founders of three groups who advocate financial freedom through investing (in stocks, mutual funds, foreign exchange, gold trading). Now if those groups can just integrate SRI from the corporation that I mentioned as an alternative investment vehicle in their program, that can be a big contribution to a more inclusive growth – or what we can call the Bayanihan Economy, as what Habito proposed.

It’s one thing for the students/members of those groups to be financially independent, but through SRI, the investor earns and the poor are also uplifted. Bayanihan happens when the weaker members of the society are helped by those who have the capacity to share the weight of the task. It’s ingrained in our culture, and I hope it transcends even in the financial markets.

Maybe a day will come when we can all pull out our investments from the stock market and allocate it to genuine companies and organizations that adhere to the Bayanihan Economy. I think SRI is the perfect alternative for those without the brains and time for development, but with the heart and money (and want to earn more money) to contribute to nation building.

Originally published on March 6, 2014 at Neil Palteng’s former blog