Nigerian-based financial solution service, Social Lender, has made its UK debut, as it joins the FORWARD accelerator scheme run by Birmingham Enterprise Community (BEC). Having pioneered tech-based solutions to improve financial inclusion since 2018, Social Lender hopes to adapt its innovative approach to help provide access to formal financial services to those facing barriers in the UK as it expands its offerings globally.
Described as a ‘social network for trust, credit and much more’ the Social Lender model has already helped over 100,000 users to become financially included. Now, the coveted space on BEC’s FORWARD programme helps the start-up – which currently operates in six locations across Africa – to push its solution to Europe.
Social Lender (Social Reputation Limited, UK) currently uses its innovative Social Reputation Score to bridge the gap between thousands of users and formal financial institutions to access services such as credit, micro-insurance, agricultural input and much more. The emerging business was founded by rising stars Faith and Bade Adesemowo, who devised the high-tech algorithm to audit users based on their social reputation on mobile, online, offline and social community platforms
With support from BEC, the business has plans to scale-up and expand to 30 locations over the next 12 months, using its tried and tested model to create adapted solutions for those in the UK and beyond. Currently, Social Lender is looking at new ways to help new migrants and students, communities who are digitally connected via their phones and the internet but lack access to financial support and credit due to inadequate financial history, unreliable credit scores, and a lack of financial understanding.
Social Lender co-founder, Faith, explains:
“In our experience in this field, banks and financial institutions have no way of trusting people when it comes to giving access to financial services and therefore demand unrealistic collateral or requirements. We discovered that in some areas, more than 50% of adults lacked financial help and this has a real knock-on effect for those who want to grow their businesses, employ staff or develop new technology.
“To combat this we created our Social Reputation algorithm that provides guarantees based on a user’s social profile and network. By allowing them the chance to connect to services like credit, savings and leasing, it not only helps grow their businesses but their communities too. We’ve had huge success unlocking the financial potential for thousands of clients so far, and now thanks to Birmingham Enterprise Community, we’re looking forward to using the learnings we’ve had to extend our sphere of support further than ever before.”
The six-month FORWARD programme provides new businesses with the skills, knowledge and connections to deal with the challenges of rapid growth. By signing up to the scheme, Social Lender will be able to access strategic partners in the region, which will not only accelerate the business’s growth but also provide a much-needed boost for those with inadequate financial history.
“So many of us take bank accounts and financial services for granted, but for others they are out of their reach either because they don’t know where to start or have no credit history. With the support of FORWARD, we are now strategically positioned to help new migrants and students in the UK gain access to essential financial services faster and possibly at a lower cost,” adds Faith.
The expansion to the UK sees Social Lender establish a European HQ and the relocation of three of its members. In further welcome news, the business also hopes to raise investment as well as create an additional five roles in the next 12 months.
Speaking about Social Lender being accepted onto the FORWARD accelerator programme, BEC’s CEO Daniel Evans, comments:
“The past year has presented challenges on a scale that no-one could have anticipated and we expect that as we transition into a ‘new normal’ – which includes both COVID-recovery plans and the full-force of Brexit being felt – there will be more need for financial advice than ever before. Social Lender’s ground-breaking approach has already proved hugely effective in Nigeria and I truly believe that the potential impact it could have in the emerging UK climate is astronomical.
“I know I speak on behalf of the entire Birmingham Enterprise Community team when I say that we are so looking forward to working alongside the Social Lender team through the FORWARD programme. The talent and innovation displayed by Faith and Bade is astounding and we can’t wait to support them in this next phase of the business.”