Post Mpesa, we have seen renewed vigor in the financial services sector with many players taking a swipe at addressing the needs of a broader set of consumers. Since most technology entrepreneurs tout that they have a secret source that deliver service differentiation often linking value addition to their proposition, I set out on an experiment. I decide to engage five of the more visible fintech service providers – Mshwari, KCB Mpesa, Branch, Tala (formerly Mkopo Rahisi) and Saida to see how their platforms ranked and rated me based off the same data set.
Some of the core data sets that the various providers plug into are mobile money transactions, call logs, messaging patterns, mobile airtime purchase and the Credit Reference Bureau feeds while the differentiators could be social media interactions, mobile device type, mobile device usage habits and analysis of other applications that you use.
The Safaricom CBA product that is Mshwari needs no introduction and its primary user experience is driven from the SIM toolkit menu that is available across the entire mobile base. Many consumers already know how to engage with services STK and getting a loan is fairly straight forward. Branch, Inventure (Tala), Saida and KCB user experience are driven by mobile applications. Branch and Saida are the easiest to get started with, KCB is more detailed while Inventures’ Tala feels like an interrogation.
Now that I was on boarded on all services, it was time to see how their systems perceive me from a common provided data set.
Interestingly, Saida did not find me worthy of a loan of any amount which I found curious. But looking at feedback from their Google Play Store listing, I came to the conclusion that this is more the norm than the anomaly with many users sighting frustration at a similar verdict. Branch was quick to qualify me for Ksh. 2,000 which was promptly transferred into my Mpesa account within minutes in as much as they say they may take up to 24 hours to process. Inventure, after all the questions they asked, also qualified me for Ksh. 2,000 as did Mshwari which I also found curious as well based on my assumption that Mpesa transactions data would have a higher weight with them given their linkage to Safaricom. KCB Mpesa came as a pleasant surprise with the offer given shortly after setting up coming to Ksh. 85,000 which was moved to my KCB Mpesa account and with a few clicks to Mpesa my account.
As you can see, five different service providers, same core data, readily available and accessible additional data sets but widely varying outcomes. Most will position algorithms at the center of their business models but the difference in their outcomes could be attributed to the fact that these algorithms are created by humans and in some way carry the subjectivity inherent in human nature and unlike broad assumptions that they may be applied to matters technology, there is no exact science.