Nigeria’s secured lending opportunity

Whoever figures out secured lending for Nigeria can build a billion-dollar business. Secured lending has worked in other emerging markets, e.g., Brazil with Creditas, and investors tend to bring business models that work in other emerging markets to Nigeria. Jumia’s existence was foreshadowed by FlipKart (2009) and Ola(2010) and they share the same investors. Why not Creditas and Nigeria? Who’s building this? 

It’s not enough to say, “Nigeria is different. Secured lending can’t work here” Rather, it’s looking at what the challenges are and whether intrepid entrepreneurs can overcome them. 

The secured lending opportunity

Secured lending requires borrowers to have collateral and Lenders can claim the collateral if the borrower defaults. Secured loans have higher approval rates, lower default rates and are more likely to be paid in an economic downturn. 

Whoever you ask, the opportunity is big. By some estimates, consumer loans is a NGN10.1T ($24.6B) market opportunity, and this most notably excludes small businesses. Moreso, Nigeria’s lenders believe customers want these loans and see demand increasing.

CREDITAS AS A CASE STUDY 

Creditas is a Brazilian fintech that provides customers with loans secured against a house, car or monthly paycheck. Creditas does not take customer deposits but instead chooses to build financial products around these 3 assets. Creditas has no branches; customers apply online or via WhatsApp and get a decision in minutes. They’ve also raised $564M and, as at Dec 2020, they have reached a $1.75B valuation.

Why Creditas works aka Sao Paulo =/= Lagos

Brazil is not Nigeria and Creditas works in part because of Brazil’s unique circumstances. Brazil has a relatively mature credit market, with $500B of debt outstanding. However, the rates are one of the highest in the world and there’s little competition in their concentrated banking sector. Creditas’ customer is the top 15% of the population with wealth trapped in a house or car. Their ideal customer takes out a loan from Creditas to pay off a higher balance loan from a bank. Brazil also has an economic and regulatory environment that’s favorable to non-bank lending companies. (Real Estate fiduciary liens that let you claim and sell collateralized property without court proceedings, Open Banking, etc)

What’s different about Nigeria? 

Today, most Nigerian banks provide mortgages, car loans or salary advance. However, rates are high and the duration is only 30 days. For example, Fidelity Bank “Fast Loan” for salary earners has a 2% monthly interest rate. To contrast, Carbon, an unsecured fintech lender charges similar rates for twice the duration, with no collateral required.

Regulation makes everything worse. For the Nigerians who have assets, you can’t use those as credit. Existing secured credit options focus on financing new purchases, not securing credit for existing owned items. For many reasons, you can’t get the paperwork required to use a security as collateral, and when you can the banks won’t accept it. I haven’t heard of a Nigerian bank to take an existing car as collateral for a loan, but I’m willing to be wrong. Case in point: Standard Chartered will only accept fixed deposit, mutual funds and treasury bills as collateral.

Also, credit penetration is low. Less than 6% of Nigerians have access to credit, and this has implications for how big lenders can grow in Nigeria. In developed markets, the primary way lenders assess credit worthiness is through credit history. It becomes a chicken and egg problem. No credit in the past equals no credit today. Unless, of course, someone figures out alternative credit scoring (completely different story), or secured credit. 

IT LOOKS BLEAK, BUT WE MAY BE TURNING A CORNER

Some of the core problems are infrastructure related and Entrepreneurs are addressing these problems. In the last few years, many companies have started to build for entrepreneurs, for example solving problems in identity, payments, credit scoring and infrastructure. 

The National Collateral Registry promises to enable movable assets as credit. If it works, borrowers can register movable assets and lenders can confirm prior liens on the same asset. Unclear how successful this has been so far.

Lending depends on understanding Risk

In its simplest form, Lending depends on understanding a customer and being able to measure that customer’s unique risk perfectly. When lenders can’t accurately assess risk, the default is to assume everyone is risky. Most people only lend to friends because they have some assessment of how likely they are to pay back (credit scoring) and what their options for remediation are (zero to none). 

When done right, secured loans are lower risk and should be treated accordingly.

For more on Africa’s lending opportunity and the startups in this space. Listen at afrobility.com/lending

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