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Money Guru: Interview with Mr. Samir Bhatia, MD & CEO, ECIS

Money Guru: Interview with Mr. Samir Bhatia, MD & CEO, ECIS

06 Sep 2011

Edition: Mumbai


What are the products that Equifax Credit Information Services Pvt. Ltd offers to banks and consumers?

We have a range of products for banks. The credit report is the main product. Another interesting product for banks is “alerts”. Alerts is the only live product operational as of now. It actively monitors the portfolios of banks. Typically, a bank would lend to a customer and not really worry about it until the customer misses a payment or defaults. Or they (banks) would do a check every six months. With alerts, we do this every month end; in fact every week for a few customers.

So if a person has taken a loan from a bank or a credit card from a bank and, say, next month he takes two new credit cards or makes a loan inquiry or misses a payment with another bank, that information is given by us to the bank. Banks have appreciated this product since they are still hesitant to issue new credit cards and unsecured loans. We also offer value-added services, such as analytic, which helps banks identify customer behaviour based on the data we have. We offer consumer credit report to customers as of now.

At present, a consumer can get his report only through a demand draft. When will other modes of payment, such as Internet banking, be introduced?

The problem with the mode of payment is really just one issue. The bigger issue is correct identification of the customer. You may pay through Internet banking, but Net banking penetration is very low. The customer can’t call up and say, this is me, send me my report, I am making a payment and transferring it to you. How do I identify the person? I have to take the KYC (know-yourclient) documentation, I have to match signatures and the like. We will also offer Net banking as a mode of payment; it’s just a matter of time.

What about credit score? When will that be in place?

The credit score is coming, we have already developed it. It’s under testing as of now. We will be announcing the availability of the score shortly, in around two months.

Consumers can get credit reports from other agencies. How will Equifax be unique?

We give a lot of unique things in our report, which are not part of regular reports. Visual representation for credit profile and performance and colour coding for the seriousness of delinquency makes the report easy to understand and interpret. As a consumer, I don’t want a report which just shows some numbers on it.

I need something that makes reading sense to me, some things that are easy to understand. The credit report summary is a very powerful way for a consumer to know what is the sum of the entire report. The recent activity section in our report gives a snapshot of key activities on the credit file in the last 90 days—new accounts opened, accounts becoming delinquent an inquiries being made on the consumer. Our report isn’t a bunch of numbers but an analysis of your credit behaviour and outstanding.

Do lenders look at multiple credit reports? What can a consumer do if his credit reports with various agencies differ?

Many banks today look at multiple reports. If customers credit reports varies, they need to find which report is correct. They have to go through each report separately. Find out the errors in the reports. Common errors include outstanding balance even when you have paid up a loan or closed a credit card. People don’t realize how serious errors are and they affect your credit score. With Equifax, you can call a tollfree number and file a dispute with us. According to the Reserve Bank of India, disputes should be resolved within 30 days.

Within this time frame, we have various escalation grids to follow up with the bank. But it also depends on the nature of the dispute and the institution. Disputes that typically take time are where customers are not delinquent, but the report shows delinquency.

As of now, only loans are reflected on the reports. But the buzz is that mobile, telephone and electricity bill payment will also be reflected on the report. How soon will that happen?

Efforts are being made by all bureaus including us to get additional information. There are some regulatory issues which prevent the telecom companies from sharing data. Globally, it’s a big concept. I think this will take some time in India.