Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Financial Services has unveiled a new credit-scoring system that uses data from the e-commerce giant’s sites to gauge users’ creditworthiness. Dubbed Sesame Credit, the new service is an example of how Alibaba’s reach in China goes far beyond online shopping.
Sesame Credit’s scoring system, which is currently in beta, looks at data gleaned from the 300 million registered shoppers and 37 million vendors that use Alibaba Group’s marketplaces, including Taobao and Tmall.com, as well as payment histories from Alipay, an Ant Financial subsidiary and China’s largest online payments platform. Sesame Credit then applies customer behavior analytics to figure out whether or not an applicant is eligible for a loan.
For example, credit history can be measured through a user’s history of credit card and utility payments through Alipay. Data used from shopping websites indicate how often a buyer or vendors follow through on transactions and the quality of their interactions with other users.
Ant Financial says that it will supplement data collected from Alibaba sites and Alipay with information from public agencies, financial institutions, and other merchants. Sesame Credit users can check their scores, which range from 350 to 950 points, through Alipay Wallet, a mobile wallet app, or shopping sites that accept Sesame Credit scores.
The idea of using shopping transactions to measure creditworthiness may be off-putting to some consumers — after all, it’s like having your FICO score determined by your eBay feedback or Amazon rating. But Ant Financial says that Sesame Credit can give more consumers in China access to financial resources like home loans and phone contracts even if they don’t have a credit history.
In a press statement, Sesame Credit chief data scientist Yu Wujie said the service is targeted toward users who “may have never obtained bank loans or applied for credit cards. However, they might be active Internet users who shop online a lot, e-pay their utility bills on time, have a stable residential status and have been using their mobile phone numbers for a long time. We will take these and other factors into consideration when assessing consumers’ creditworthiness.”
Sesame Credit says it will protect user privacy by collecting an individual’s data only after they sign up for the service.
The credit-scoring system is an example of how the user data collected by Alibaba Group’s e-commerce business can be used to power other verticals. In addition to financial services, Alibaba’s hoard of data is used by its cloud computing subsidiary, logistics, and even health tech that organizes patient information for hospitals.