As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in Asia. One of them is Diana Krumova, originally from Bulgaria, who is an expert in fintech, specifically in alternative credit scoring and lending.
Diana Krumova started her career in fintech as early as the word became a definition of a new and booming industry with the potential to change the life of millions of people around the world. She joined a small lending company in Bulgaria, revolutionizing the way unbanked people can access finance. As the company grew internationally, she moved to the Philippines where 80% of the population lacks access to financial services. There, she realized that a single lending company cannot have a national impact and that a new approach is needed to solve for the lack of reliable information and credit history that prevents many lending institutions and banks to offer services to the financially excluded population.
She founded FinScore, Inc, alongside a team of experienced data scientists and IT experts in the field. FinScore is a technology and data analytics company specializing in alternative data-based scoring solutions, providing services to banks and financial institutions, and helping them serve the unbanked. FinScore is the first company in the Philippines to have successfully utilized telco data to enable them to extend credit and provides critical knowledge and insights about the creditworthiness of first-time borrowers. For less than two years of operations, FinScore partners with over 15 Financial Institutions and banks and has delivered more than 3.5 million credit scores, leading to over $500 million in granted loans.
Describe your career journey so far…
I started my career in Bulgaria in 2011, as part of Cash Credit, a technological non-banking financial institution, a pioneer in offering unsecured lending in partnership with Telecom Operators. This revolutionary approach allowed us to grow fast and profitable by obtaining highly valuable data from an objective source. We found that the behaviour and reputation of the subscriber on the mobile network operator predict exactly his behaviour as a borrower as well. In 2016, I was leading the South East Asia team of Cash Credit where we have launched the first operations in the Philippines. We have completed a very successful pilot granting unsecured credits to more than 50,000 unbanked Filipinos in collaboration with the leading telecom provider. Recognizing the growing demand both for financial services and reliable alternative sources of data, FinScore was founded in 2018. My passion is designing innovative products that can help to solve the financial inclusion problem in developing markets and contribute to creating cheaper and faster access to finance.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
It’s a well -known fact that too few women work in the FinTech industry, but we can notice a significant change in this direction, especially in the Philippines. Women, in general, are less likely to be perceived as natural leaders and need to work harder than men to climb the corporate ladder. And it often leads to an imbalance in the personal-work life. I think it is one of the greatest challenges for most women in executive positions. I remember a class at INSEAD Business School. It was mentioned that higher employment rate among women leads to lower birth rates in Western countries. I tend to slightly disagree with this statement as I believe that the causal relationship between the two is not that straightforward. I think that the biggest challenge for women is to believe in equality and not to go into the false dilemma of choosing between the two. This requires conviction, personal style, and clear, honest communication on the subject with your immediate peers. This is far more important than just trying to compete or imitate the men’s style that is simply not fitting to the needs of women leaders. My mother is a perfect example of that and she was my role model in designing my terms in my professional environment. It’s from her that I’ve learned to respect my dreams and life enough, to not compromise on certain actions but also to own my decisions and actions and always look for a solution in tough times.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
As the COVID-19 pandemic rewrites the rules for lives and businesses alike, the current situation will present an opportunity for financial institutions to make the leap and go digital. Although the top banks in Southeast Asia, already had digital transformation strategies, many will accelerate their digitalization efforts as a result of the disruption. During the last months, banks and financial institutions sped up their digital transformation and we as FinScore play a role in it because we are digital by design. We all witness how the Covid-19 pandemic is introducing long-lasting changes to consumer behaviour and digital adoption in South East Asia. During this stressful time, we need to focus on helping each other and assisting clients and partners as they respond and adapt. My prediction is that the boost that we have seen from the lockdowns will have a positive effect also on the work-life balance as the home office will stay for good as a way companies can function.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in Asia?
I think that giving advice is a very responsible action and an individual approach always fits better. This is why I dedicate part of my time to mentoring and I am always happy to share my experience. If I need to outline two general pieces of advice for the current and future female entrepreneurs, this would be to 1) be authentic – nothing makes you a better leader than having your own style that emerges from personal experience and open communication in dealing with professional challenges and 2) share your vision – the discussions and thought exchange process is very important to shaping the company and for growing as an individual.