First Access, based in New York City, works with financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to simplify and reduce the cost of evaluating credit applicants. Co-founder and CEO Nicole Van Der Tuin has a professional background in the microfinance industry, and as she states in this interview, she saw that the demands of traditional credit-scoring methods were making capital inaccessible to many. “Over the next ten years, we’re really going to see a progression from people using paper, to people using data, to technology systems and technology rails driving the [credit] process with human supervision,” she says.
Through First Access, financial institutions use data and technology to get a picture of credit applicants’ financial health that is more complete and also requires less in terms of time and resources. “We really look at financial technology, and specifically better use of data, as the critical way to bring that cost down so the financial institutions can reach the next two-and-a-half billion people who are still underserved, or unserved,” says Van Der Tuin.
As Van Der Tuin explains, access to credit is a vital element of thriving in today’s world, and that motivates her to find ways for more people around the world to benefit. “For businesses and for families, the opportunities that credit enables are really critical. For owning a home, for financing a business, getting an education, buying a vehicle, weddings, funerals, babies — everything requires credit at some point,” she says.
First Access and Accion Venture Lab have partnered since 2015.