It's not just public relations when it comes to the financial giant's relationship with the unbanked, said Mark Hookey, CEO of New York City and Hong Kong-based DemystData. The unbanked are the final frontier of customers left to target.
Hookey said efforts to promote financial inclusion will increase as commercial credit institutions seek ways to capitalize on the unbanked. The sub-prime space has become attractive to banks, even amid the greater scrutiny associated with payday lending, because the banks have few niches left in which to grow their consumer base.
The prime segment—made up of ideal borrowers with a house and a mortgage, a high income and plenty of money in the bank—is already well banked, Hookey said, and traditional lenders see the sub-prime space as an untapped market, dominated by predatory lenders.
"In the U.S. it's really hard for lenders to grow in what would have traditionally been called a prime segment. That segment is very heavily saturated, and it has been for a long time," Hookey said.
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The premise for ZestFinance and DemystData is that many people who live off the financial radar and would normally turn to a payday loan might actually qualify for a better loan at a traditional credit institution if the institution had more data about them.
"The absence of information is leading lenders to charge them way too high of a price or just outright decline them," Hookey said. "The lenders don't know the good guys from the bad guys, who can afford the loan and who can't, so they just charge a high rate to everyone."
DemystData sells "alternative data" customer relationship software to short-term lenders and banks in the U.S., U.K and across the Asia Pacific region (half of its business is in the U.S.).
"There's absolutely no shortage of financial institutions across the globe who are aggressively seeking to invest in big data" to better understand the unbanked, Hookey said.
JPMorgan Chase recently unveiled a $30 million five-year commitment to establish a Financial Solutions Lab.
"It's too expensive to be poor in America, and it's getting worse," Noah Wintroub, managing director of Internet and digital media for JPMorgan Chase told CNBC.