NeurIPS 2021
Workshop paper

Bringing “conscious” access to micro-credit by enhancing non-traditional financial practices with AI in the Global South


Small business owners (SBOs) face several challenges when asking for micro-credit loans from financial institutions. Usual difficulties include low credit scores, unbaked situation, outstanding debts, informal employment situations, inability to showcase their payable capacity, and lack of financial guarantor. Moreover, SBOs often find it hard to apply for micro-credit loans due to bureaucracy, documentation proof, and lack of information on proceeding. That is why banks and non-profit organizations have credit agents and advisors to give them directions to help them. It is particularly challenging for these credit advisors in the Global South context to assess creditworthiness and act accordingly. Credit agents are usually SBOs first point of contact. They perform the screening process of credit access before submitting it to the decision-makers, the bank analysts. We interviewed eleven bank credit agents and three analysts from a development bank in Brazil to unveil the main criteria they use to assess creditworthiness and their perceptions of Artificial Intelligence systems to support the decision-making process. Additionally, to identify credit criteria, we sensed that SBOs are not knowledgeable enough and aware of the health of their business. The lack of knowledge about their own business can impact their communication skills to show the documentation and convince credit agents of the necessity of a microloan. We propose the computation of a health business index that will help inform SBOs of their business situation. This index could also be used as collateral by bank agents in financial institutions.