Ant Financial, Alibaba’s finance arm, has begun beta-testing the long-awaited Sesame Credit (‘Zhima Xinyong’ in Chinese), the user data-based online credit scoring service.
Sesame Credit generates credit scores based on the online behaviour of consumers and small businesses on Alibaba’s Taobao (consumer-to-consumer) and Tmall (business-to-consumer) marketplaces. It is the first of its kind in China, and few if any other Chinese companies able to collect as much data as Alibaba.
Users can either check their Sesame Scores in the Alipay Wallet mobile app or through merchant websites who accept the service. Scores range from 350 to 950 points, with higher the number the better.
There are more than 300 million real-name registered users and 37 million small businesses on Alibaba’s platforms. Data collected include webpages users visit, goods they purchase, and payment histories on Alipay.
Sesame Credit also obtains user data from partners, public agencies, financial institutions, and various types of merchants, according to the company.
Alibaba pointed out that Sesame Credit would make credit more widely available to consumers or small business owners who have limited traditional credit history. “They 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”, said Yu Wujie, Chief Data Scientist at Sesame Credit.
Besides helping existing financial product providers to make credit decisions, Sesame Credit hopes to encourage businesses to create more credit-related services. Some Chinese hotels now allow travellers with superior Sesame Credit scores to stay without paying in advance. Sesame Credit is also conducting a test program with a Chinese online dating service that allows users to check their potential dates’ credit scores.
Alibaba addressed privacy concerns by stating that data are collected “only with the knowledge and consent of the individual subjects of the information. All data is encrypted and segregated. Access to a specific subject’s credit scores can occur only with the Sesame Credit’s services are expected to be applied in a slew of daily life scenarios.”
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)