Bank loans

Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH) Enables Millions More Consumers to Access Bank Loans After Introduction of FICO Score


Strong points:

  • SIMAH has set up the FICO® Score in the Saudi market helping to develop financial inclusion and allowing lenders to increase their portfolios

  • Millions more Saudis can access loans since FICO Score was introduced in 2011

  • SIMA won a 2022 FICO® Decisions Award for Financial Inclusion

Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH), a leader in credit bureau information management in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), managed the successful rollout and adoption of the FICO® score by lenders across the countries, enabling millions more Saudi customers to receive loans from banks. This growth in financial inclusion was made possible by SIMAH’s advocacy efforts with financial institutions and a parallel consumer education campaign.

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“We have been on a journey to Saudi Arabia since 2011, to expand lending and increase financial inclusion through the adoption of advanced risk assessment tools,” said Swaied Alzahrani, CEO of SIMAH.

Prior to implementation, lenders in the region relied heavily on salary data to gauge a consumer’s propensity to repay a loan. This meant that many segments such as the self-employed, entrepreneurs, retirees and others struggled to access loans. SIMAH has worked closely with lenders to demonstrate the predictive power of scoring and its potential to increase portfolio performance.

“As a first step, to facilitate adoption, SIMAH offered lenders the free use of scores to test and demonstrate their predictive power.” explained Alzahrani. “The results were strong, so it didn’t take long for lenders to be convinced and adopt the FICO scores provided by the bureau, allowing them to reliably onboard new customer segments.”

The second challenge was to educate the Saudi public about credit scoring and the financial behaviors that would be most effective in establishing and maintaining a healthy credit history and rating.

“SIMAH sought to address the importance of having balanced credit commitments, paid on time”, said Alzahrani. “This was important because initially there were a lot of false narratives that existed among consumers, such as the idea that you had to have little or no credit to ensure you could maintain a good score.”

Built in partnership with global scoring expert FICO, SIMAH worked to solve their business challenges by developing risk assessment tools using a fully empirical scoring model, tailored to their local market. SIMAH was the first to offer a rating product in the country. Now in its fourth version, the empirical FICO® Score model based on SIMAH data offers a new scoring mechanism and incorporates important local factors that present unique and enhanced value for Saudi lenders and creditors.

More than 700 Saudi-specific features have been developed to take into account the nuances, constraints and trends of the Saudi market. Due attention and analysis has been given to features such as employee loans, expatriates and telecommunications data. These important local factors were then used to create predictive features that presented unique and enhanced value to Saudi lenders.

SIMAH has worked closely with lenders to demonstrate the importance of integrating credit scoring into originations, account management and collections. Adopting FICO® Score has enabled lenders to grow their portfolios and increase financial inclusion.

“The work carried out by SIMAH shows the significant impact that credit scoring can have on a market”, said Nikhil Behl, chief marketing officer of FICO. “Their results reinforce what we are seeing in other markets – a significant increase in financial inclusion that is both changing lives for the better and driving the overall expansion of the economy. All of this while promoting profitable business expansion for lenders.”

For its achievements, SIMAH won a 2022 FICO® Decisions Awards for Financial Inclusion.

“The judges were impressed with the successful development and deployment of credit scoring in Saudi Arabia,” said Dinesh Suresh, Head of Digital Constructs for Secured Consumer Lending at OCBC Bank and one of the FICO Decisions Awards judges. “SIMAH helped develop a pathway to credit through the use of bespoke models built from local data and strong advocacy with Saudi lenders to take a new approach to lending.”


The Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH) was founded in 2002 and began operations in 2004. SIMAH is the first national credit bureau in Saudi Arabia authorized to provide world-class products and services to consumers and businesses. Innovation at SIMAH stems from its ability to meet the needs of stakeholders in the public and private sectors. SIMAH collects and provides credit information to members under the supervision of the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA), and provides financial, credit and other information to help lenders extrapolate credit behaviors of borrowers needed to draw a clear picture which supports sound decision making to analyze credit risk and assess borrower creditworthiness.

About the FICO® Decisions Awards

The FICO Decisions Awards recognize organizations that achieve outstanding success using FICO solutions. A panel of independent judges with deep industry expertise evaluates nominations based on measurable improvement in key metrics; demonstrated use of best practices; the scale, depth and scope of the project; and innovative uses of technology. The 2022 judges are:

  • Sidhartha Dash, research director at Chartis
  • Paul Deal, Head of Risk, Mortgages at Westpac (previous winner)
  • Senthil Erulappan, Director, Merchant Product Engineering, Risk and Collections at FIS
  • Armand Junior, Managing Director, Risk and Compliance at Dock (previous winner)
  • Sheila Leverone, head of marketing at eDriving (previous winner)
  • Sibulelo Ncamani, head of operational risk and governance at Absa Bank (former winner)
  • Graham Rand, operational researcher and publisher of Impact
  • Dinesh Suresh, Manager, Digital Constructs for Consumer Secured Loans at OCBC Bank (former winner)

Winners of the FICO Decisions Awards were spotlighted and won tickets to FICO® World 2022 Decisions Conference May 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

About FICO

FICO (NYSE: FICO) powers the decisions that help people and businesses around the world thrive. Founded in 1956, the company pioneers the use of predictive analytics and data science to improve operational decisions. FICO holds more than 200 U.S. and foreign patents on technologies that increase profitability, customer satisfaction, and business growth in financial services, manufacturing, telecommunications, healthcare, retail, and many others. sectors. With FICO solutions, businesses in more than 120 countries are doing everything from protecting 2.6 billion payment cards from fraud, to helping people get credit, to ensuring that millions of planes and rental cars are in the right place at the right time.

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