Big growth in Asia for Veda

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 17:25 07/08/2014

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New Zealand's biggest credit reporting agency is experiencing "ballistic" growth in Cambodia and is looking at other developing markets.

Veda's international growth strategy has seen bureaus established in Singapore, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia in the past 10 years.

It set up Cambodia's first credit reporting service in 2012 through a partnership with the country's bankers' association and microfinance association.

Veda New Zealand and international managing director John Roberts has just returned from one of his regular trips to the emerging Southeast Asian economy.

"It's absolutely gone ballistic," he said.

Daily credit inquiries had jumped from 5000 at the end of the first year to between 14,000 and 17,000 now.

Roberts said there was enormous potential for growth as only 30 per cent of the population had a bank account.

Most of the growth came from villages borrowing collectively for infrastructure and small-business ventures, he said.

Roberts said part of the reason Veda won the original tender was because it was not reliant on single identification numbers.

That was crucial because some borrowers, often with multiple names, could all be recorded as co-guarantors for a single loan.

The technology behind the system was developed in New Zealand and is identical to that being used here and around the world.

The World Bank's report on the ease of doing business shows Cambodia has moved up 10 places from 2011 to be ranked 137th in the world this year.

The Cambodian bureau is run by New Zealander Garry Wood, who has hired several locals as executives.

"One of the agreements with the national bank in Cambodia was we would actually transfer knowledge," Roberts said.

Besides the regular board meetings, Cambodian managers fly to New Zealand twice a year to receive further training.

Veda is scouting Burma and Indonesia as its next expansion targets.

It has formed a joint venture with its existing partner in Saudi Arabia to open a range of bureaus in countries belonging to the Gulf Co-operation Council.

The first project will be insurance bureaus that share data across borders, essentially providing a fraud-prevention service.

Many of the overseas bureaus are already more advanced than New Zealand's, despite having been formed only in the past decade.

For example, Cambodia has had "comprehensive" credit reporting, which includes both positive and negative data, from the outset.

New Zealand theoretically made that switch more than two years ago, but a recent BusinessDay investigation found little has changed [http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/10324267/The-lowdown-on-your-credit-score].

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