The announcement that the UAE would have it’s own credit bureau received overall a warm welcome and was broadly seen as an important step in the development of the country’s financial ecosystem.. After a preparation period, the Al Etihad Credit Bureau went live in November 2014 and is now fully operational.
Now, three months after the launch of the Credit Bureau, we did a survey of 550 respondents to find out how well the Credit Bureau, its role and value for consumers is already known by the broader audience.
As a quick introduction, the credit bureau makes, as the name suggests, the lending market safer, more transparent and more liquid, by giving banks and other providers of credit such as retailers an accurate view of a consumer’s risk profile and credit situation, and by protecting consumers from overburdening themselves with debt.
The survey showed that today in the UAE already 37% of our respondents are aware of what a credit report is, and this awareness level increases materially as we look at more affluent consumers – typically Western expats – who are used to having a credit bureau in their home country. For example, for respondents with monthly salaries above AED 35,000, the level of understanding of the Credit Bureau was above 60%.
Out of those who knew what the report is about, so far however less than 50% of respondents state that they are confident that they fully understand the factors that influence their credit history, such as missing loan repayments, unused credit cards or bounced cheques.
[Related: How can I improve my credit score/ rating?]
The credit report in many nations around the world is vital to the individual consumer as it acts as an indicator of the likelihood of being approved for credit. In the UAE, results of this survey shows that the report has not yet become an integral part of the consumers’ thought process as they plan their finances.
The fact that more than 60% of respondents are not yet aware of the Credit Bureau today highlights the importance for the Al Etihad Credit Bureau to continue it’s efforts over the past three months in marketing it’s services over the course of 2015 and shows the importance of the credit report to residents.
In addition, for those who are aware, the Souqalmal.com survey shows many are not yet convinced by the need to obtain and study their credit report, and how it can help them in their financial planning. 60 percent of those surveyed claim that they would not buy their credit report simply due to lack of interest.
Our survey highlights the gap in consumer appreciation and understanding here in the UAE of the importance of their credit report and the value it can bring, and therefore the need for education. The majority of residents either do not know what the credit report is and of those that do, they do not appreciate that it can have a real impact on their everyday lives and financial options.
[Related: UAE credit reports explained]
Let’s imagine someone wants to take out a loan for their child to study abroad. Now that banks can access the historical data, there is a chance that the loan does not get approved or the bank ends up pricing the loan at a higher rate based on that person’s credit history. It is the responsibility of the consumer to maintain a clean credit report as this can affect their future and that of their kids. At the same time, people who might have found it hard before to get credit, for example because they work for a small company that is not listed with banks, will now find it easier to prove that they are actually credit worthy.
Acting upon the findings of this survey, Souqalmal.com has launched a comprehensive online guide to help consumers understand what the Credit Bureau actually does, how they can access and interpret their report and how to appeal it’s findings.
One of our key roles is to raise the level of financial education in the UAE and to ensure the public understands the significance of their Credit Report. There is a lack of understanding of how it affects them now and in the future. That’s something we are actively trying to change and we have had very good feedback on the educational section so far from our users.