Leveraging Alternative Data: Unlocking New Market Frontiers in Retail and Corporate Lending

By Priti Gaikwad | 2 Mins Read | August 14, 2023

In the dynamic landscape of modern finance, traditional credit evaluation methods are undergoing a massive transformation. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and the proliferation of alternative datasets are reshaping how lenders assess creditworthiness. Banks are finding themselves at the intersection of innovation and opportunity, as alternative data utilization enables more informed credit decisions, consequently opening up new avenues in retail and corporate lending.

What is Alternative Data?

Alternative data refers to non-traditional, unconventional, and often digitally sourced information beyond the scope of standard financial data used in lending processes. In the context of lending, alternative data encompasses a wide range of data points collected from various sources, including but not limited to social media platforms, online behavior, transaction history, mobile app usage, and other digital footprints. This data is distinct from the standard financial data provided by credit bureaus and typically includes insights that offer a more comprehensive view of an individual’s or business’s financial behavior and creditworthiness.

The Alternative Data Advantage

Gone are the days when credit bureaus and standard financial data were the sole sources of information for evaluating borrowers. Today, the digital footprints left behind by individuals and businesses across various platforms are invaluable treasure troves of insight. Social media activity, online behavior, and unconventional data streams provide a more comprehensive and current view of an applicant’s financial behavior, habits, and potential risk factors.

Traditional credit scoring models often rely on factors such as credit history, income, and employment status, which might not accurately reflect the creditworthiness of individuals with limited credit history or those who operate within informal economies. Alternative data helps address these limitations by providing additional data points that can enhance the accuracy and inclusivity of credit evaluations.

AI’s Role in Data Interpretation

AI plays a pivotal role in transforming raw alternative data into meaningful insights. Machine learning algorithms can sift through vast amounts of data, recognizing patterns that traditional methods might overlook. By analyzing non-traditional data points, AI-driven models can create a holistic picture of an applicant’s creditworthiness, transcending the limitations of conventional credit scoring.

Expanding Horizons in Retail Lending

With alternative data, banks can extend credit to individuals previously deemed too risky due to insufficient traditional credit history. For instance, recent graduates or immigrants without an extensive credit record can now be evaluated more fairly. This shift democratizes access to credit, fostering financial inclusion and empowering a broader demographic to participate in economic growth.

Revolutionizing Corporate Lending

In the corporate world, leveraging alternative data can provide insights into a company’s financial health, performance, and potential. Start-ups and small businesses, often with limited financial history, can demonstrate their viability through non-traditional data, enabling them to secure loans for expansion. Even established companies can benefit, as AI-driven analysis helps banks to grasp market trends and risks more accurately, resulting in smarter lending decisions.

Mitigating Risks and Enhancing Portfolio Management

The amalgamation of traditional and alternative data improves lending precision and bolsters risk assessment and portfolio management. By obtaining a comprehensive overview of borrowers’ financial behaviors, banks can identify potential red flags earlier, minimizing the risk of default. Moreover, these insights facilitate tailoring loan terms and interest rates to individual risk profiles, optimizing profitability.

Navigating Regulatory and Ethical Considerations As banks venture into the realm of alternative data and AI, it’s essential to maintain a delicate balance between innovation and compliance. Adhering to data privacy regulations and ensuring transparency in data usage is paramount. Ethical considerations regarding using certain data types must also be at the forefront of lending practices to foster customer trust.


The synergy between AI and alternative data is reshaping the lending landscape, propelling banks into a new era of accuracy and inclusivity. By embracing these technological advancements, banks can not only unlock new market opportunities in both retail and corporate lending but also contribute to a more equitable financial ecosystem. As technology evolves and datasets expand, the institutions that adeptly wield these tools stand to redefine the art of lending while catalyzing economic growth on a global scale.

To know many such significant insights and emerging trends on AI, alternative data for lending and credit decisioning, join us at the Cedar-IBSi Digital Banking, Payments & Lending Summit in Dubai on September 7th, 2023!

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