Anastasia Fokina has had a whirlwind of a year. After working with Home Credit Kazakhstan for eleven years, she decided to reinvigorate her experience by joining Home Credit Vietnam. A few months before, however, she and her family had flown to Bali on vacation...just as the COVID-19 outbreak hit and international borders closed.
After six months of being stuck, she managed to move her entire family to Ho Chi Minh City (without returning to Kazakhstan) and launched into her new role as Chief Operations and Digital Transformation Officer in October of 2021. She laughs, somewhat ruefully. ‘That was how I started my job here—agile to adapt!’
Home Credit Vietnam has been a big name in the financial services market for over 12 years, serving nearly 12 million customers across 63 provinces nationwide. The company is the very first consumer finance company in the region, rated the Most Desired Brand in Vietnam.
Since its first day joining the market, Home Credit Vietnam has pursued its mission to better the lives of its Vietnamese customers with innovative products, responsible lending, and tech-driven solutions. The company helps Vietnamese customers access easy financing, safely achieve their daily financial goals, and feel positive about life.
“Driven by the promise of making customers feel good and the core nature of a market pioneer, we’ve always pushed ourselves to quickly adapt to the fast-paced business environment’, Anastasia says. ‘The current pandemic is a clear example of our agility, and digital innovation is our ultimate goal’.
In Vietnam, with its various stages of lockdowns, customers turned to the internet for solutions to their sudden challenges. A significant number tried new digital services: 41% of all digital service consumers were new (higher than the SEA average), with 94% of these new consumers intending to continue their behavior post-pandemic. With the fast-paced market conditions of COVID, Anastasia’s mission was to quickly adapt to the changing market.
Seeing an increased number of online transactions and limitations of applying for physical cards, her team came up with the idea of a virtual card solution. Like an online loan with flexible payments, all customers had to do was apply through an app. Limits appeared instantly, allowing them to pay as needed.
‘Home Credit, as the pioneer in the consumer finance market, has helped change the way people use financial products’, Anastasia explains. ‘Our automation system allows customers to apply for a loan and get a disbursement within 10 minutes. As a result, the company can quickly adjust and innovate based on the way people shop during the pandemic’.
Following positive feedback, Home Credit Vietnam accelerated its push for virtual credit cards. Launched in May, the cards became available the first week of August. Now, customers can have a card in their app and use it to shop the same way they would with a physical card. In addition, the virtual credit card is fully online, from registration and usage to management. Customers only need to spend 30 minutes to apply for the card. You can apply with only a few documents and access immediate offers: 2% cashback for all online transactions, 45% days of interest-free, and 0% interest rate with an equal payment plan conversion.
This is one of the very first options like this in the market—and incredibly convenient during the time of COVID. ‘You have a credit card integrated into your smartphone’, Anastasia says. ‘How cool is that?’
Asked about her opinion on the rising trend of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), Anastasia tells us: ‘It’s nothing strange or new to HomeCredit. This is the product that the group has been offering for the last 20 years: 0% interest rate and monthly equal installments for customer purchases. We’re now moving it online across the globe for a flawless experience via our app’.
She’s also leading the app project to align with a mobile-first strategy, applying advanced data analytics, artifical intelligence, and other disruptive technologies. Home Credit is the very first Consumer Finance Company (CFC) company to launch their loan service via an app, which is now at 12 million downloads.
‘I feel grateful that I’m empowered to bring about change’, she adds. ‘Not everything was easy, but we did it in a very short time’. This is a perfect example of how Home Credit adapts to change. For example, the company is planning to launch a QR code option in the near future, so that even with a virtual card, clients can pay in-person at shops and banks, as well as at e-commerce sites.
Finally, Home Credit includes alternative processes to underwrite customers based on gaming, innovative data, and advanced scoring. These processes adjust financing solutions to the needs of customers—even those who lack credit history and collaterals.
All this adds up to an efficient system. ‘We’re empowered to run business in an agile way’, Anastasia concludes. ‘There are conflicts sometimes, but we all manage to get things done. In the end, we share a common goal—to make the customer feel good’.
Since 2019, Home Credit has cooperated with FPT, which is Vietnam’s largest IT company with operations in over 20 countries throughout APAC, Europe, and the US. In the middle of the pandemic, their project teams implemented AI call centres, including voice bots, live chats, and chatbots. This automated solution helped Home Credit save costs, improve efficiency, and increase customer satisfaction. What’s more, it provided customers with valuable information regarding payments, insurance, and other financial opportunities.
As a result of FTP and Home Credit’s collaboration, the solution processed more than 2,000,000 calls per month, sliced 50% of operating spend, and achieved 4.5 out of 5 points for customer satisfaction. ‘It’s what I call the synergy effect’, Anastasia explains. ‘One plus one equals not two, but three. By connecting Home Credit's scale and innovative risk approach with FPT’s operations and technology, we created one of the best customer experiences on the market’.
She notes that although FPT is a large company, it always finds a tailored solution to customer needs. Home Credit has the same approach. ‘We manage to be both agile and customer-oriented’, Anastasia explains. ‘To do so, we select partners that not only share our business, but also share our values. That’s the base for a successful partnership—stronger together’.
Agile Yet Responsible
How does Home Credit Vietnam look after its customers? First, it offers loans based on a strict, automated evaluation process. The company leverages a credit scorecard, which is built on statistical models and many different factors to assess creditworthiness, helping customers avoid taking on too much debt. As a result, Home Credit has the lowest nonperforming loan (NPL) rate in the Vietnamese consumer finance market. The ratio has been maintained at lower than 3%, which is not compulsory but encouraged by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV).
To help ensure customers make the right borrowing decisions based on their own circumstances, a cooling-off period is offered as standard across all operations: up to 2 weeks after signing a loan contract, the customer can reconsider his or her decision and withdraw from the contract without any charges. This is one of the commitments to ensure that first-time borrowers and repeat customers alike feel safe and confident using the company’s products.
In addition, financial literacy education helps Home Credit champion responsible lending. The organisation promotes an understanding of finance through roadshows, workshops, in-branch open days, in-store events, brochures, publications, competitions, media campaigns, mobile games, and public teach-ins in supermarkets, shopping malls, and communities. Its primary focus is to teach people about credit and promote responsible borrowing practices, help communities with the principles of money management and household budgeting, and educate children and students to help them become responsible adults.
Finally, Home Credit has strict policies to protect customer data security. ‘Home Credit is a responsible company that consistently acts with transparency, compliance, and customer focus’, Anastasia tells me. ‘We ensure long-term benefits for customers, partners, and society’. She adds: ‘We want to build sustainable relationships with partners. In every partnership, we want our customers to win. We want our partners to win. And this focus on community is what makes us unique’.
Prepared for the Future
As we wrap up, I ask Anastasia about upcoming challenges. She gives me a refreshingly direct reply: ‘We’re dealing not with challenges, but with opportunity. Home Credit Vietnam is more prepared than ever for the future. We have a staple app with all our major operations intact. The Vietnamese government supports the digitalisation of our economy. And our clients have high interest in virtual credit and other digital solutions’.
At heart, the pandemic accelerated digital payments. Even eighty-year-old Vietnamese citizens with their hearts set on cash started using digital payments out of necessity. ‘In normal circumstances, citizens might have taken years to make the switch’, Anastasia pointed out. ‘But 2021 changed everyone’s habits’. To her, this is one of the best outcomes that Home Credit could have anticipated. ‘We’re helping citizens of all ages’, she tells me. ‘Finally, they can save money for what matters most’.