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

SIMAH wins FICO® Decisions Award for financial inclusion using FICO® Scores



  • SIMAH has introduced the FICO® Score to the Saudi market helping to grow financial inclusion and enabling lenders to increase their portfolios
  • Millions more Saudis can access loans since the FICO Score introduction in 2011
  • SIMAH won a 2022 FICO® Decisions Award for financial inclusion

The Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH), a leader in credit bureau information management in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), has administered the successful rollout and adoption of the FICO® Score by lenders in the country, 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 education campaign with consumers.

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

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

“Initially, to facilitate adoption, SIMAH offered lenders the use of scores free-of-charge 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, which allowed them to onboard new customer segments reliably.”

The second challenge was educating the Saudi public about credit scoring and the financial behaviours that would be most effective for building and maintaining a healthy credit history and score.

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

Built in partnership with leading global scoring expert, FICO, SIMAH worked to solve their business challenges by developing risk assessment tools using a fully empirical scoring model, fitted to their local market. SIMAH was the first to offer a scoring 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 to Saudi lenders and creditors.

Over 700 Saudi Arabian specific characteristics were developed to account for the nuances, constraints, and trends of the Saudi market. Due attention and analysis were given to features such as salaried loans, expatriates, and telecom data. These important local factors were then used to create predictive characteristics that presented unique and enhanced value to Saudi lenders.

SIMAH worked closely with lenders to show the importance of incorporating credit scoring in originations, account management and collections. The adoption of the FICO® Score has allowed lenders to grow their portfolios and increase financial inclusion.

“The work done by SIMAH shows the significant impact that credit scoring can have in a market,” said Nikhil Behl chief marketing officer at FICO. “Their results reinforce what we see in other markets - a significant increase in financial inclusion which helps to both change lives for the better as well as drive overall expansion of the economy. All this while driving profitable business expansion for lenders.”

For its achievements, SIMAH won a 2022 FICO® Decisions Award for financial inclusion.

“The judges were impressed with the successful development and roll out of credit scoring in Saudi,” said Dinesh Suresh, head, digital builds for consumer secured lending at OCBC Bank and one of the FICO Decisions Awards judges. “SIMAH helped to develop a path to credit access through the use of bespoke models built off local data and strong advocacy with Saudi lenders to adopt a new approach to lending.”


The Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH) was founded in 2002 and commencing operations in 2004. SIMAH is the first national credit bureau in Saudi Arabia licensed to provide world class products and services to both consumers and businesses. Innovation at SIMAH stems from its ability to meet stakeholders’ needs in both the government and private sectors. SIMAH collects and provides credit information to members under the supervision of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), and provides financial, credit and other information to help lenders extrapolate the credit behaviours of borrowers necessary to draw a clear picture that supports sound decision-making to analyse credit risks and assess the borrower's solvency.

About the FICO® Decisions Awards

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

  • Sidhartha Dash, research director at Chartis
  • Paul Deall, head of risk, mortgages at Westpac (previous winner)
  • Senthil Erulappan, director, product engineering for merchant, risk and collections at FIS
  • Armando Junior, general manager, risk and compliance at Dock (previous winner)
  • Sheila Leverone, chief marketing officer at eDriving (previous winner)
  • Sibulelo Ncamani, head of operational risk and governance at Absa Bank (previous winner)
  • Graham Rand, operational researcher and editor of Impact
  • Dinesh Suresh, head, digital builds for consumer secured lending at OCBC Bank (previous winner)

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

About FICO

FICO (NYSE: FICO) powers decisions that help people and businesses around the world prosper. Founded in 1956, the company is a pioneer in the use of predictive analytics and data science to improve operational decisions. FICO holds more than 200 US and foreign patents on technologies that increase profitability, customer satisfaction and growth for businesses in financial services, manufacturing, telecommunications, health care, retail and many other industries. Using FICO solutions, businesses in more than 120 countries do everything from protecting 2.6 billion payment cards from fraud, to helping people get credit, to ensuring that millions of airplanes and rental cars are in the right place at the right time.

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FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the US and other countries.


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