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Data highlights SA’s financial stress points

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Analytics can help to understand where South Africans are experiencing financial stress, and suggest the interventions that can help them.
Experian today launched its Consumer Default Index (CDI), which shows that R13,6-billion in consumer debt value across home loan, vehicle loan, personal loan and credit card accounts defaulted for the first time between May and July this year.
The inaugural Experian CDI reflected an overall index reading of 3,57%, an improvement of 0,24% compared to the CDI reading for July 2016 of 3,81%.
The Experian CDI measures the rate of first-time default of 14,7-million consumers across 18,4-million active home loan, vehicle loan, personal loan and credit card accounts with R1,54-trillion in total outstanding debt.
Simon Russell, MD of Experian South Africa, says the Index is the first of its kind in South Africa in providing insights into the dynamic debt pressure on the country’s different consumer groups, as measured by Mosaic, Experian’s consumer segmentation classification.
The lower CDI rate for July 2017 indicates the rate of first time credit default is slower than the previous year and could be indicative of the recent slowdown in credit extension, according to Russell. Affordability legislation, the introduction of pricing caps as well as reduced interest rates have resulted in lenders implementing stricter lending policies.
The country faces the twin challenges of low economic growth and high unemployment, Russell says. “We need to save more to enable higher growth. And lending responsibly goes hand in hand with that.”
The goal in developing the CDI was to provide a definitive measurement to improve overall lending in South Africa, he adds.
The CDI is a dynamic index, accessing about 1-billion data points to determine new defaults each month. At the highest level, it shows the default level for the whole country, but also allows users to look at defaults by product, asset classes and geographic zone across the country, as well as by customer segment groups.
“We will make this data available for free to government and our clients to help them create the right interventions around lending, and how to help consumers from an education point of view,” Russell says.
According to the Experian CDI, annualised first time credit default levels for personal loans, credit card and home loans improved while vehicle loans deteriorated against the July 2016 figures.
David Coleman, chief data officer at Experian, comments: “When looking at the default rates from a product class perspective, the CDI highlights a clear differentiation between more risky, unsecured lending asset classes as opposed to less risky, secured lending products.”
Personal loans, which represent the riskiest asset class, had the highest CDI of 8,54% compared to all other product types. This product recorded R5,12-billion in new defaults over the period May to July 2017. The other unsecured asset class, namely credit card, recorded the second-highest CDI of 6,91%, but improved year-on-year from the 7,32% peak experienced in July 2016.
Vehicle loans was the only product class where the rate of default increased year-on-year at 3,13% from July 2016’s 2,85% and could be linked to the decline in vehicle sales.
The CDI for Home Loans remained virtually unchanged at 1,84% in July 2017.
Geospatially,the best performing groups tend to be in affluent urban areas, particularly in the Western Cape, while the worst-performing groups are in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
“The prevalence of personal loan defaults in the latter areas points to an inability for these population segments to save and create asset wealth for future generations,” Russell says.
Overlaying the Mosaic segmentation, provides further insights into the individual groupings experiencing the most debt stress.
Such is the case in the worst performing segment, “Indigent Township Families”, which experienced a significant deterioration from 7,13% in July 2016 to 8,15% in July 2017. This segment represents 3,86% of the South African population and are predominantly aged 25 to 29 (16,72%), have limited education beyond grade 12 (3,56%), earn less than R38 200 in annual household income (73,31%) and stay in rented informal dwellings (40,11%). This segment had the worst overall performance in Credit Card, CDI of 12,25%, and Personal Loans, CDI of 11,85%. Earning low incomes, they are reliant on unsecured lending to finance their existence and could be lacking financial literacy to manage the debt.
At the other end of the spectrum, lenders advance the most debt to segments such as the “Hard-Working Money” segment who represent 2,83% of the South African population and had average total credit exposure of R203,25-billion over the period May to July 2017.
The mid-aged 35-49 (25,36%), educated (26,27% educated beyond grade 12) segment earn annual household incomes in excess of R150 000 (57,22%) and stay in houses that are not yet paid off (45,5%) in suburbs around industrial and mining areas. Default behaviour of consumers in this segment improved on the July 2016 CDI of 3,13% to 2,99% recorded in July this year.
According to Russell, these segmentation findings highlight the impact of lack of education and long-term consequences thereof. “Education remains a recurring challenge in the South African context and the CDI reinforces the importance of this as a fundamental foundation to tackle over indebtedness in the country and to help drive economic growth.”
The Experian CDI will be published monthly, tracking the rate of first time credit default across 36 unique types and 9 overarching groups of the South African population.