UK fintech AGAM International and Swisscontact forge ground-breaking initiative to accelerate financial access for thousands of factory workers

UK fintech AGAM International and Swisscontact
  • Partnership between UK fintech and Bangladesh-based INGO, will enable fast and fair credit for thousands of Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector factory workers across Bangladesh
  • Almost 5,000 RMG factories in Bangladesh employ over four million workers – of which almost six out of ten are women
  • AGAM’s next gen AI enables RMG workers to apply for nano loans and Earned Wage Access

Cardiff, Dhaka, 09 May 2023 – UK fintech AGAM International and leading international NGO, Swisscontact, today announce a pioneering strategic alliance to accelerate financial access to thousands of Ready-Made Garment (RMG) factory workers across Bangladesh.

The partnership, through Swisscontact’s ‘Sarathi – Improving Financial Health’ project in Bangladesh, aims to bring RMG workers into formal banking services and improve their financial health.

The alliance will use an AI-technology and behavioural insights approach to credit scoring to enable the provision of credit to a larger community – faster and more fairly than before. The partnership will positively impact RMG factory workers, enabling access to nano loans and Earned Wage Access, the credit for which is provided by AGAM’s partner bank(s).

AGAM International’s technology, the dynamic credit scoring system (III™), lends based on character, commitment, and capability; putting responsibility directly into the hands of individuals in underserved communities, empowering them to gain instant access to finance without the need for prior credit history. In addition, financial education modules are included to improve a person’s understanding of risk to lead to a better credit score.

Speaking about the partnership with Swisscontact, AGAM International’s founder and CEO, Shabnam Wazed, said: “Our partnership with Swisscontact enables it to scale the positive impact of its mission. Working alongside Swisscontact and lending institutions, we are proud to harness AI technology to make the process of lending faster and fairer, scaling financial inclusion to the millions of RMG factory workers in Bangladesh.”

Under this partnership Swisscontact is able to draw on AGAM International’s innovative credit scoring platform which unlocks access to finance, even for those without a traditional credit history. Its AI based behavioural analysis backed credit scoring provides Swisscontact with the confidence to identify prospective borrowers and make accurate, speedy, lending decisions, enabling RMG factory workers to access credit when they need it most.

Sarathi project’s Team Leader, Bipasha S. Hossain said: “We are looking forward to partnering with AGAM International to effectively scale the impact of our work to a larger population of RMG workers and their communities.”

This announcement is the latest development in AGAM International’s partnership with Swisscontact. The NGO previously backed AGAM International’s first successful pilot in 2021 with Bangladesh’s largest commercial bank, Prime Bank Limited.

Traditionally, RMG factory workers have been excluded from accessing emergency credit because traditional credit-check methods fail to recognise them due to a lack of credit score. While these workers are fully capable of repaying, they are forced to access emergency credit through informal lending with extortionate interest rates.

About AGAM International:

AGAM International enables financial institutions in growth markets to accelerate the digitalisation of products and services to their customers through its Banking-as-a-Service platform.

AGAM, which means advance in Bangla, puts financial empowerment and responsibility directly in the hands of individuals and businesses. Its platform is powered by its dynamic AI credit scoring algorithm, enabling lending to a broader community. Customers are supported in their financial journey with AGAM International’s digital mentoring app to become more bankable, improving both financial literacy and credit scores. The company’s scalable neo banking model provides transparent, dynamic, de-risked credit decisions for financial institutions.

This all supports AGAM International’s wider mission to make banking and finance available to all, advancing lives and livelihoods.

Founded by female CEO, Shabnam Wazed, AGAM International is headquartered in Cardiff, UK, and operational in Bangladesh, with plans to scale into other growth markets. Wazed is supported by a senior management team, including: Chair, Nish Kotecha, an entrepreneur, banking and board professional; and, Chief Technology Officer, Rohit Sankhe. The management have a combined experience of over 40 years. The company closed its latest funding round in November 2022, with international investors led by the Development Bank of Wales. AGAM International has also been backed via the UK Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur programme, Invest UK, and the FinTech Wales Foundry Accelerator programme.

AGAM International was the joint winner of the Global Fintech DIT (UK) Award, 2021 and Shabnam Wazed won Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence Award 2022.

About Swisscontact:

Swisscontact is a leading international development organisation promoting inclusive economic, social, and ecological development to make an effective contribution towards sustainable and widespread prosperity in developing and emerging economies. Swisscontact was established in 1959 as an independent foundation by notable figures from the world of commerce and science in Switzerland. It is exclusively involved in international development cooperation and has carried out its own and mandated projects since 1961. In Bangladesh, Swisscontact formally commenced its journey through the Katalyst project in 2002 and was registered as an NGO under the NGO Affairs Bureau in 2008. Since then, the organisation is working with the public and private sectors for the development of the country benefitting millions of people. Swisscontact Bangladesh currently has twelve ongoing projects ranging from agriculture, microinsurance, skills development to financial inclusion through the digital economy.

‘Sarathi – Improving Financial Health’ is a financial inclusion project jointly funded by the MetLife Foundation and the Happel Foundation as part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA. Sarathi enables a network of private and public stakeholders to facilitate access to existing and customized, preferably digital, financial health solutions for at least 300,000 low-income industrial workers, especially ready-made garments (RMG) workers. Additionally, Sarathi focuses on skills development and women entrepreneurship to encourage long term financial stability. Within the 30-month project period, Sarathi intends to acquaint at least 500,000 low-income RMG workers and their community members residing in the major RMG clusters of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, and Chattogram with the various benefits of financial inclusion that go beyond just the possession of a bank account.

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