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At Channel, ESG is at the heart of our investment process. As we move further into the SME lending space, we wanted to do more to understand how advancements in technology could help assess these businesses on their ESG footprint along with their financials. We were looking for a partnership where we could explore the possibilities of applying fintech and/or data-driven decision-making to produce an indicative ESG score that would help better assess SME loan applications. Our CEO, Walter Gontarek, and Daouii Abouchere (Head of ESG and Sustainable Finance), came up with a plan to partner with Cranfield University, where Walt is a Visiting Academic Fellow, to launch a research competition exploring this topic.  

Cranfield University MSc and MBA students were delighted to get their hands on a real-world project producing practical, scalable solutions to the challenges small and medium-sized businesses face. We tasked them with producing a written report and 15-minute presentation on the following topic:  

Approaches to apply fintech/data-driven quick decision-making process for an indicative ESG score to an SME loan assessment.

With the following questions to be answered in the deliverables.  

1. Which theme (Environmental, Social, and Governance – choose one) does the report cover?  

2.  How are the factors in the theme relevant to the SME – specific loan assessment?  

3.  What data sources are used to back up the decisions?   

4.  What types of latest financial technology are considered in the approach?   

After some insightful and compelling presentations, we are delighted to announce that the winner of the £1000 prize is Spruce Analytics - Timothy Mkandawire, Christoforus Enrico Andriawan, Putu Agni Parahita and Nikhil Kulkarni. 

The Spruce team edged ahead of the rest with their clear definition and understanding of the problem and the high quality of their research. It is great to see the level of engagement and enthusiasm with which the team entered into the challenge. As we progress our own ESG initiatives in the SME lending space, we hope to continue to work with the next generation of problem-solvers to help them help the industry transition to a more sustainable economy. 

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