In his recent Blog for the Commission, Lord Holmes highlighted the potential for FinTech to address financial exclusion, an issue he had raised in the recent parliamentary debate. So the Commission, working with Level39, decided to explore in practical terms how FinTech could help reach out to those left outside the financial system. Level39, led by Ben Brabyn, is the incubator for FinTech start-ups – many of them working across the world – based in Canary Wharf. In a roundtable discussion, chaired by the Commission’s chair Sherard Cowper-Coles, some innovative approaches to reach those left outside the system by convention legacy financial services were described.
Many of the initiatives were developed elsewhere, but could be adapted for use in the UK. Doreming emerged as a way of helping ‘Internet Cafe Refugees’ in Japan - temporary workers who lost their homes and permanent jobs around the time of the Lehman Crash and stayed in internet cafes. Doreming allowed them to transfer their take-home salary to their bank accounts as soon as they finished working for the day. SalaryFits, developed initially in Mexico and Brazil, offers a way for lenders to reduce risk and administration costs – and therefore the interest they charge – by integrating with employer payroll systems. Companies such as Neyber are operating similar employer-based lending here.
The potential for such FinTech initiatives to extend access to financial services for those going through a period of vulnerability were further explored later in the day with the launch by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s report “FinTech for Good”.
With a new Minister for Financial Inclusion in place, the Government is looking for ways to encourage innovation to extend access to financial services. Both NESTA, which is organising a competition to encourage FinTechs to help small firms, and TechCityUK which the Commission are helping to organise a similar competition on financial inclusion initiatives, were represented at the FIC/L39 Roundtable event. Those interested in submitting entries should contact Greg Michel at TechCityUK (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the meantime, the Commission and L39 are discussing a follow-up event in the Autumn to give the partnership between the technical innovators and those concerned with exclusion further momentum. Watch this space.