Long reads

Accessibility and affordability are critical for the UK's future fintech success

Gerard Grech

Gerard Grech

Founding CEO, Tech Nation

The UK fintech sector is truly at the forefront of global innovation and development. That has been made clear this Fintech Week, as we’ve been truly inspired by UK founders, industry leaders and fintechs who are innovating on the global stage. The success of our fintech sector is also clear from the numbers. Last year, we saw $11.6 billion of VC investment going into fintechs in this country - making the UK #1 in Europe and #2 globally, and 2021 also saw year-on-year investment into fintechs outside of London and the South East increase by 237%.

Our nation is now home to over 40 fintech ‘unicorns’ (companies valued at $1bn+), with some of them being the most successful fintechs worldwide, such as Revolut, Monzo and Checkout.com. All of this drives capital and skill, strengthening the UK’s economy and society.

But with great power, comes great responsibility. And while the UK’s fintech sector has scaled rapidly through the pandemic, problems of financial exclusion have grown as well. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, nearly 4 in 10 adults – around 20 million people – were negatively financially impacted during the pandemic. And 1 in 6 – nearly 8 million people, including the poor, the young and people from underprivileged backgrounds – saw their financial situation worsen a lot. 

Addressing these problems must happen with some urgency. And the UK, as a financial powerhouse and hub of fintech innovation, is in the perfect position to lead the charge. Over the last few years, many steps have already been taken; with measures such as the independent Kalifa Review and the subsequent establishment of a Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) - one of the Kalifa Review’s recommendations - which will also work to reform the financial system to make it more accessible and inclusive.

We can’t stop there. There is much more that can be done to move this agenda along in 2022, and I’ve seen firsthand the way that our country’s fast-scaling fintechs are driving financial inclusion in the UK. I’ve heard from a number of companies on our Fintech and Future Fifty growth programmes at Tech Nation that are working to educate customers - including younger people and those from underprivileged backgrounds - about their finances and savings, such as GoHenry, MyPocketSkill, Monese and Moneybox, and fintechs such as Liberis, whose mission is to end the SME funding gap via their embedded flexible finance solutions - and has so far helped over 16,000 SMEs with more than £500m in funding. The internet can and does level the playing field in so many creative ways. 

At the end of last year, when our Fintech Delivery Panel hosted the ‘Finclusion 2021’ campaign, we saw just how much can be achieved when the entire financial sector comes together to push the financial inclusion agenda forwards.

Throughout ‘Finclusion 2021’, fintechs, insurtechs, financial institutions and other key industry players hosted a series of discussions and webinars sharing ideas and initiatives for a more inclusive UK financial sector. We heard Monzo addressing the need to draw more on available data and tech to support individuals struggling with gambling to access voluntary gambling blocks; Fintrail shared that they were developing principles to help anti-financial crime workers understand the impact of regulations on those lacking access to finance; and Atom Bank - along with Newcastle University - considered creating a secure digital equivalent to the UK’s Blue Badge Scheme (which allows special provisions to be made for those with disabilities), to help businesses understand which customers need greater support or are at risk online. 

In 2022, I hope we will see momentum build as more and more of these fintech ideas and developments become entrenched in the fabric of the UK financial sector. Just as we strive for constant fintech innovation, I see much strive for fairness and inclusivity in product design among the next generation of tech talent. Let’s continue building a sector that provides financial products and services which are innovative, useful and - above all - accessible to everyone. 

Comments: (1)

Tony Crivelli
Tony Crivelli - Fluenccy - Melbourne 08 April, 2022, 00:25Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Good piece Gerard. We also need to continue to develop the financial literacy for SMEs with technology. Too many SMEs are still buying products and services under a simple self-serve, non-advisory model that are not fit for purpose. Cheap financial products are not always good value.