Inclusion is an increasingly important topic at the forefront of conversations in both our work and personal lives, and none more so than financial inclusion. The impact of financial inclusion is so far-reaching that it spans individual wellbeing right through to the way in which all sectors of society access financial services. The financial inclusion challenges facing our society and economy are not new and have been further exacerbated due to COVID-19 with 33% of people having less than £100 in their bank accounts, which is a startling statistic. Financial inclusion means making financial products and services available to anyone who needs them, at the time they need them. Using FinTech and innovation we have an opportunity to create a more inclusive financial services system that is a win for customers, a win for financial services and a win for society.
There are several areas where FinTech’s are well placed to move quickly and service the needs of a broader cross section of society from access to financial products right through to education, job creation and innovation. Many FinTech’s embody agility and are therefore able to respond quickly to their customers’ needs with new products and features.
Need for simple and targeted financial education
There is a need for financial education across the board, from understanding simple terms to understanding complex products. This is supported by research into the banking sector where financial products are perceived as being complex and the language associated with them is a barrier for many people, with nine out of ten consumers in the UK feeling like they are undereducated in terms of personal finance. This is compounded as we start to talk about investing, trading, decentralised finance and crypto assets, to name a few. Commission free trading platforms provide a way to make investing accessible, however, there can be limited understanding of complex terms like “margin calls, CFD’s” etc., among many inexperienced users and further education in these terms is required. Many digital banks and FinTech’s are making great strides in reducing these barriers through simple account opening processes, and by providing simple information about their products, services and ways to save on their social media platforms, as well as embedded in their mobile apps.
In the UK more than 12 million people cannot pay an unexpected bill of £300, indicating a frightening lack of savings. To encourage and support people to save more, FinTech’s and challenger banks have done amazing work on using behavioural nudges. Some of these features and nudges entail creating savings pots and savings challenges to get into a habit of saving. They also make it very easy to create a budget, allocate spend to different categories and get a summary at the end of the month or week on where you have spent your money, so you have real time insights into where your money is going. Further features such as gambling blocks, enabled by open banking, help people take control of their finances and help them with credit scores which enable greater access to other financial products such as mortgages.
FinTech’s and challenger banks face regulation challenges, which will be one the biggest hurdles to scale whilst balancing their purpose with profit, being inclusive and adhering to regulatory requirements.
The Kalifa Review has made some promising recommendations with regards to regulation and supporting financial inclusion. From a regulatory perspective, promoting the digitisation of financial services, which includes embracing decentralised finance and crypto assets that have a huge potential to increase the inclusion of people into the financial services system through payments and ultimately access to funds. Supporting the digitisation of Financial Markets Infrastructure and ensuring the management of risk is a step in the right direction.
The challenge will be maintaining the essence and purpose of such technologies and FinTech’s, while meeting all regulatory standards, especially when 70% of unbanked people say they mistrust financial institutions and would prefer to borrow from peers and family.
Furthermore, specifically recommending the expansion of education efforts and incentives, in order to focus on demographics is an encouraging step towards a more inclusive financial services sector.
As Ron Kalifa would say, FinTech’s can lead the way in creating a “permanent, technological revolution, that is changing the way we do finance”.