Long reads

The Westminster Series: Following UK Fintech Week, we are strong

Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes

Peer, House of Lords

Last week’s UK Fintech week was one of the best yet. Without a hand shook, stand up lunch stuffed, or business card traded, Innovate Finance demonstrated just what can be achieved through modern means to bring our community together to such great effect.

The Chancellor’s opening keynote set the tone, an exemplary example of value over volume. He had fifteen minutes slated, he did it all in just over five, packing in a response to the Kalifa Review, thoughts for the future and a clear understanding of the fintech opportunity for the UK right now.

To this end, I have written here previously about my attempts to add some specific, practical, changes to the Financial Services Bill. Ranging from proposals around digital ID, dematerialisation of securities, open finance, DLT and markets, AI in financial services - they are all important issues and need to be properly considered and put into the right kind of regulatory framework. If we want to make the most of the opportunities in front of us we must act.

Yesterday in the House of Lords I asked the Government what assessment they have made of the recommendations in the Kalifa Review.

It should be abundantly clear that fintech has such a critical role to play in our Covid recovery, a critical role to play in enabling financial inclusion and a critical role to play in levelling up, not least through the nations and regions clusters.

One of the most exciting applications for fintech is the potential for improving financial inclusion. In today’s world, without access to financial services you are, I believe, missing a basic citizen right. Not only that, you pay a high (financial) price through more expensive goods and services known as the poverty premium, not to mention the emotional and social costs.

The problem is well known and well documented yet remains and will be exacerbated if we don’t ensure a fully inclusive Covid build back. Financial exclusion is a truly pernicious problem but fintech offers solutions -often through methods of mitigating risk and reducing costs- solutions which could solve this, solving something which has dogged our nation for decades.

As we all know, it is far, far easier to ask a question than to answer one. So true, I took the opportunity yesterday not only to ask the Government about fintech and financial inclusion in person but also in writing.  So true, I asked the Cabinet Office Minister, Lord True to respond. And a full, fair, and thorough response did indeed arrive. My question:

“To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure financial technology solutions are considered as part of the Debt Resolution Services supplier roster being created by the Crown Commercial Service.?”

Lord True’s response:

“The Debt Resolution Services Framework will include specific lots for data and affordability solutions. These will be supplied by organisations that provide a range of technology and digital solutions including but not exclusive to; conversational artificial intelligence, open-banking, credit reference agency data, and automated standard financial statements.

Public Sector organisations can utilise these solutions and services to better understand customer financial circumstances and ensure affordable outcomes while providing increased access and choice in the way that customers interact with the services.

It is anticipated that the contract notice for the Debt Resolution Services Framework will be published in June 2021.”

Turning to levelling-up, fintech has a key role. There are significant fintech clusters throughout the Nations and regions, not least those across the Pennines (Manchester and Leeds), and emerging clusters in Newcastle and Durham. The Kalifa review proposed accelerating the development of these clusters through further investment and driving a national coordination strategy. Recommendations around skills are important here too - the Government must act on retraining and upskilling and more resources for education.

Fintech week illustrated what can be achieved with ‘Can Do’, linking us all via our laptops. It worked extremely well, and it sets the bar high for next year when, meeting again in person will be tremendous but I’m sure the multi-channel model will enable even more.

We have another big year ahead, to fully utilise fintech as part of our Covid build back, as part of our levelling up approach. Fully inclusive fintech, enabling, empowering citizen, community, city, cluster, country: 2021, the year of fintech future - now.

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