Tech City UK has challenged startups in the North to develop new solutions designed to promote financial inclusion.
It’s part of a new UK-wide competition called Fintech For All, which is looking for startups that could help to end the challenges that some people face when managing their money and truly make financial services available to all.
Access to financial services is a crucial part of everyday life yet at least 1.5 million people in the UK do not have a bank account, or have less than £500 in savings.
Fintech For All programme lead Greg Michel believes that Northern startups can draw from their experiences of helping solve local community problems when designing new Fintech solutions.
Spreading the word
Michel recently called out for applicants while speaking at a FinTech North networking and discussion event in Leeds.
Held at the new Bruntwood coworking space Platform, the collaborative event between Whitecap Consulting and rebuildingsociety.com also featured a FinTech panel discussion with panelists that included Leeds Digital Festival director Stuart Clarke and AQL COO Sarah Tulip.
We spoke to Michel to find out more.
What is Tech City’s Fintech For All programme?
Greg Michel: It’s a competition that’s meant to find and make aware Fintech startups and scaleups that are striving to make financial services work for everyone.
Why is it focused on financial inclusion?
I think there’s a wider recognition that Fintech has the ability to change the way that we as people access financial services, which is a great thing that works for many people. However, at the same time many others do not have the same access that we do.
We need to make sure that those who are excluded or feel they have trouble accessing the right financial services for them are given a chance to do so.
Who should apply for this competition?
We’re looking for B2B or B2C companies in two different categories: the first is established fintech firms with fewer than 5,000 users if B2C, or three or more clients if B2B. The second is new fintech companies with at least an MVP in testing (or ready to test by 20 October), or more than 5,000 users if B2C, or fewer than three business clients if B2B.
Unfortunately very large businesses are excluded, but we want to find people who are active in both financial inclusion and capability, so there will be five broad areas that you can find on our website.
What’s in it for those that apply?
The incentive is basically to get a lot of visibility and traction for your product – these are two very key things. We want to shine a light on all the good things that you are doing, and also get you mentoring from professionals – very good people both in the banking industry (through Lloyd Banking Group), and on the venture capital side. So it’s also a chance to get noticed by people who might eventually fund you.
What kind of skill level will startups need to be at to enter this competition? Should non-Fintechs give it a go too?
The competition is centred around fintech. That being said, I really encourage everyone to apply. It’s about helping people engage with financial services in every kind of way, so think outside of the box. If you’re helping your community better understand and manage their money, then please do apply.
What role will Tech City UK’s partners play in the competition?
The partners play a key role in the sense that they will really be the ones who deliver impact and change. Through the Money Advice Service and Citizen’s Advice, there’s very much a chance to test your product with live clients. This is something that’s incredible – think about the potential for you to effectively white-label your solution to these institutions – we’re talking about 8 million customers a year that could be accessing new technology.
This is a life-changing experience for your business. Experian too want to help find outstanding companies, help them stand out and find success.
How might Northern startups play to their strengths in this competition?
I think that the North is doing very good things in the sense that northern companies are very close to their clients – there’s sense of helping communities solve real problems.
In companies in the North I’m very much looking for very client-focused solutions and things that can be expanded toward the whole of the UK and then further to Europe.
What do you think the judges will be looking for in an application?
I think there will be a few things that are quite key. Obviously we want startups to have viable business models. There’s that, and the judges also have to look for true impact. They will look for the way that you change the lives of people by giving them something different or better access or understanding.
I think it will be a unique combination of both things that will make you stand out. Do you understand the client that you’re trying to serve? Do you fundamentally understand their needs? And is your product best-suited to address these needs? I think this is what the judges will look for.
Emerging technologies are associated with FinTech – Blockchain, AI, and open banking to name a few. Do you anticipate that any new areas of tech will prove popular with startups who apply for this competition?
Yes, absolutely. Both AI and Blockchain are great ways to solve one particular pain point, which is removing the barriers to access financial services. Right now, if you are a financial service company, most likely you will use some sort of credit check or address or idea requirement.
Both of these technologies help alleviate or make these processes work better. Not everyone has an address or an ID, or can pass a credit score, so these technologies very much alleviate these issues, and I think will help a lot more people be included in financial services.
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