If Edinburgh is to be the data capital of Europe, we must use this as a platform to create and build solutions that can tackle some important issues. Examples of this could be in addressing challenges such as low levels of financial inclusion, a lack of financial education and awareness and help to structure a broader support network for marginalised communities such as the homeless, or supporting in reducing mental health issues caused by a lack of assistance for some people struggling to manage their finances.
Working in the finance sector, it is fairly easy for me to manage my family’s finances with clarity – but across society that is not often the case. Managing finances or understanding how credit, insurance or pension products work can be really challenging, which puts a huge amount of unfair pressure on people juggling family finances and worrying about their future.
I think fintech has an opportunity and a role to play to help people understand and manage their finances in a far more empathetic way. If we can do this, I’m pretty confident we’ll see an improvement in certain areas of society and in broader mental health.
As part of DataFest 2018, we hosted a Datathon (an advanced hackathon) to focus on this topic. We accessed more than 50 open data sources from places like the World Economic Forum and UK or US government information on mental health, spending, demographics, etc, then coupled this with anonymised and dummy banking data. From this, the Datathon teams were able to draw insights and start thinking about how to design apps or solutions to help relieve pressure points experienced by many when managing their finances.
The teams came up with a range of “nudge” type solutions, where budgeting apps could help free up small amounts to be moved automatically into savings accounts, and machine learning solutions to make sense of complex terms and conditions and present them in a clear way.
These prototypes were created in just 24 hours and have real potential. Imagine the difference a fintech could make if they really put some focus and funding into this space. We have worked hard to leverage advances in fintech and data to promote financial inclusion.
My view is that access to basic financial services is a human right. That might be offering access to the simplest form of bank account or helping people save for the future of their family in a safe place. It could be the ability to have a pension, irrespective of how little it is, or insurance.
I see a real sense of social purpose across the fintech community. Castlight is a fantastic example of an ethical, focused business with a strong moral compass in the way it is trying to open up financial services to more people, making sensible decisions based on strong data.
A big part of this is understanding the data we have available and having that big picture about an individual. Connected cities, cars, homes and the IoT means data is being spat out everywhere. You can use it to augment a far richer view of individual circumstances to ensure products and services are tailored for them, then ‘served-up’ in the right way.
The opportunities to address some of these challenges through the use of new disruptive technologies is right in front of us, it’s now over to the fintech movement to show us how it can be done...