In its ninth year, Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab London welcomes a cohort of 20 fintechs, many of whom have offerings that tackle societal, financial and sustainability challenges as we enter 2021.
2020 was an extremely challenging year for consumers and society. From financial wellbeing worries and cybersecurity threats to exacerbated social inequalities and an ever-growing climate crisis- the need for UK fintech to serve as a force for good has never been greater. Indeed, despite the global pandemic, UK fintech investments saw a marginal gain of 3.8% in the first half of 2020 to just over £2 billion from £1.9 billion in the first half of 2019. The UK was the world’s second-largest market for fintech investments, behind the United States, emphasising the need for fintech here in the UK.
To ensure this year’s cohort was best placed to tackle key business and societal issues through its programme streams, the Lab approached over 40 of the financial institutions collaborating with Accenture on the programme to determine their priorities for 2021. As a result, the following four new programme streams have been established to address the most pressing issues facing financial services and its customers today: Purpose, Emerging Tech, Security and Data.
This year’s list of innovative start-ups are working to solve a myriad of business and societal problems, spanning climate risk analytics, security, green finance, debt-management platforms, data risk, uses of AI to remove bias, ESG investing and more.
For example, Ophelos is a fintech disrupting the consumer debt space by helping households and financial institutions to prioritise financial wellbeing with its AI-driven digital debt collection tool. Elsewhere, Vested Impact is a start-up with a new approach to ESG investing, using automated AI capabilities to focus on the societal impact of a firm’s product or service. Another example is CoGo, the only app that allows consumers to track their carbon footprint and their societal impact together, by categorising and assigning a carbon footprint to each payment transaction.
“The events of last year took us all by surprise and forced all financial institutions to react rapidly to changing demands,” said Graham Cressey, FinTech Innovation Lab programme director, Accenture UK. “If there’s anything we’ve learnt from such a challenging time, it’s that there’s never been a greater need for purposeful organisations to make a difference at speed. With a customer-first outlook and innovative capabilities, fintechs may hold the key to quickly helping society on its road to recovery, making them valuable partners in the industry.”
Funding for fintechs led by minority groups has historically suffered and wasn’t helped by the pandemic. As part of Accenture’s commitment to ensuring fintechs from all backgrounds have the opportunity to excel, the Lab put out a strong call for start-ups from diverse backgrounds, in terms of gender and race, to apply to this year’s programme. This led to this year’s Lab having the most diverse set of finalists the Accenture programme has ever had, where out of the final 20 firms, 40% are female-led and 45% are led by minority ethnic groups.
Cressey added: “Supporting fintech as a force for good means nothing without looking inwardly at this year’s cohort itself, which is why we are proud to have a diverse Lab team and to be supporting founders from all backgrounds in a bid to level the playing field.”
During the three-month accelerator programme which runs 11th January to 31st March, the fintechs will be partnered with senior executives from over 40 of the top UK financial institutions, industry leader mentors and Accenture’s own subject-matter experts to fine-tune and develop their technologies and business models.