This August at The Fintech Times, we’re looking to highlight some of the amazing things fintechs are doing around the world. We are always hearing about the “latest groundbreaking innovation doing good for the community”, but are these innovations doing good for those in an already advantageous position, or are they helping make the financial world more accessible?
As The Fintech Times reaches the end of our fintech for good focus this month, we wanted to end by looking at a range of success stories. Earlier this week, we looked at “Pandemic Pivot” success stories and now our focus changes to specifically look at success stories related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) – an ever-increasingly significant factor in business operations.
Investing in regeneration and Sustainability
Steve Sanders, go-to-market strategist and business advisor at Business Growth Mechanics said: “Dunoon in Scotland embarked on a journey to regenerate and increase sustainability in their community. In that process, the investors and advisors recognised that this was an opportunity to study more carefully, what consequences are created resulting from transformation and then the ongoing operation of such a community.
“Many examples have emerged of means to reuse materials or to invest sustainably in infrastructure that builds resilience and ethics into the fabric of that community. So much so that the investors are using this to create a re-useable template for others to follow around the world should they choose to do so.
“Through this project, the local community and all those in the multiple horizons of supply chains that serve that community and the tourists visiting, have all been treated with care and consideration. The reinforcement of positivity achieved through this is and will continue to amplify the success of the Dunoon project.”
Helping customers give back to the causes they choose
James Lynn, co-founder of Currensea, the multi-currency travel card company, explained his company’s efforts to offset some of the environmental impacts of the travel industry and its works with charities: “The travel industry is often criticised for not doing enough to tackle its environmental impact but travellers need a simple, convenient and cost-effective way of offsetting their holidays.
“When we launched Currensea we wanted to ensure that not only could we offer travellers the lowest foreign exchange (FX) fees when they’re spending overseas, but we also wanted to provide them with an effective method for giving back to some of the causes closest to their hearts. Through our partnerships with Plastic Bank and Treepoints, travellers can opt to support environmental causes every time they save on FX fees – every 12p saved plants one tree while every £1 removes 100 bottles from the ocean.
“Although as a business this is our first summer that’s not been hit by covid, our customers have already planted over 100,000 trees and removed more than 1.2 million bottles from the ocean by supporting environmental causes every time they spend abroad – all whilst saving money on their holiday spending. By avoiding high rates and hidden costs we ensure that every transaction is at least 85 per cent – and up to 100 per cent – cheaper than any deal offered by high-street banks and allow people to donate some or all of those savings to protect the planet.
“Of course, ESG is not only about the environment and it’s vital that fintechs support sustainability beyond offsetting. Last year, we launched our ‘powered by’ programme – a unique offer for charities allowing them to partner with Currensea to issue branded cards to their supporters so they can round up UK spending or convert savings made on overseas spending into charity donations.
“In just over six months since launching ‘powered by’ we’re already supporting a range of charities including Royal Trinity Hospice and St Martin-in-the-Fields. We also partnered with Knight Frank to provide its employees with a branded card as part of the firm’s new employee benefits package so staff can support environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage.”
Salad Money and Yapily’s partnership
Chief executive officer of lending organisation, Salad Money, Tim Rooney, commented on how its partnership with Yapily can make a positive impact: “Today in the UK, thousands of NHS and public sector workers are unable to improve their finances due to poor credit scores and a lack of access to the right financial products. In direct response to this, we joined forces with open banking platform Yapily, to provide affordable credit to key workers across the UK, removing the need for applicants to have good credit scores.
“As well as providing access to credit where users may have previously been denied, Yapily’s open banking platform enables us to offer a benefit checking service to our customers. Essentially, this is a free online tool that provides key workers with an automatic benefit assessment to help them understand what they are entitled to, with research showing that a whopping £16billion in benefits remain unclaimed in the UK.
“Take Lucy, for example. A nurse from Wales, Lucy has previously struggled to lift her credit score. In March, she needed to borrow £500 as short-term help to get through some challenging personal circumstances. Using Salad Money, Lucy was able to find out how best to repay her loan which supported her during a financially difficult time.
“Now, the tool is in demand more than ever as the UK faces an unprecedented cost of living crisis, to which NHS and public sector workers are particularly vulnerable. Since launching in January 2022, together with Yapily we have helped individuals to identify a total of £10.1million in unclaimed benefits.”
Iain McDougall, the chief commercial officer of Yapily, the open banking organisation, expanded on this partnership and how he sees them joining forces to help support people throughout the cost of living crisis: “Open banking has the power to transform the financial well-being of millions of people. In the context of the cost of living crisis, responsible lending has never been more important. Open banking is a force for good, improving affordability and transparency to help people break volatile debt cycles, and ultimately access the right financial products and services for them.
“So how does it work? Using Yapily’s open banking platform, companies like Salad Money are able to instantly retrieve their customers’ bank account transactions and analyst spending patterns to carry out a fairer, more holistic credit affordability assessment. This is a clear example of how open banking is enabling people to access credit where they were previously denied, and in this case, identify tangible changes to their income that are immediately accessible – at a time when they need it most.
“Every individual should be able to access helpful money management tools, improve their financial wellbeing, and feel in control of their finances. Opening banking is now making this possible. There is tremendous power in utilising this technology to improve the financial lives of people and businesses not just in the UK, but across the globe.”
Researching and selecting the right partners
Laura Pommer, CEO at EnergyFunders, an investment platform for American oil and gas wells, explains the importance of carefully researching and selecting partners and why it is important to take into account the effect decisions will have on the public: “As an independent fintech investment platform, one of the most appealing things about my role at EnergyFunders is that I have absolute control over which wells we invest in and why. Coming from Boulder, Colorado, environmentalism is truly something I prioritise, though no one can deny our society’s massive reliance on oil and gas. Though I can’t stop an entire industry from drilling new wells, what I can do is be highly selective with our projects, our partner operators, and select investments that will cause the least amount of harm to the environment.
“Beyond drilling traditional oil wells, we’ve also launched a fund aimed at utilising stranded natural gas wells. Normally these wells are unable to connect to pipelines or are flaring, and left to burn off natural gas into the atmosphere with no consideration for the impact on the environment. In our case, we’re able to harness that natural gas to generate electricity that powers bitcoin mines, another controversial energy consumer right now.
“While most bitcoin miners are drawing large amounts of power from the grid that you and I depend on, our wells are completely off-grid and have no impact on the public’s energy needs. In fact, it’s putting previously wasted resources to use, democratising energy investment, and helping the energy industry open their minds to cryptocurrency, which we believe is the future of the digital economy.”