With the onset of World War II, Britons were told to dig for victory and look after their neighbours. Today, in the digital age fighting against COVID-19, these messages have been translated into developing new technologies and adjusting audiences – all with a charitable aim in mind.
From a focus on sustaining small businesses to giving back to our NHS, here is a flavour of some of the ways UK fintech companies are currently using their technology as a force for good.
Small business saviours
With the UK made up of almost 6m SME’s, it’s understandable that small businesses will have the most to lose, as they often have the least reserves.
In order to help businesses still bring in revenue despite having to shut their doors, founder of B2B voucher tech platform Uniqodo, Chris Giddins, launched Local Support Vouchers.
Working mainly with travel clients, Chris’ business has been hard hit by the crisis. But, instead of despairing, the team decided to put their expertise and spare time to good use by creating a simple way for businesses to offer vouchers to their regulars.
Any UK business can sign up for free, allowing customers to purchase gift vouchers for themselves or loved ones. Shoppers also have the option of donating vouchers to local NHS staff. Vouchers can be redeemed when businesses re-open and the NHS donations will be kept ‘on tab’ by each business for healthcare staff to use when they can.
Chris says: “The early days of this crisis saw many of us encouraged to ‘buy vouchers’ for the businesses we knew to be struggling. But for most independent shops or restaurants, it’s not that simple. Setting up the processes and payment systems for vouchers is actually quite technical; beyond the current capabilities of most small businesses who have a lot to deal with right now. As a company, we’re struggling too, but we didn’t want to sit idly by and do nothing. The tech expertise of my team meant we could help these businesses and support the NHS at the same time. ”
Standard vouchers are valid for 90 days once the business is reopened, whereas flexible vouchers come with an additional six months. The FAQ section tackles what happens if a business unfortunately closes down but if so there is a recourse such as chargeback or a Section 75 claim if over £100. Local Support Vouchers charge a small processing fee of 3% per voucher to cover the running costs of the site.
As many traders repurpose their business models as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Phos have launched a scheme that will offer free payment acceptance to small traders affected by the crisis.
Phos is the world’s first payment acceptance app via any NFC-enabled Andriod device allowing merchants to accept contactless payments anywhere.
Currently the company is offering free payment acceptance to those affected by the crisis. As well as free support to those who volunteer to deliver food and essential supplies to elderly residents.
CEO Brad Hyett says, “The initiative directly responds to the need for safer payment options to be made available for those that are essential workers, like local shops, and those helping the most vulnerable in our communities. At the moment we are covering all the costs ourselves, but after lockdown ends there may be some conditions that need to be met to use this service. For instance, there may be a fee for cash withdrawal from an ATM.”
Businesses will benefit from Phos not just in savings from ongoing transactional fees, which currently vary between 1-3%, but also in hardware costs. Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals can be expensive and tricky to source, especially with supply chains facing disruption. Phos allows anyone with a smartphone to get back in business as soon as they are able to.
Another company offering a suspension on fees is Airwallex, who last month announced the closure of its latest $160 million USD Series D funding round. The latest funding will be used to support growth in the UK and mainland Europe, with plans to hire and fill 50+ new tech roles in the region by 2021.
Founded as a better way to make global payments, Airwallex has decided to waive both FX and payment fees to ensure their customers can continue to operate globally. They hope to remove some of the stress and added cost of running a business in the current climate.
James Butland, VP Banking said: “As a global company with a heavy presence in Asia, our teams saw firsthand the severe impact COVID-19 was having on businesses and the economy there before its full force hit the UK. It was clear early on that this was a worldwide pandemic, and at Airwallex we knew that cash flow management would continue to be a vital need for businesses. We needed to put measures in place to help our UK customers navigate the changing environment, many of whom have been seriously impacted financially by the virus fallout.”
Supporting critical services
Jumio is a leading online identity verification and authentication provider helping organisations to know a customer is who they truly claim to be. Jumio works in a number of spaces, primarily financial services. However, since the Covid-19 crisis they have seen a number of organisations need to move online to help fight this pandemic. Online identity verification can fill that need, but the process needs to be easy, fast, and secure, exactly what the company provides.
To help in this time of crisis, Jumio has been offering its fully automated, AI-powered identity verification solution free of charge to qualifying organisations in the telehealth, education and other essential services spaces. Jumio Go for Good is helping to create ecosystems of trust online in this vital time of need.
It allows organisations involved in relief and assistance, who during this crisis have an urgent need to be able to quickly and accurately “identity proof” their patients, students, and workers, helping to ensure that critical services can be delivered and trusted.
Most importantly, it complies with all current industry regulations including KYC, AML, and GDPR compliance obligations while reducing fraud and improving the customer experience. Jumio is offering its services free of charge to qualifying businesses as part of the Jumio Go for Good program until June 30, 2020.
Giving back to the NHS
Not content with their Thursday night clap, Moorwand and K Wearables have partnered to give away 300 free K Rings to fearless NHS staff. The free contactless payment ring allows for touch-free shopping and limited interaction with cash, helping to keep frontline workers safe during the coronavirus. Having a K Ring means that the 300 essential workers can purchase goods and services safely and securely up to the value of £45 per transaction with a simple ‘knocking gesture’ over a card reader.
Luc Gueriane, Chief Commercial Officer at Moorwand, said: “We are in a time where community is at the forefront of everything we do. Although we may be apart, we as a nation have never felt more connected, so it is vital that communities and businesses come together to support health workers in any way they can. Partnering with K Wearables to provide an easy payment solution to 300 NHS workers was instantly an initiative we knew we wanted to be part of.”
The K Ring means there is no need to carry around a wallet or touch payment surfaces that other people have touched. It requires no charging, no pairing with a smartphone and is waterproof so it won’t be harmed by soap or alcohol-based sanitisers, ideal for a busy NHS professional on the go.
Doing it for the kids
Finally, let’s not forget the generation of children caught up in the pandemic who have had both their home and school life disrupted.
To support family teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), Renee Watson and folks at The Curiosity Box have heavily subsidised 3,000 STEM kits to vulnerable children in cities such as Hull and Stoke on Trent. Originally launched in 2016, The Curiosity Box is an award-winning monthly science subscription box aimed at 4-11 year-olds.
Since the pandemic broke out, efforts have been made through existing relationships with local schools to distribute the boxes, which are sent via the food parcel delivery scheme.
The kits include code-breaking experiments and puzzles, and chemistry kits and unlike the regular catalogue of boxes, these ones also have basic tools such as pencils and scissors included to ensure that the recipients have everything they need to get imagining.
Renee hopes that the donations can be rolled out nationally through the support of education authorities and the generosity of business donations.
She said: “I want more local authorities to get involved and more individuals and businesses to consider buying our boxes to donate, so that we can extend the reach and get people really engaged in doing something tangible and good.”
What’s more, all packaging is recyclable or biodegradable and the company has taken on staff, recently made redundant in other areas, to fulfill the scheme from their office in Eynsham, near Oxford.