Fintech is our best chance of saving small businesses
Updated: Feb 18
What kind of crazy world are we living in, where the man who invented e-commerce is being ignored by the government who invented Brexit? ... Where the finest fintech brains are blanked by those who’ve never attempted to innovate banking? In these traumatic times we need less talk and more fintech.
Government cannot pretend to know more about solving financial problems than fintech
Probably the most tech-savvy thing on the Tory CV would be the unfortunately named and almost immediately blacklisted “Cummings Software”. Unless you count Boris Johnson’s famous “technology lessons” with ex-model Jennifer Arcuri in her flat … where I’m sure he must have learnt a lot, but maybe not about tech 🤢. Probably one of the best things that this government did was to facilitate the fintech sector over the past ten years.... So why aren’t they being consulted throughout the lockdown as small and medium businesses desperately need financial innovation? Fintech can help to find creative solutions far better than anyone else, and many have already reached out expressing interest.
Fintechs are natural problem solvers
I love the fintech mindset because it's all about getting around problems. Even with no government backing they've stepped up. Did you notice how our contactless payments just jumped up overnight or COVID-19 loan calculators began popping up? This wonderful community of visionaries and problem solvers are fighting harder than ever - and not for themselves. For us. For free.
Right now I’m so inspired by Save My Local. They’re a group of fintech volunteers who are helping local businesses to create e-vouchers and gift cards to help them generate some much-needed cash flow. They do it entirely for free, ask for nothing back and help as much as they can. Could you imagine any other sector doing that? Starling Bank is another one that caught my eye, creating a debit card which other people in the business can use, to help keep things going. It’s a simple solution which can make a massive impact.
Fintechs care about ordinary people
Pick a fintech, any fintech … and I bet that at its heart you’ll find a humble CEO whose achieved astronomical success in helping other people. Take Monese for example, Norris Koppel set out to create bank accounts for people who couldn’t open one with a high street bank. From immigrants to travellers, he found a way around the vicious cycle of needing an address to have a bank and a bank to have an address. What a guy. He didn't do it for himself, he did it to help vulnerbale people make a better life for themselves.
Look at Wealthify, Richard Theo and Michelle Pearce-Burke created a way for people to invest with any amount of money. They democratised investing so that anyone could join – regardless of how much they could afford. Or how about the business banking apps – Starling, Tide, Revolut, Monzo and more. They made it possible for small businesses to have big dreams. People like me can create a bank account in minutes not months and crack on with what we do best. How many ordinary people have benefited from the humble fintechs? These are the people we need to help us get through the crisis.
Fintechs don’t give up
Have you ever heard Tom Petty’s, “I won’t back down”? - I think it could have been written for this sector. It goes like this, “Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down”. Like a Staffordshire bull terrier gripping a wet mop, they’re shaking up our limp UK lockdown economy despite every possible resistance. And that’s why I love them.
How many fintechs are lobbying government right now? Honestly I have no idea, but off the top of my head I can think of at least four fintechs who are fighting like hell to protect SMEs. Revolut is lobbying government to enable real-time government payments and providing them with direct feedback. Countingup’s CEO Tim Fouracre has written an open letter to government, backed by 450 accounting firms to protect small businesses. Tide is lobbying government to open small business first. Nick Ogden, who has more fintech credentials than I can list in this sentence, including inventing e-commerce, has even created a platform for alternative lenders to help SMEs access loans.
These fintechs all have three things in common:
They’re fighting for vulnerable businesses
They’re being ignored by government
They won’t back down
We need fintech now more than ever
Fintechs are not just innovators, they are the Robin Hoods of our time. They help the smallest and most vulnerable, empowering others to grow and dream big. They’ve helped facilitate thousands of start-ups, and fulfil god knows how many ambitions. Which brings me back round to my first question… why are they being ignored?
The UK has an incredibly resilient and hardworking fintech sector. It’s in their DNA to step up and solve problems for ordinary people, they’re powerful, agile and beautiful. They wear t-shirts not suits, they use tech not paper, they can do a lot more with a lot less… they're the future. We use fintech every single day and take it for granted.
Ministers get their own substantial salaries from taxes - largely paid by UK business and transferred by financial technology. So it's a bit rich of government to be ignoring fintechs who are trying to help SMEs right now. Until our government can create tech which solves problems, they should take a step back and listen to the experts.
My interview with Starling Bank and Nick Ogden:
Check out my interview with Save My Local: