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Write-up & re-watch: Financial Inclusion Forum 25/06

Joe Roche / 28th June 2021

On the 25th June the Northern FinTech Community came together virtually to explore Financial Inclusion.

Financial Inclusion is defined as the availability and equality of opportunities to access financial services. It refers to a process by which individuals and businesses can access appropriate, affordable, and timely financial products and services.

This was our second Financial Inclusion Forum, following a successful first event in December 2020. For those who weren’t able to join the event live, we have produced a write-up and a recording. Click the image below to view the recording, and scroll down to read our write-up.

Joe Roche opened the event on behalf of FinTech North and welcomed attendees joining the session live. Joe also highlighted some upcoming topics for Q3 & 4 FinTech North events, including; Lending, Investment/Funding, Embedded Finance, Open Finance, the Future of Business Banking, RegTech & AI. Joe encouraged any potential speakers and partners to reach out (to if they would like to get involved.

Joe then handed over to Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting and FinTech North, to compere the event. Julian started by making the link between the pandemic, economic recovery and financial inclusion.

Our first speaker was Nick Quin, Head of Financial Inclusion at Link Scheme Ltd. Link provide the network that supports cash machine infrastructure across the UK. Link have been running their Financial Inclusion programme for 15 years.

Nick started his presentation with a quick poll of the FTN community, asking “who has cash on them now?” Over 70% of the community didn’t have cash on them. Nick went on to explain:

  • 17% of payments are now in Cash
  • This compares with 56% in 2010 and 45% in 2015
  • 5 million people rely on cash (FCA 2020 survey)

“We are now running towards a cashless society” – Nick Quin, Head of Financial Inclusion, Link Scheme Ltd

Nick also highlighted that wealthier areas have moved further away from cash than deprived areas. Nick also noted that income is the biggest factor in cash useage.

“As people are shifting away from cash, there’s a risk we leave people and places behind.” – Nick Quin, Head of Financial Inclusion, Link Scheme Ltd

To counteract this move away from cash and to combat Financial Exclusion, LINK are innovating within the existing system to provide:

  • Cash Deliveries
  • Cashback without a purchase
  • Post Office banking hubs

Nick finished by asking, “is cash the canary in the coalmine in our move toward digital?”

Our next speaker was Nabeel Irshad, Vice President Govt & Public Sector UK&I at Mastercard.

Nabeel was able to speak about Financial Inclusion from the perspective of a global provider of financial services.

“The whole problem of (financial) exclusion can’t be tackled without facing digital exclusion” –  Nabeel Irshad, Vice President Govt & Public Sector UK&I, Mastercard

Nabeel highlighted the huge march to digital that we have seen in the UK. A lot of 5-10 year trends have accelerated to 2-3 years, and have taken us closer to where some Scandinavian countries are.

“The challenge for FS: how do we bring up digital skills to match the boom in digital” –  Nabeel Irshad, Vice President Govt & Public Sector UK&I, Mastercard

  • 1.2million – unbanked adults in the UK in 2020 (c. 50% by choice, 50% excluded by other factors, i.e. left behind – source: FCA Financial Lives Report)
  • 13million – lack the digital skills required for work

Nabeel highlighted several FinTechs who are working with Mastercard to improve Financial Inclusion, including Pockit based in Newcastle, who have products aimed at the excluded.

Nabeel spoke about how the pandemic changed the messaging around cash, with cash being seen as more risky re Covid transmission. This was a huge problem for the 1.5m who were told to shield, lots of whom were elderly people who didn’t have bank accounts or preferred using cash.

FinTechs such as Starling bank responded, with their “Companion card” enabling vulnerable people to send someone out to shop for them.

Mastercard’s priority is supporting economic mobility and resilience of individuals and businesses so they can manage the digital economy.

“Financial Inclusion has to be linked with Digital Inclusion” – Nabeel Irshad, Vice President Govt & Public Sector UK&I, Mastercard

Nabeel also highlighted:

  • the importance of skills to our economy as well as for individuals
  • the importance of infrastructure; e.g. there are still parts of the UK without broadband internet
  • user-centric design; building inclusive financial products

Our next speaker was Andrew Rabbitt, CEO & co-founder at Ilkley based FinTech incuto. incuto are a technology platform powering ethical banking, working with over 35 credit unions, they connect affordable financial service providers to people.

Andrew contextualised things by explaining the day one problem for incuto: the interest on a loan = the primary source of income for a lender.

£1.3billion – amount of pay day loans issued per year in the UK

£260 – average loan repaid over 3 months

£55 – average cost

incuto have built a sustainable alternative by reducing the cost (to £6) and increasing the volume, which provides:

  • Better customer experience
  • Improves discoverability
  • More channels to market

Only 2% of people in the UK have an account with a credit union, compared to Ireland where it is 75%.

“Children have formed their key financial behaviors by the age of 8” – Andrew Rabbitt, CEO & co-founder, incuto

The impact incuto has had:

  • 216k active users
  • £210m processed in loans, £40m as faster payments
  • 10% month on month growth

Andrews closing thoughts on Financial Inclusion:

  • FinTech as an enabler, not an answer
  • Education is key
  • Poverty premium effects the poorest but impacts everyone


We then gathered our speakers together for an interactive audience Q&A and panel discussion. At this point we introduced Katherine Ryan-Hughes, Head of Propositions, Customer Experience and Comms, HSBC Expat, Channel Islands & Isle of Man and welcomed her to the panel. As part of her role, Katherine is doing work in the Cx space to help impact and improve financial inclusion.

“The cashless society piece resonates with me, our customer base is very broad… the challenge we have is coming up with solutions that work for everyone” Katherine Ryan-Hughes, Head of Propositions, Customer Experience and Comms, HSBC Expat, Channel Islands & Isle of Man


Q – does the financial sector have an opportunity to build a stronger system moving forward?

“Focus on end user and community” – Nick Quin, Head of Financial Inclusion, Link Scheme Ltd


“On FinTech, Andrew is right it is an enabler. We’re seeing a second wave of FinTechs who have a social or societal purpose” – Nabeel Irshad, Vice President Govt & Public Sector UK&I, Mastercard


“There is space for everyone and the industry will be better for it” – Katherine Ryan-Hughes, Head of Propositions, Customer Experience and Comms, HSBC Expat, Channel Islands & Isle of Man


“Challenger banks disrupted the easy bit (on-boarding), but never worked out how to make money from it. The customer has a cheque, or wants to speak to someone, they have nowhere to go” – Andrew Rabbitt, CEO & co-founder, incuto

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