FinTech as a Force For Good Forum Opening Speech by Innovate Finance CEO Janine Hirt

25th October 2021 | Blogs

Welcome to our first Innovate Finance forum on FinTech as a Force for Good. 

The full title of today's forum is close to my heart: “The Power of FinTech: [in] Creating a More Sustainable and Inclusive World for All”.

FinTech founders have always been purpose driven – motivated to make a difference, solve societal challenges and create a fairer and more democratic financial services sector.

Many point to the financial crash of 2008 as the catalyst for the FinTech movement we see today. Startups and scaleups stepped in to respond  to the needs of individuals and small businesses for affordable finance, helping to rebuild trust and resilience in the financial services system. Since then, FinTech has played a key role in fostering greater financial wellness and financial inclusion in the UK and across the world.

In the face of the latest, unprecedented global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, FinTech has again stepped up to the challenge.  Supporting small firms. Helping people manage household finances. .. Enabling safe commerce with contactless payments and online sales. And even allowing individuals to bring food and goods to those in need.

And now, FinTechs are supporting industry and society in tackling the biggest challenge we face as a planet: averting climate catastrophe. Achieving a transition to a net Zero economy, in a way that is just and inclusive. 

Across the UK, there are already dozens of sustainable fintechs helping consumers and businesses achieve net-zero by funding green innovation, providing companies with better tools to measure and mitigate their climate impact, or by giving consumers the information they need to make better decisions. 

The UK is fast emerging as a worldwide leader in sustainable fintech – and for many reasons. In 2019 it became the first major economy to enshrine into law a net zero emissions target by 2050 and to date almost half of the FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the UN's “race to zero” campaign, which aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the same date. 

Add to this strong policy support from UK government and regulators and the UK's leading position as a global financial centre – both in green finance and in technological innovation – and it is easy to see why many sustainable fintechs are choosing the UK as their global base.

When we think about both the issues of financial wellness and climate change, it is clear we have a difficult road ahead of us.. Floods in Germany. Wildfires in the States. The disproportionate financial and health impact of Covid on already disadvantaged people and communities. This is not a drill. 

Sustainability is no longer about Corporate Social Responsibility. 

It is fundamental to asset value, risk, markets, regulation, customer demand and future growth. 

Our response has to be transformation of the economy and transformation of our business models. The good news is that transformation is what Fintech is all about. It is what you do. 

You have the solutions.

Net Zero transition will be driven by finance and capital markets and it will be enabled by technology and data. Transformation of financial markets. Net zero through Finance and technology.  FinTech. 

The Fintech ecosystem truly can save the world. 

And... you can grow revenue doing this. You can do well by doing good. The opportunity is for the UK to be the global centre for NetZero financial innovation. Leading in a rapidly growing global market. 

We will hear more today about the many ways in which FinTech is uniquely placed to enable a NetZero economy. 

Much of today will focus on the Environment - the E in ESG. With COP 26 next month and immediate and sustained action needed to avert the worst climate impacts, NetZero is centre stage. 

But NetZero must be built on firm foundations of  a fair society and good governance. The S and G in ESG. We will not achieve net zero without these. 

That is why there are 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals - the vital ingredients that all need to be in sync. 

FinTechs play a huge role across these, including gender equality, decent work, and reducing inequality. 

We know that financial well being goes hand in hand with physical and mental health; as the pandemic has underlined only too clearly. 

We have seen great innovation to improve well-being  and Fintech has the tools, the know-how and the imagination to do even more.  

One of the UN SDGs is partnership. Success in designing and rolling out solutions comes from collaboration between innovators; with Financial institutions; with  government and regulators; and internationally.  

At Innovate Finance we will support Net Zero and sustainable development by:

  • convening the ecosystem and Financial Institutions and governments to share insights and develop solutions
  • creating the space for blue sky thinking and exploring the art of the possible
  • celebrating what innovators are already doing 
  • championing policies that enable faster and more effective change
  • connecting our members to tools and help, including  best practice and other net zero suppliers

That is what today is about: convening, creative thinking, celebrating, championing and connecting. 

And I hope today will provide one more C:  a catalyst for further innovation and transformation by us all.

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