As the cost-of-living crisis continues to impact millions of people across the UK, The Payments Association, which celebrates innovation and collaboration across the payments industry, presented its report, ‘Navigating the rising cost of living: Payments innovation as a game-changer’, to an array of cross-party MPs and representatives from regulatory bodies at Parliament last week. The report identifies three groups of people newly at risk of financial exclusion and provides recommendations for building a more resilient and inclusive financial system in the UK.
With warnings of a ‘mortgage meltdown’ and the number of people opting to make cash payments increasing for the first time in a decade last week, the cost-of-living crisis continues to expose new groups of people to financial pressures. The report found that people from an increasing variety of backgrounds are struggling to face rising energy bills, inflation affecting the price of food, groceries and fuel, as well as rising interest rates affecting mortgages, rent, and falling house prices. There are still over a million people unbanked, and the poverty premium means many of those who are worst-off are paying the highest rates for basic services.
In this context, The Payments Association’s Project Inclusion has presented to Parliament its recommendations for collaboration and innovation to ease the impacts of the cost of living and poverty premium in the UK. It details which groups have emerged as newly facing financial exclusion, how fintech and payments innovations have the potential to support them – such as through welfare reform – and collaborative next steps for the public, private and third sectors to pave the way for more inclusive, accessible and affordable financial services.
Discussing the report, the MPs and representatives from banks and regulators were in firm agreement that cohesion and collaboration from the public and private sector will be pivotal to ensuring that consumers have better access to tailored financial products and services during the cost-of-living crisis. The discussion centred on how to support the financial stability of groups such as new homeowners, gig economy workers and Universal Credit claimants through innovations such as AI, open banking, security frameworks and data-sharing.
Pooja Bhachu, Project Lead for Project Inclusion, The Payments Association, said: “Our work is vital in providing key insights into how payments innovation is currently aiding those most affected by the cost-of-living challenges, as well as highlighting areas where additional cooperation between the industry, policymakers and third sector is essential. Our purpose is to bring about collaboration and clarity on innovations, which could help reduce financial exclusion, I feel today we have facilitated vital discussions on these issues and catalysed much needed action to improve financial inclusion across the UK.”
Neil Harris, Chair, The Payments Association Advisory Board, commented: “It’s an honour to have this opportunity to present the report, its findings and recommendations to Parliament. It’s the first in a series of active steps to represent the voice of those people most affected by financial exclusion, and involve the industry and policy makers who can provide the solutions to support them. We’re working hard to drive this narrative forward, and advance the much-needed action to promote financial inclusion.”
Based on interviews with payments companies, third-sector bodies and local councils, the report identifies newly underserved groups, the types of financial exclusion issues they face, and how technology and innovation could be democratised to support them. These groups are working families that claim benefits to top-up household earnings (representing millions of first-time Universal Credit claimants in low-paid work); the embedded underserved (representing employees in the gig economy and people with limited digital access); and the unstable owners (representing younger first-time homeowners who lack resilience and are now at risk).
The clear recommendations for change, include:
- Encouraging the DWP to create a Universal Credit sandbox that innovators can use to build new products and services without the need for government commissioning.
- Prioritising innovation funding for financial inclusion services under a model that promotes the involvement of innovators in partnership with the third sector.
- Empowering the third sector to identify the issues related to the cost-of-living crisis and proactively seek scalable solutions in partnership with startups.
- Setting policy and regulatory frameworks for customer-led data sharing between services, especially in the area of AI-powered debt and money advice, allowing more non-traditional providers to offer early intervention tools.
- Reviewing the regulation of data use in financial services, such as affordability checks, to drive innovation in products and services that match the flexibility of modern work and life for all consumers regardless of income.
Tony Craddock, Director General of The Payments Association, said: “The aim of The Payment Association’s Project Inclusion is to educate and work together with government, regulators, and organisations in the third sector. Our goal is to provide clear insights into innovative payment solutions that can help reduce financial exclusion and the burden of poverty. We strive to achieve this through collaboration and by initiating thought-provoking campaigns and providing valuable input in regulatory and legislative decisions.”
To learn more, download a copy of ‘Navigating the rising cost-of-living: Payments innovation as a game-changer’, here:https://thepaymentsassociation.org/whitepaper/navigating-the-rising-cost-of-living/
For more information about The Payment Associations’ Project Financial Inclusion, visit:https://thepaymentsassociation.org/portfolio/project-inclusion/