Five minutes with…Jonathan Turner, Technology, Strategy and Innovation Lead at Fair4All Finance
In our latest edition of 5 minutes with, Fran Grant, Consultant in our Technology Practice, spoke with Jonathan Turner, Technology, Strategy and Innovation Lead at Fair4All Finance. Fair4All Finance is a social impact organisation that, despite its infancy, is already making incredible progress towards improving the financial resilience and wellbeing of people in financially vulnerable circumstances. Fran talks with Jonathan about an exciting new role they are currently recruiting for.
Headquartered in London, Fair4All Finance is led by the highly regarded CEO and industry champion, Sacha Romanovitch OBE. Sacha is supported by a passionate, committed team who are experts in their fields. The company consists of approximately 32 people, and although relatively small, the work they do is wide and impactive. Fair4All Finance is the proud winner of the 2022 Digital Leaders Impact Award for Financial Inclusion.
Tell me about Fair4All Finance?
The idea for the company came about in 2018 and really got off the ground in 2019, when we formed the foundations – the company mission, vision, and the type of team we aspired to create. We’re funded by the Dormant Assets Scheme, which is administered by the UK government, although we remain completely independent. We were initially given £35m to invest, then during Covid we were allocated a further injection which took us to almost £100m, some of which we have already carefully invested.
Our aim is to increase the financial resilience and wellbeing of people in vulnerable circumstances, by increasing access to fair, affordable, and appropriate financial solutions. We’re working with a variety of groups and organisations who share the same mission, which is to improve financial inclusion for people who need help financially but do not have access to everyday financial products and services.
The company’s vision: a society where the long-term financial wellbeing of all people is supported by a fair and accessible financial sector.
The company’s mission: to increase the financial resilience and wellbeing of people in vulnerable circumstances through improving the availability of fair and accessible financial products and services.
How would you describe the team at Fair4All Finance?
We’re a small team of around 30 likeminded people, and a common thread running among us is the passion we all have around our mission. We have four key teams – Growth and Development, Internal Operations, Investments, and Policy and Research. We’re led by Sacha Romanovitch, our CEO, who is a formidable leader who leads with her heart, and who is well recognised across the whole social impact sector and now, financial services as a whole. She’s a leader of systemic change, she has some phenomenal leadership skills and experience, and she leads us with passion. She’s always present, prioritising our team meetings etc., and she always listens. She has so much experience and wisdom regarding how to tackle the difficult and thorny issues in the sector.
We’re a diverse team. We are pretty much 50/50 in terms of female/male, we’re diverse in terms of ethnicity, and we have people in roles from apprenticeship level, up to director and partner level. Our people come from a variety of industry backgrounds, from professional services, social inclusion organisations, banking, government… a whole variety. We are hand on heart a truly diverse team.
What have you achieved as an organisation so far?
As an organisation we’ve made some significant investments in affordable credit providers who generally sit in the community finance sector, with social impact being baked into their articles of association. We made a commitment to the sector to help them to provide credit to those who need it most, at a price they can afford. Unfortunately, one in five adults have less than £100 in savings. It only takes the smallest life changing event to push people into financial difficulty. At the moment, the financial services industry doesn’t support people who find themselves in dire need. We’re helping to change this, and we’re already generating an impact that we are able to measure.
We’ve launched a ground-breaking pre-pilot of a ‘no interest loan’ scheme, due to pilot in September. It’s really timely considering the cost-of-living crisis, and with technology at its heart, it could really revolutionise the way credit is offered to people in need. Currently, community finance lenders are massively underserved by technology, mainly due to tight budgets. We ran an industry wide survey to understand how technology is used across the sector, and it highlighted systemic deficiencies. As a company, we can support these organisations with their technology. Digitalisation is key, as all customers deserve an engaging, slick, user-friendly experience. Another example is that price comparison sites don’t currently include affordable lenders, and we’re looking to change this.
We’re doing so much from providing investment to influencing policies and regulations. We’re a voice that’s listened to by the PRA and the FCA. I sit on the Open Banking Consumer Expert group and represent people who are not users of mainstream finance, to encourage Open Banking as a set of standards to include more people through its evolution.
What are your goals for the future, as an organisation?
We have a massive ambition to change not only the organisations we work with, but financial services as an industry. We’ve got the opportunity to use technology to change the landscape for the community finance sector. At the moment, we’re focusing on consumer credit due to the economic climate and the issues its presenting, but we will in turn look at savings and insurance products to improve things further for people. There is still so much more we can do.
What are the key challenges you’re facing, as an organisation?
There is an urgent and pressing need for consumer credit due to the rise in the cost of living. We must respond to the cost-of-living crisis. There’s a real urgency to get things done. We’re really lacking in technologists to pick up these pressing needs and help us deliver change. Technology is central to everything we’re doing to change this sector for the better. We’re currently underweight here, and we need to change that.
You’re currently recruiting for a Head of Technology Programmes role – can you give me a brief snapshot of what this role will entail?
It’s a wonderful and exciting opportunity for someone who will share our passion for social inclusion, to take a portfolio view of all technology programmes, and take responsibility for the end-to-end delivery of programmes, which have technology or digital solutions at their core. It’s a great opportunity for someone to join a truly great team and to have a huge impact on people in vulnerable circumstances, and the social inclusion sector.