" class="no-js "lang="en-US"> EXCLUSIVE: "D is for Diversity" - Joel Blake OBE, The GFA Exchange in 'The Fintech Magazine'
Wednesday, November 30, 2022

EXCLUSIVE: “D is for Diversity” – Joel Blake OBE, The GFA Exchange in ‘The Fintech Magazine’

As Founder of The GFA Exchange, Joel Blake, OBE, wants to light the fire of inclusive capital for underserved SMEs in the UK

Inclusive capital – the notion that finance providers can unlock sustainable new revenue by improving access to finance to the most underserved, while enabling a fairer and inclusive contribution to society by all – may seem philosophical, even a little whimsical for some. But history tells us that philosophical ideas can indeed change the world, although the world must also want to change for those ideas to become real and embedded. Current times of restricted growth and a need for more impactful business support have evidenced that inclusive capital has never been more important. For too long, finance providers have held on to traditional methodologies of control, managing cost, risk management, and, dare I say, discriminatory decision making, based upon ‘higher risk applications that don’t meet our profile’.

This is not to say that, in most cases, lending and investment decisions have not been made with sound logic and reason.

No matter how morally, socially, or ethically-minded they are, finance providers are in the business of generating sustainable net margin returns, after all. So, it is fair that they must make the most practical and appropriate decisions for both the potential recipient of funds and the funder themselves. But, in order to survive in a post-pandemic economy, the deployment of capital must have a multiplier effect that not only transcends the bottom line, but also attracts new investment markets, based on a sincere appreciation and integration of those customers’ needs within the capital deployment process.

The latter is even more important, as historical financial risk models that aligned with best-performing customer profiles have been severely disrupted. The impact of the global pandemic has now made it more difficult for banks to predict what type of businesses are the best propositions to invest into, or divest from, for the future.This increases widespread risk, impending losses and reduces the opportunity for underserved businesses to contribute to local, regional and global economic growth fairly and inclusively. Even with the £80billion-plus of public finance being made available by the government during the pandemic in the UK, the impact of the current cost of living and energy crisis for business owners has increased the challenge of securing access to finance for underserved businesses – often classified as those that are owned or founded by women, or by anyone belonging to a black or ethnic minority group, or a disabled person; green or climate-focussed businesses; social enterprises and charities. But they can also include high-growth businesses that may not fall under the categories above, and yet, alas, find themselves unable to raise the growth finance they require – between £500,000 and £2million on average.

Within financial organisations, there is still a reluctance to move away from the use of manual processes and legacy technologies. In addition, there is still an addictive tendency among finance providers to rely on making decisions through historical lending performance and investment models, which perpetuates a culture of bias.

But if finance providers genuinely wish to do more, then a more committed focus towards inclusive capital offers a new Nirvana of growth for all.Inclusive capital offers a gateway to accelerate the redevelopment of our economy in a post-pandemic world, by adapting traditional access to finance models through better data intelligence on the health and performance of underserved businesses.Such intelligence can also be used to help influence governance and policy, evidencing best practice and impact that can help both finance providers and underserved businesses together. What is needed is a framework to work from.In our business, we have embraced an emerging and inclusive model of innovation that is set to impact the finance providers and the financial services sector.

I have called it ‘The Triple D Effect.’

Traditional finance providers want to do more but know that their traditional and historical model of assessing lending, investment and credit risk is not designed to embrace the perceived higher risk attached to more diverse and underserved business. The Triple D Effect is made up of three distinct, but interconnected elements: diverse data, diverse intelligence, and diverse (by which I mean digital) technologies. In combination, they have a network effect that can truly boost financial inclusion, through the deployment of inclusive capital.

DIVERSE DATA

The data used in financial services to drive decision-making is not diverse in its creation. In many cases, organisations use the same or similar data sources or models, from credit reference agencies to data providers, etc, which drives an unconscious level of industry group think and cultural bias. This often results in the creation of client portfolios that are derived from a narrower set of criteria that is relevant to their own business needs. A portfolio made up of diverse businesses, run by people from diverse backgrounds, can help to generate a more inclusive portfolio, which is more representative of society. But the ability to access real-life insight on the health and performance of these types of business is often out of reach for finance providers.By combining all the business health and performance information gained from those individual businesses in your portfolio, it becomes easier to understand better the ecosystem they are all a part of, and how they are positioned to survive within it.

“If finance providers genuinely wish to do more… inclusive capital offers a gateway to accelerate the redevelopment of our economy in a post-pandemic world”

DIVERSE INTELLIGENCE

No organisation wishes to lend or invest in a business that is not healthy and growing. Therefore, the more diverse your data sources are, within the context of business health and performance, the better opportunity you have to unlock insights and unique trends that were previously hidden.In turn, the more diverse and inclusive intelligence you can unlock, the greater insight you can generate on the operational capability of the businesses, and a more realistic, predictive model of their future ability to grow. This gives you better confidence to take more risks and can help you make more informed decisions on how you choose to deploy capital, to diversify your client base, and increase revenue opportunities, whilst improving financial inclusion for a much wider market.

DIVERSE TECHNOLOGIES

The impact of the pandemic has led to finance providers having to revisit their previous visions of their purpose and role within markets and in society.It is also fair to say that government intervention to provide lending support for businesses during the pandemic was welcomed and re-ignited the importance of collaborative partnership working when unprecedented unsustainability affects us all. But the opportunity to leverage effective and sustainable partnerships is where diverse technologies can add significant value to drive inclusive capital objectives.Digital technologies offer the opportunity to reduce both financial and operational risk, improve cost efficiencies and unlock innovation within processes, systems and in the delivery of customer value. Once you combine diverse intelligence with innovative diverse technologies, you begin to develop the new frontier of inclusion – inclusive partnerships can truly give birth to inclusive capital models, because you are no longer restricted by historical traditional mindsets.

It is through the development of diverse technologies, born out of diverse partnerships, where the needs of underserved businesses can be factored into the build of said technologies, which cater to a new and inclusive world of business and job creation.In summary, with greater diversity of data, you can generate richer and more diverse levels of intelligence. When applied with innovative digital technologies, this will unlock new models of capital deployment and open fair market opportunities for all business, regardless of the differences they may have, thus, providing long-term sustainable business models for all.The Triple D Effect is not a theory of tomorrow – the pandemic has already highlighted that the data, intelligence and technology revolution is here. The unwritten social contract between capitalists and society at large is at risk ] of continued disruption if the needs of all business founders and leaders in society are not considered. The fair deployment of capital to these is vital to this process.But it would be remiss if I did not state that there is some level of responsibility and accountability that underserved businesses must bear, too.

Capital is attracted to healthy, growing businesses and so there is a need to ensure that the business in question is being run to reach the best of its potential as best as one can – in doing so, it makes it easier to evidence the case for good and sustainable receipts of capital. Real success is founded in balance, not entitlement. I do fear that while the notion of financial inclusion is one that is welcomed by many, it is not being fairly executed by all. But in a post-pandemic economy, every business should be entitled to the fair and just opportunity to access the resources that they need to grow. We are dedicated and committed to this at The GFA Exchange by reducing risk for finance providers who seek to be more inclusive


 

This article was published in The Fintech Magazine Issue 25, Page 144-145

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