Fujitsu has been working with the Financial Conduct Authority for over 14 years and it’s always a pleasure to support their drive for innovation. The FCA regularly hosts TechSprints that are aligned to their mission – to ensure the market integrity for financial services, protect consumers or to promote competition.
Last week I was proud and very humbled to have the opportunity to actively participate in its most recent TechSprint on Women’s Economic Empowerment – a four day virtual event that brought together mostly female experts from the regulatory sector as well as, financial services, technology and data – the FCA together with Banks and suppliers co-creating together.
The objective was to find solutions to issues that have been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic or where women have been disproportionately affected, and to empower them by exploring innovation to increase their financial inclusion, resilience and access.
Prior experience shows that pandemics have far reaching gendered implications which exploit and entrench pre-existing norms and inequalities. Sadly, these range from violence against women to proportionately impacting women’s finances and restricting women’s engagement in the workplace.
As Fujitsu’s Account Executive for the FCA I was very grateful to eight of my colleagues from across the business who volunteered – Mausam Mistri, Rebecca O’Keefe, Kevin Foulger, Leyla Yaltiligil, Nathalie Gingell, Alice Levitt, Giorgia Monaco and Nichola Richards, who helped to form a total of nine teams that worked on four use cases:
- UC1 How can innovation support the secure identification and sharing of traditional and non-traditional data in order to form a holistic view of a woman who has been locked out or disenfranchised?
- UC2 – How can we create a reliable and secure attestation of identity and/or creditworthiness for women who are underbanked or locked out?
- UC3 – How can market participants access the secure attestation without compromising privacy and security?
- UC4 – How can technology help women understand and manage their finances during periods of uncertainty or change to support their future financial resilience and security?
Listening to the teams present their solutions on the last day, brought home the very reality of the challenges facing women.
It’s well documented that during this pandemic domestic abuse has grown exponentially leaving more women vulnerable to abusive partners. Literally while the TechSprint was taking place, the BBC reported that the average number of monthly contacts captured by Refuge has risen by 60% between April 2020 and February 2021.
But there are 30 million citizens in the UK who share joint bank accounts with partners, yet it’s not so well known that one in five women in the UK has also experienced economic abuse, a form of psychological abuse where joint accounts can be used by abusers to coerce and control their victims. Financial confidence and personal vulnerabilities are often the biggest barriers to doing something about domestic abuse as it’s easy to be anxious, suspicious or ashamed of personal finances.
Joint money can be withdrawn, any debts or overdrafts are jointly owned which in turn affects individual credit scores, making it harder for victims to escape. They are scared to leave and are worried about the basics such as paying for food, looking after children or having somewhere to stay. For those that do manage to leave, it can take several years to re-establish a new identity, independence and access to services.
In answering these challenges, the prototypes the teams came up with were literally awe-inspiring. Among others, solutions included designing a bank account specifically for women, data analysis on payments that can be used to identify coercive behaviour and notifications, and simple access to an app on a mobile phone that could enable vulnerable women to have control of their own data and rebuild their identity where they may have been forced to flee leaving everything.
Organised against the backdrop from UN Women that women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes, the event will achieve much to broaden the understanding of the importance women’s economic empowerment, the importance of diverse teams and the use of technology to solve major societal issues.
Congratulations to the Fujitsu participants for getting involved and for being true Fujitsu ambassadors. As part of the FCA’s ongoing commitment to innovation and collaboration you can read their research from previous TechSprints, published last March 2020 here. There is also a short summary video here.
For further advice for victims of domestic abuse there is a free 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Hotline Tel: 0808 2000 247 or see Nationaldahelpline.org.uk #YouAreNotAlone
Gary has held a number of senior delivery and client leadership positions across the full range of Fujitsu’s services and is a respected leader within Fujitsu’s Public Sector team.
Since joining Fujitsu in 1997, he has led a number of major transformations including large infrastructure, Cloud and IdAM, telephony and networking implementations -across both public and private sectors.