On Thursday (6th July) Chris tabled a debate in the House of Lords about what role financial technologies (fintech) can play in promoting financial inclusion. Specifically he asked “Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote financial inclusion through the use of innovative financial solutions and new technology, including open access to payment infrastructure, smart phone applications and distributed ledger technology.” During his speech he explained why he was interested in both fintech and inclusion and called on the Government to commit to various actions.
“Why am I interested in fintech? I am interested because it is innovative and disruptive and has the potential to address some of the issues that have dogged our society for decades, not least the inability for SMEs to have consistent and timely lines of credit. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that so many hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, of our fellow citizens have been effectively locked out by being underbanked or unbanked. There has been no real sense that pressure has been put on, or desire felt by, the major financial institutions to lend to SMEs or address questions around the underbanked and unbanked of our society.
Why am I interested in inclusion? This goes right back to the beginning for me. It seems extraordinary that everybody would not be interested in how we enable and empower every single member of our society to play their part and to be fulfilled in whatever field they want. Financial inclusion is critical to this. When we set it alongside digital inclusion, we have two of the most significant building blocks that have to be so well set if we are going to address some of the most significant issues facing citizens in Britain right now.”
Chris went on to ask the Government to look at regulation and funding; by increasing the responsibilities of the Financial Conduct Authority and giving a specific responsibility for financial inclusion. He also asked if the Government would commit to at least equaling the support that the European Investment Bank has given for fintech once we leave the European Union. Chris also highlighted the incredible potential of some initiatives for distributing benefits the Department of Work and Pensions have been looking at. “We have had some great proofs of concept, but we need this to get to scale and then we will truly see the impact and the difference that fintech can make in terms of financial inclusion.” In summing up Chris called on industry and Government to work together to ensure that fintech continues to thrive, continues to deliver and continues to be a great British enabler and a great British export, through and long beyond Brexit.
Read full text here.
Politics Home, Lord Holmes: Inclusive and well funded Fintech sector would be transformational for most vulnerable communities
Financial Inclusion Commission, Lord Holmes: Fin, Tech the Opportunity
Today (Thursday 6 July) Chris visited Inmarsat as part of his Industry and Parliament (IPT) Fellowship focusing on digital technology and innovation. This particular visit has enabled him to gain insight into how innovation and applications of new technology affect a range of sectors.
The UK Satellite operator Inmarsat is the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, delivering reliable voice and high-speed data communications to governments, enterprises and other organisations, with a range of services that can be used on land, at sea or in the air. Inmarsat owns and operates a fleet of thirteen geostationary telecommunications satellites, including four Global Xpress (GX) spacecraft, which together form the world’s first, globally available high-speed broadband service, based upon a $1.6bn investment by Inmarsat, . The visit took place at Inmarsat’s Old Street roundabout HQ.
During the visit Chris met with key members of Inmarsat including CEO Rupert Pearce who gave him an overview of Inmarsat, in particular highlighting the different channels and strategy behind the technology transition. With more than half of all mobile connections around the world now being ‘broadband’, it is becoming increasingly more important to have strong communications systems in place. Lord Holmes was able to gain insight into Inmarsat’s plethora of services, which cover a broad range of sectors including maritime, aviation, governments, first responders, Internet of Things (IoT) and a wide variety of other commercial enterprises.
A key highlight of the visit was a tour of the facilities which included the Network Operations Centre and Satellite Control Centre, where Chris saw how Inmarsat proactively manages its global data and voice services and met the team that ‘fly’ the company’s satellites.
The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill has been introduced in the House of Lords. The bill aims to make provision for establishing a new financial guidance body; funding of debt advice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and the regulation of claims management services. Chris spoke in the second reading on Wednesday July 5th where he welcomed the appointment of a Minister for Financial Inclusion (who had come to the House of Lords to listen to the debate!) This is the first time a Minister has been granted this specific responsibility and an important demonstration of leadership on the significant problem of financial exclusion. Turning specifically to the bill, Chris asked the government for more detail about how the new finance guidance body would be funded and how it would maintain it’s independence, including how it will exercise any public policy role, and also whether the bill was an opportunity to look again at addressing the problem of cold calling and scams. A particular area of concern for Chris is how financial institutions treat vulnerable customers. Using an illustration from a recent report into banking services for people with cancer, Chris described the problem people faced trying to get practical financial support from their banks following a cancer diagnosis. Chris asked the government to consider whether adding a statutory ‘duty of care’ responsibility to financial institutions would help address the problem. Read the full speech here.
Chris has been appointed to a new House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence or AI, is a topical issue, given the ongoing pace of technological advances and there are a number of interesting angles which the Committee might focus on, ranging from the rate of technological change, to economic and social issues, and even ethical issues. This will be an ad hoc Committee meaning its work will be conducted within one session of Parliament and a final report will be published by the end of March 2018.
A call for evidence has not yet be published but is likely to invite contributions on the following topics: • Pace of technological change • Relationship between developments in artificial intelligence and productivity growth; • Creation of new jobs; • Sectors and occupations most at threat from automation. • Economic and social issues • The role of Government in the event of widespread job displacement; • Further education and training, for both children and adults; • Unemployment support, including the case for a universal basic income; • Government funding for artificial intelligence-related research and development. • Ethical issues • The Government’s role in monitoring the safety and fairness of artificial intelligence; • Transparency around the use of ‘big data’; • Privacy rights of individuals; • General principles for the development and application of artificial intelligence.
The work of the Committee will build upon Chris’s areas of interest and expertise and he is delighted to have been appointed.
The State Opening of Parliament offers all members of Parliament an opportunity to submit their own ideas for new legislation, known as Private Members Bills. Today (21st June 2017) Chris submitted a private members bill that aims to limit any unpaid internships or work experience to four weeks. It will have its first reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday 27th June.
Chris strongly believes that if we are to secure the best possible future for our young people and access all the talent we must put an end to this practice of patronage. Unpaid internships grant access to professional networks and valuable work experience only those wealthy or lucky enough to be able to work for free.
The Sutton Trust has calculated the cost of working in an unpaid internship in London to be £1,000 per month. Estimates suggest there are up to 70,000 internships across the UK every year with the number up 50% since 2010.
Chris’s Private Members Bill aims to stop this widespread practice that entrenches privilege rather than identifying and enabling talent. The bill, should it become law, would provide much needed clarity to employers and strengthen the position of interns who are often too afraid to complain.
The fourth industrial revolution has seen advances in technology that are revolutionizing the world of work, yet one of the most striking aspects of the current employment landscape are work practices that belong in the past. Unpaid internships are one example; a divisive, anti-competitive product of the past that this bill hopes to consign to the past.
There have been attempts in the past to introduce a similar bill but Chris hopes that with increasing awareness of the issues and powerful campaigns by the Social Mobility Commission that the time might now be right for change in the law.