Business with Values: The Rise of Socially Responsible FinTech
By Paresh Davdra, Co-founder & CEO of RationalFX & Xendpay
The rise of FinTech has significantly altered the financial industry in the last decade. The disruptive nature of FinTech stems from the fact that its unique selling point is the use of innovative technology to enhance the lives of its customers. From mobile payments to crowdfunding platforms to new e-commerce systems, FinTech companies reflect the needs of a new generation of consumers who are looking for an easy to use service whether they are at home or on the move. It is perhaps not surprising then to note the incredible opportunity that exists for FinTech companies that allows them to pursue more than profit, and look to social responsibility as a key part of their model.
The importance of social responsibility for FinTech is intimately connected to the relationship between their audience – a new generation spanning millennials in their twenties and early thirties, and the students that will succeed them- aligned with their social conscience. This is a generation that has grown up with an awareness of issues for sustainability, social responsibility and the desire to make consumer decisions based on values. As a result, it is essential for FinTech companies to align themselves with their socially responsible audience.
This commitment to social responsibility is often reflected in the way that FinTech companies are able to do business. One sector in which this is most clear is in the payments industry. Payments have become instantaneous with the advancement of technologies; with industries such as online international payments having been able to emerge with the growth of FinTech. Whilst the business and consumer application has been a clear success with the proliferation of companies within the sector, a socially responsible aspect has also appeared through the way remittances are sent.
Remittances and the transfer of money between communities across the world has benefitted immensely from the FinTech revolution, with the number of remittances to developing countries growing by 51% to $445billion between 2007 and 2016. It is clear that the availability of improved financial technology has contributed a great deal to this, with accessible mobile wallets and payment systems, such as allowing families in developing countries to receive funds from their loved ones faster than ever.
For the companies that offer these services, a sense of social responsibility is essential for the running of the business – they need to have an awareness of the needs and resources of communities in the developing countries they are serving. That is why apps will often be low cost and offer simplified functionality, designed to run on phones without access to super-fast connectivity. Furthermore, socially responsible FinTech has enabled the democratisation of remittances, allowing users to lessen the financial impact of heavy taxation in place when using money transfer services in certain countries or unreliable methods of transfer, and ensure that as much money as possible reaches its intended recipient. Some payment companies have even built their business model around the concept of responsibility and sustainability, waiving mandatory fees or commission to make sure communities benefit the most from transfers.
Xendpay is one such FinTech company, which has used its socially responsible ethos to offer families free money transfers around the pay-day period. By eliminating extraneous fees and commissions that are typically part of the service that high street agents offer, FinTech companies such as XendPay are directly impacting on the development of these societies – with more money available for the recipients of remittances, there is more money available to go back into the economy of a developing nation, rather than into private hands.
Social responsibility has become a symbol of the disruptive power of FinTech, at a time when traditional banking systems are slower to innovate. It is how an industry of imaginative FinTech companies operating within remote and developing communities have been able to evolve and provide customers with a service that works for them. Recent developments have even seen FinTech companies expand beyond simply providing mobile apps for customers, as socially responsible and ethical investing are increasingly an important aspect for modern business.
Traditional businesses looking to emulate the disruptive success of FinTech should look to the value-based ethos of the companies as a template. The FinTech industry has many examples of the future of business – ethical initiatives with a strong sense of social responsibility to the customers and communities they serve. FinTech companies have been able to capture the lucrative millennial market not only because they offer convenient and accessible services, but because of the key role that social responsibility plays in their corporate identity.
FinTech businesses realise the power that strong values have to play in bringing them closer to their audience and that they have a responsibility to align themselves with charitable and good causes, social development and issues that both the business and their customers are passionate about. This is an ethos that businesses across all sectors can learn from.
 Sending Money Home: Contributing to the SDGs, one family at a time, IFAD, 2017