Building Sustainable and Inclusive Fintech Ecosystems – Powered by Design Thinking

By Ingrid Vasiliu-Feltes, MD MBA Futurist, Globalist & Chief Ethics Officer

 

Background

Building sustainable and inclusive Fintech Ecosystems represents a crucial and integral part of a robust global digital economy.

Sustainability and Inclusion have gained tremendous traction over the past years and have gradually advanced towards the top of the agenda for many governments, policy makers and business leaders worldwide.

As outlined at the Davos 2020 meeting financial inclusion is a key driver of economic development and can accelerate meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As highlighted at the Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy the creation of novel business models can also power a sustainable fintech industry and is considered a global imperative.

The World Bank and World Economic Forum have also dedicated resources and published recommendations that aim to provide solutions designed to reduce the financial divide, embrace financial inclusion and optimize financial literacy at a global level.

Blue and Green Fintech are considered mega-trends, have attracted increased investments over the past few years and have even coined new terminologies such as “Blue and Green Economies”.

Many of the emerging technologies can be highly instrumental in powering and advance the development of sustainable and inclusive fintech ecosystems. The strategy described in the EU Fintech Action Plan relies on latest technological advances such as AI, Blockchain, Big Data, IoT to support a framework of new policies, legislative initiatives and regulations that can accelerate building sustainable and inclusive finch ecosystems. 

 

Challenges

Lack of reliable, timely, standardized metrics and indicators, as well as the voluntary nature of most interventions and lack of accountability are some of the major challenges at a global level.

For the private industry, one additional major challenge is the intense pressure to focus on short term gains versus long term value creation and purpose. Sadly, some organizations have also been known to use sustainability and inclusion only as sophisticated public relations and media tools without the actual development of a robust strategy or failing to implement strategic roadmaps.

The current global socio-economic landscape has caused a loss of momentum or even a regression of previous positive trends in certain markets and will require amplified, cohesive efforts from all key stakeholders to recuperate the lost gains from the past decade.

 

Opportunities

New taxonomy, new technical standards, new treaties, new tax laws, new financial disclosure regulations and new guidelines for equity investments are only a few of the opportunities that could increases our success in redefining fintech ecosystems.  Increasing the speed, accrual and cohesiveness of data to measure impact, creating identifiers that directly correlate to suitability and inclusion are important drivers of success.

Complementary methods that can be deployed to optimize the value proposition for inclusive and sustainable investing are embedded and explicit portfolio allocation such as adding sustainability and inclusion clauses in the company’s charter, as well as designing multi-layered capital structures or forming public-private partnerships that can demand higher accountability in delivering the mission.

Additionally, some of the novel fintech mechanisms that have witnessed increased adoption during the pandemic impact might also contribute to bridging the digital and financial divide . Few examples include digital wallets, digital payments, neobanking, crowdfunding which are on the rise even in regions with low GDPs. The recently launched Swiss Green Fintech Network is a relevant use case and illustrates how key industry players, fintech companies, universities, think tanks and policy experts can collaborate in order to support and nurture green Fintech.

 

Solution

Design Thinking offers a unique approach that fosters creativity and can be used by all stakeholders when building Sustainable and Inclusive Fintech Ecosystems. Originally introduced by Tim Brown and Roger Martin, the concept of design thinking emphasizes consumer-centricity and design as a value creation. The seven foundational principles that define a design thinking methodology are uniquely suited to allow all stakeholders in the complex fintech ecosystem to contribute towards building a sustainable and inclusive model. Developing an in-depth understanding of the painpoints and perspectives of all stakeholders, by accurately defining the problems that need to be solved in order to achieve a sustainable and inclusive fintech ecosystem, through fostering a collaborative innovation mindset and engaging in rapid prototyping we can aim to optimize the current flaws in our existing fintech frameworks. By adopting a culture of continuous improvement at an enterprise level a design thinking approach can also ensure a dynamic adaption to any novel crisis or scientific advancements.

 

Future Direction

Further research and collaborative global knowledge sharing will be required to develop more accurate and standardized fintech sustainability and inclusion metrics, as well as enhanced methods to capture these real-time. Currently most indexes and tracking metrics are based on retrospective datasets and are often outdated by the time reports or indexes are being published. Deploying advanced artificial intelligence- and analytics tools can provide invaluable data that can be leveraged for designing timely interventions and dynamically adjust improvement strategies. Developing global standards that allow for a cohesive and harmonized approach instead of the current silos would also be desirable and could be achieved by deploying the continuous improvement mindset fostered by deploying a design thinking methodology.