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Women In Business: Q&A with Finance Innovation Lab

We are continuing our blog series focusing on inspiring women in business. In this month's blog post, we caught up with our London member Finance Innovation Lab.

by Sophie Bacon 8.4.2021  |  10 min read Coworking
Women In Business: Q&A with Finance Innovation Lab

1. Who are FIL and what do you do?

The Finance Innovation Lab is a financial systems-change charity, building power to transform the financial system for people and planet. We cultivate a community of systems-changemakers and work on initiatives that impact mental models and power dynamics in finance for deep, lasting change. Our work focuses on growing purpose-driven finance, shifting mainstream finance, influencing law, regulation and policy, and building our community.

2. What is in the pipeline for FIL over the next 12 months?

2021 is a very exciting year for the Lab. We started the year by launching our ambitious new strategy, which lays out our vision for finance, the values that guide our work, our theory of change, and the programmes that are going to make it happen. Major projects in the pipeline for this year include a Fellowship programme for bankers taking climate action within their financial institution, advocating to put people and planet at the heart of the data revolution in finance through our Transforming Data programme, and working on a new vision for finance post-Brexit and COVID-19 in collaboration with our Transforming Finance Network.

3. How do you envision the financial system looking in 10 years?

Our vision is a financial system that serves people and planet, one which is:

  • Democratic – a transparent and accountable financial system, where all people can participate in the rule-making and institutions that shape it.
  • Sustainable – a financial system that helps meet society’s long-term needs and supports human flourishing on a thriving planet.
  • Just – a financial system that promotes diversity and equality and protects human rights.
  • Resilient – a financial system that provides security and stability for all, and for the real economy.

By 2030 we want to see purpose-driven financial institutions become mainstream in the UK, with a significant proportion of the public using purpose-driven financial institutions which hold an important share of total assets. We want mainstream financial organisations to have aligned their core business activities to deliver a less than 1.5°C increase in global temperature – in line with the Paris Agreement – through financing a just and regenerative economy. And we want to see financial regulation, law, policy and industry standards support and oblige financial institutions to align to the Paris Agreement and just transition principles.

4. What has been your biggest achievement as a charity?

In 2016, we launched Lab Fellowship –  the world’s first incubator for purpose-driven financial innovators. Since then, we’ve run a total of three Fellowships, supporting 40 innovators who are shaping a different future for finance – one that’s democratic, sustainable, just and resilient. Fellows benefit from monthly business strategy sessions, peer coaching, specialist workshops, residential retreats, connections to an active community of systems-changemakers, a demo day like no other – and more.

Lab Fellowship has been judged by independent evaluators to be “an outstanding success” with impacts that “are likely to be ongoing, and considerable”. As a direct result of the programme, Fellows have secured major clients, received regulatory support, and featured in the press. Collectively, they have raised over £4m during or within six months of completing the programme.

We’re looking forward to building on the success of Fellowship to expand and adapt the model to different audiences of financial systems-changemakers in 2021 and beyond.

5. Why did you choose HubHub as your London base? And what do you like about the space?

We love HubHub’s bright, open space, variety of different seating and work areas, and amazing meeting, venue and catering facilities. The central London location is also perfect for us, as pre-COVID-19 our team were often out and about for meetings and events around London. We also really appreciate the kind, personal touch from the HubHub team who always go above and beyond to make us feel at home and take care of everything with the office so that we can focus on our work and mission.

Finally, as an organisation who believe firmly in the power of community, we love HubHub’s community ethos and commitment to cultivating a community within the space. We particularly enjoy sharing an office space with our friends at AI for Good and The B Team.

Team Questions

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at FIL.

Rebecca Sumner Smith: I’m the COO at the Lab, looking after the people, processes and resources which enable our work. This includes areas such as fundraising and finance, recruitment and organisational culture.

Marloes Nicholls: I’m the Lab’s Head of Programmes, leading our financial innovation research, advocacy, and incubation work. At the moment, I’m particularly focused on advocacy work to make the data revolution in finance work for people and planet. I recently authored Lifting the Lid on Fintech – a report looking at how technology is changing finance, the social and environmental risks this presents, and making recommendations to help realise fintech’s positive potential.

Lydia Hascott: I’m Head of Intrapreneurship at the Lab, leading our work with mainstream finance professionals to embed purposeful innovation within their organisations. This includes supporting intrapreneurs – changemakers within banking who are transforming their institutions from the inside out – and strategic partnerships with banks to shift their strategies and practices to align with climate and just transition goals.

Naomi Alexander Naidoo: I’m Head of Community and Communications at the Lab, building, supporting and connecting the Lab’s community of systems-changemakers and leading the Lab’s communications.

Yvonne Morris: I’m Operations Officer at the Lab, providing administrative, operational and organisational support to the Lab’s team, events and programmes.

Jesse Griffiths: I’m the Lab’s CEO, leading our strategy development and implementation, and engaging with our community and across the financial system to understand and support transformative change. I also support the brilliant team across the full range of our work.

2. What do you love about your job?

Rebecca Sumner Smith: the mission of the Lab is to provoke transformational change, and I love the fact that we apply this way of thinking to our internal work as well. Part of my role is to always ask the question: what kind of organisation do we want to see in the world, and what does that mean for the type of organisation we need to be? We put people and the planet at the centre of our answers to that question, which is as it should be – but not an approach I’ve seen applied that often in my career!

Marloes Nicholls: I came of age during the Global Financial Crisis, which opened my eyes to the broken financial system that lies at the root of so many social and environmental problems. I actually came across the Lab as a student activist. It has always been a space to make connections with amazing people trying to make finance serve people and planet. So, working at the Lab is a dream job for me. Every day I learn new things about finance and the economy and collaborate with people radically rethinking how money and finance could work. Hatching plans to shift such a powerful system, to ensure the future of finance is democratic, sustainable, and just, is a privilege and an incredibly exciting challenge.

Lydia Hascott: I used to think of the financial system as a super technical industry, all about the numbers and the money and something I didn’t really understand. Working at the Lab has shown me that finance is fundamentally a human system – humans made it and humans can change it. I love working at an organisation that asks why we even have banking and finance in the first place and answers that question with, ‘to help us as individuals, families and communities to thrive on a healthy planet’. With that as the starting point, I get to go to work every day and connect with banking professionals as humans who have families, personal values, hopes and fears. Together we get to figure out how they can use their day jobs to create this kind of financial system from the inside. It’s pretty mind-blowing that this kind of job exists really.

Naomi Alexander Naidoo: My favourite thing about my job is the amazing range of inspiring people I get to connect and interact with every day! The Lab community is made up of people and organisations across and beyond the financial system –  including fintech founders, civil society campaigners, finance professionals, thought leaders and more. All are working for positive change in finance, and all are united in their commitment to the Lab’s vision of a financial system that serves people and planet. Getting to speak to, learn about and from, and support people doing such exciting and important work is a real privilege.

Yvonne Morris: The thing I love most about my job is the way that I am inspired daily by the team of people that I work with. I have found a sense of purpose that motivates me in a way that no previous job has done. The challenges to building a fairer and more sustainable financial system could seem too formidable to take on, but the strength of resolve, optimism and thought leadership of the people at the Lab means that I feel a sense of achievement on a daily basis. The team has achieved so much whilst spread around the country during the past year, I can’t wait to see what happens when we can all come back together again!

Jesse Griffiths: I’m inspired daily by our mission: changing the financial system so that it serves people and planet. I’m fired up by understanding how far we are from this at the moment, with climate change, inequality and social deprivation all made worse by the financial system. I love working with our brilliant team and inspiring community who are constantly demonstrating how things could be different and showing how to create lasting change.

3. What does International Women’s Day and its ongoing impact mean to the FIL team?

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate all the amazing women in our team and community, and their successes, while also reflecting on what still needs to be done to achieve gender justice in finance and wider society. Feminism and gender equality are central to our vision of a democratic and just financial system, and we know we still have a long way to go.

We’re proud to convene the Women in Financial Innovation network of over 200 women leading systemic change in finance. On IWD we celebrate them while reaffirming our commitment to transform finance so it works for everyone.

4. Who or what inspires the team? And why.

We’re inspired by our incredible community of financial systems-changemakers, especially the women leading change.

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