Home Resilience ‘Fairer Finance Hackathon’ winner targets local authorities

‘Fairer Finance Hackathon’ winner targets local authorities

Financial hardship: the hackathon's winning entry aims to prevent people getting into financial difficulties and help those already in difficulty to stabilise their financial position | Credit: Markus Steidle; Pixabay

The winner of a UK government-backed fintech hackathon to create a technological tool to help people with their finances is aiming to achieve take-up in local authorities across the UK – and potentially beyond.

A hackathon is an event during which participants, typically coders and developers, design and present innovative solutions to a particular challenge.

Finexos, a UK start-up formed in 2017, has been named winner of the ‘Fairer Finance Hackathon’, which was funded by a grant from non-departmental public body Innovate UK and launched in September. The hackathon was the brainchild of Richard Hallewell, co-founder and chief executive of CPRAS, a payments processing company.

Finexos emerged triumphant from a field of more than 20 entries, including participants from locations including Hong Kong, the Philippines and India. The company will now work with one local authority, as well as CPRAS, to test and launch the solution, which aims to prevent people getting into financial difficulties and help those already in difficulty to stabilise their financial position.

Solution uses APIs and machine learning

Finexos, whose name stands for ‘financial exodus’, described its winning solution as “a literal lifeline for so many disadvantaged people”.

The company’s founder and chief executive, Mark Fisher, told Global Government Fintech that the solution aims to “detect possible financial problems before they even start” by using open banking APIs (application programming interfaces) and machine learning. If a citizen has given permission for the tool to use their data, via so-called ‘open’ APIs, the tool learns about their spending habits, allocating a score to their ‘skill level’ in terms of managing their finances on a monthly basis while detecting issues that are causing them difficulties.

Finexos is working with an undisclosed local authority to further develop the tool, with the aim of launching it to citizens in the first quarter of 2021. The aim is then to target more local authorities.

“We see this partnership as a major step in the fight against financial inequality and high-interest debt, as Finexos was specifically created to meet this challenge,” said Fisher. “The social impact of this work is of huge importance.”

“It is more than an app – it’s an entire programme to help people exit debt safely, without an impact on their credit rating,” he added.

Winning entry has international ambitions

“We have the very real potential to break the high-cost credit cycle of debt and poverty that plagues millions of people here in the UK – and from there we hope to share the solution in many other countries around the world,” said CPRAS’s Hallewell.

The hackathon’s judging panel included Lord Holmes, who is co-chair of parliamentary groups on fintech, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’; Paul Maynard MP; and Peter Gibson MP.

Other parliamentarians who endorsed the hackathon included John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, who said: “I am pleased to see the power of the UK’s tech talent harnessed to tackle problem debt, poverty and the resulting mental-health issues. Innovative fintech solutions can play an important role in helping people take control of their finances and levelling-up our country.”

The government funding was awarded through an Innovate UK-managed competition entitled ‘Business-led innovation in response to global disruption’ through which more than 800 businesses were given funding. Other organisations contributed prizes to the hackathon.