The Finance Innovation Lab was born in the Great Hall of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2008, in the heart of the city of London to the sound of pouring rain.
It was launched in the wake of the largest financial crisis since the great depression, two weeks before Christmas. Our two very different organisations came together to host a joint event asking the question ‘how can we create a financial system that sustains people and planet?’
An email arrived from WWF. They suggested the event should be hosted in the style of a Native American Pow Wow and despite a somewhat fraught email exchange, on the day participants walked into a room with an eight foot tall totem pole in one corner, an Easter Island head in the other and the sound of pouring rain booming over the AV system.
ICAEW invited their stakeholders; accountants, financiers, the business community. WWF invited theirs; environmental activists, civil society and the responsible investment community. Despite the bizarre spectacle, we had brought together people who don’t normally meet each other, to talk about things the cared deeply about and the energy generated in that room showed us it was a conversation that wanted to continue.
We invited participants to take part in three subsequent scenario planning workshops with Oxford University, looking at the future of finance, momentum built and over time we hosted more and more events, asking participants to call out areas of innovation within the financial system that they believed could bring about large scale. We asked them to cluster around the ideas that inspired them and turned the best ones into projects, securing funding and resources. Many of these failed, but some of them flew. The Natural Capital Coalition, now a multi-million dollar programme looking at business’ impact on the environment and works with stakeholders including big accounting firms and The World Bank amongst others, was born at a Lab event. We convened the CEOs of the peer to peer lending market and the Treasury announced a change in regulation for the industry, at one of our events.
We always took an experimental approach. Trying new things and partnering with a range of people and organisations across the system. Each experiment helped us to decipher where we could add value and we refined our strategy to reflect that. Today the Lab looks quite different. We work across the system with pioneers, advocates and intrepreneurs in mainstream finance. You can read more about our work in the projects section of this website and download a copy of our new prospectus here.