#FHFELLOWSHIP: Meet the Fellows 2

In 2017, the Lab is partnering with anti-poverty charity Toynbee Hall to support the best innovations for improving financial health.

We’ve selected 13 Fellows working on projects that have the potential to support financial health, including flexible financing for new parents, an app that uses social gamification to encourage saving, a new financial model for social housing and a community bank for London.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be telling you more about all our Fellows. We’ve already posted a blog about Audrey, Maysam and Andres – read it here. This week we’re introducing Fionn, Laura and Sam…

Say hello to Fionn Travers-Smith and his project Greater London Mutual

After university my first break was as an intern at Move Your Money. As an economic determinist, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the economy and its impact on the world around me. I became interested in how institutions can drive and deliver structural change, and eventually came to run the campaign group myself. When the opportunity with Greater London Mutual came up, it felt like a natural progression to move from being someone who talks about and advocates creating social impact banks, to someone actually setting up and delivering them.

What is Greater London Mutual?

We’re building a full service, social impact retail bank. We offer access, inclusion, and bespoke products to the financially vulnerable, the underserved, and small businesses – as well as the general public at large. We call it “community benefit banking”.

We want to design, deliver, and evidence the sustainable provision of inclusive and socially impactful financial services, whilst offering a genuine and viable alternative to the mainstream banks that have neglected their social role for too long, and which have abused the trust and goodwill of the public too many times… We hope to be the first in a network of stakeholder banks across and throughout the UK. As a result, what we are aiming for is nothing short of transformational change to the very structure of the UK’s financial services industry – and of UK society as a consequence.

Why did you apply to be a Financial Health Fellow?

I’ve seen the impact it can have on both the business and the entrepreneur, as I’m friends with two former fellows who only have good things to say about the programme. I was also massively drawn to the curriculum and theme of this years fellowship, as financial health is so important to what we are trying to achieve at the GLM.

What do you need from the Lab community?

Honesty and a willingness to collaborate. I have things that I want to achieve with and through the Lab for the GLM – in particular, to hone and improve our financial health offering, to design our marketing strategy for the financially underserved, and to earn access to networks of investors. But none of this will be possible without genuine, open, and heartfelt collaboration across the whole Lab community. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter @fionntsmith.

If you could tell everyone in the world one thing, what would it be?

Be sceptical of those in authority, and confident in your own ability to improve the world around you.

Say hello to Laura McCullagh and her project St Luke’s Hub

I have always been driven to ‘do something good’ which has led me to a variety of professional and voluntary roles in different non-profit organisations – usually working directly with people who have somehow been excluded or marginalised.

Most recently I have been learning about the impact of money on people’s lives – how our financial attitudes and experiences can shape our values, hopes and ambitions, as well as our behaviours, relationships, health and well-being. I have seen the paralysing effects of financial stress, the crippling realities of welfare reform and misplaced shame experienced by people in debt. I spend a lot of my working life feeling helpless and hopeless, just like a lot of the people we are trying to help. That’s why I am so excited to join the Financial Health Fellowship! I am looking forward to meeting great people, having enlightening debates and generally feeling inspired and reignited with energy. I can’t wait to learn from the expertise and experiences of other fellows as we support each other to develop creative, positive and genuinely impactful contributions to financial health.

What is your project?

I am working with my colleague Sam to develop a sustainable community space, offering a range of opportunities and initiatives to improve the financial health of our local community in Kennington, Lambeth. Our approach is grounded on the principles of empowerment, trust and horizontal relationships. We want people to feel confident helping themselves and helping others around them who are struggling.

People in our community will feel strong in asserting their rights and accessing the financial services, products and opportunities they are entitled to. We will improve financial resilience and well-being on both an individual and collective level.

Why did you apply to be a Financial Health Fellow?

I want to learn more about the wider financial system and how it connects with small community initiatives such as ours, and about sustainable business models. Beyond learning, it’s an opportunity to engage with others in a stimulating, positive and inspiring environment and improve my own confidence and effectiveness as a leader in this area.

What makes you memorable?

My northern accent, plain talking, and healthy dose of skepticism. People often think I’m really shy but once you get to know me (and certainly after after a couple of hours in the pub) I am the complete opposite.

Say hello to Sam Grainge and his project Testudo

My journey started two years ago in Vauxhall’s uniquely idyllic Bonnington Square, studying the virtues of its housing co-operatives for my MA thesis. Two years later the thesis has evolved into Testudo.

Testudo is an off-the-shelf model for a new kind of bottom-up Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), that employs innovative approaches to building management and technology to enable longer-term capital finance for more affordable development, tenants to save and communities to flourish. Testudo will not only enhance affordability and cohesion for tenants, but improve the fundamental relationship between affordable housing and the open market.

How will Testudo support financial health?

Testudo provides tenants with a platform for accessing considerably reduced rent, and a liberating ability to transparently and securely save towards mortgage deposits, and eventual home ownership elsewhere.

This incentivises tenants to manage and maintain their accommodation like homeowners. The Testudo platform will enable tenants to easily raise and tick off maintenance issues as and when they occur, and provide a secure and transparent audit trail of tenant involvement to enable more attractive profiling for future mortgage lenders. This maximises the impact of its tenants’ savings and empowers them to achieve what is currently out of reach for many.

What are your hopes for the Financial Health Fellowship?

Success. Trustful dialogues with people within the financial industry that have otherwise been difficult to connect with. Connection to other like minded entrepreneurs of the Fellowship to nurture a culture of shared learning and momentum that we can all collectively develop stronger from. Having found the right support and direction, we need to find funding that will allow us to work full-time on Testudo’s development.

If you could tell everyone in the world one thing, what would it be?

Ask more questions.

Click here to read more about the 2017 Fellows.