Lab Fellowship 2018-19: why data?

There’s just one week left to apply for Lab Fellowship 2018-19! This year’s theme is data – and we’re looking for data-driven financial innovations that put people and planet first. But why are we focusing on data?

Rapid transformation is underway in finance, and the collection, interpretation and use of data lies at the centre of this change. Over the course of 2018, the Lab has been working to understand the wider social risks that the data revolution in finance presents, and generate and support new ideas about how to harness the power of data in finance to help tackle our most urgent social and environmental challenges.

The data revolution in finance has been encouraged and enabled by new regulations and policies. Whilst the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) brought issues around personal data privacy and ethics to the public’s attention when it came into force in May, other areas of legislation are changing the rules and possibilities for the way financial services can access, share and use your data. Both the UK’s Open Banking Initiative and the EU’s PSD2 legislation came into effect in January. With your consent and the necessary authorisation, these new laws require financial institutions to literally ‘open up’ the financial data they hold about you to other service providers, paving the way for a whole range of new financial products and services.

In parallel, new technology is hugely expanding the possibilities of what financial services can offer to customers – and how. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, where machines learn how to think and act to achieve specific outcomes, are advancing at a rapid rate, and financial services are using them to automate processes, provide lending and investment advice, detect fraud and more. Likewise, digital platforms are being adopted to both offer new services and replace traditional channels. Many of these changes are already evident, from the rapid expansion of new digital-only challenger banks like Monzo, Starling and Revolut, the emergence of AI-powered investment platforms like Wealthify and Moneyfarm, and the plethora of other apps which provide advice, spending overviews and product recommendations to help you manage your money.

This year, we’ve worked with experts from banking, fintech, policymaking and civil society to explore the implications of these developments for building a financial system that serves people and planet. We’ve found that there are serious risks around consent, control, bias and exploitation. But it’s not all bad news. The data revolution offers a fantastic opportunity to put people back in control of finance and help build a more democratic, fair and responsible financial system. For further information, read our briefings on open banking and financial health and the ethical use of AI in finance.

To seize this opportunity, and stop the failings of the current financial system being replicated and reinforced through new technology, we need collaborative leadership and purpose-driven innovation. That’s why for Lab Fellowship 2018-19, we want to find and incubate the most exciting ideas, and promising innovators, that are working with data to achieve social or environmental outcomes. You might be supporting the transition to a sustainable economy, building financial capability and transforming the debt advice sector, increasing the diversity of leadership in finance, or something else entirely. If this sounds like you, apply for Lab Fellowship by 9am on Monday 5 November – and stand out as a purpose-driven leader in financial innovation.