The Lab in 2018 – and a taste of what’s to come

Our CEO, Anna Laycock, reviews the Lab’s progress in 2018 and introduces exciting new developments for 2019.

Our work in 2018

What a year it’s been! In 2018 the Lab team grew to five, our reach expanded, our voice grew stronger, and our community of changemakers increased their disruptive influence on the financial system.

Innovation is still the heart of our work, and in 2018 our support for purpose-driven entrepreneurs stepped up a gear, as we held ideation workshops across the UK, led by our Head of Programmes, Marloes Nicholls. We worked with the Ada Lovelace Institute, Fair by Design, Climate Safe Lending and the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose to host events on AI, the poverty premium, sustainability and the inclusive economy. Each event was fully subscribed, attracted new audiences to the Lab’s mission, and generated a range of ideas for harnessing the power of finance to serve people and planet.

Building on these workshops and  the ‘outstanding success’ of our 2017 Financial Health Fellowship, in October we launched Lab Fellowship 2018-19, focused on the theme of data. We received a record number of applications, and in December we announced the 16 pioneers we’ll be incubating over the course of 2019. It’s going to be an exciting year!

We continue to support our previous Fellowship cohorts and in May this year, Naomi Alexander Naidoo joined us as Community Manager to nurture the wider network of changemakers building a democratic, responsible and fair financial system. After extensive research with existing community members, Naomi is crafting a new strategy for growing and strengthening this community of practice, which we’ll roll out in 2019. A key early initiative in this work is our Women in Financial Innovation network, which enables women to share the barriers they face in the sector and collaborate around opportunities to change the gender balance in finance.

In 2018 we were also joined by Rose O’Donnell, our Team Coordinator, and Lydia Hascott, our Head of Intrapreneurship, who is leading the development of our work with professionals seeking to change finance from the inside out. In support of this work, in early 2018 the Lab agreed to host Finance Matters, a London-based community putting sustainability at the heart of finance. At the end of 2018 we held our first Finance Matters meet-up, attracting attendees from a range of professions to network and explore opportunities to work with the Lab.

Our systemic approach means we also convene and advocate around factors that enable or prevent positive change in finance. In the spring, we held two roundtables for business, academia and civil society on ethical AI and Open Banking and financial health. The latter led to a partnership with the Open Banking Implementation Entity to host the Open Banking Convention and co-design the Consumer Manifesto for Open Banking, which aims to put the real needs of people at the heart of fintech.

In July we launched our groundbreaking report The Regulatory Compass: towards a purpose-driven approach to financial regulation, which argued that regulators need new mandates, rooted in democratic consultation; a mindset that embraces fully human-centred regulation; and new metrics that assess how well the financial system is fulfilling its ultimate purpose. The report rapidly gained traction with policymakers, academics and values-based banks in the UK and beyond, and we’ve been excited to see regulators acting in line with a number of our recommendations, such as focusing on the role of purpose in driving customer outcomes and offering dedicated support to start-ups focused on sustainability.

Our work to embed sustainability in finance also took a step forward with the launch of the Chartered Banker Institute’s Green Finance Certificate, the world’s first professional qualification in green finance, for which the Lab developed the core materials. The qualification has already proven to be extremely popular, enabling banking professionals across the world to learn how they can put social purpose and environmental impact at the heart of their work.

Our international reach was strengthened in 2018 when we joined the Climate Safe Lending network, which seeks to align European and North American bank lending with the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. The Lab team is working across the network to maximise its impact, serving on the overall Design Team and supporting the City Finance Lab and Climate Finance Solutions Lab initiatives. 2018 also saw us teaching social bankers from across Europe at the Institute for Social Banking Summer School and MBA candidates at Said Business School.

Throughout the year we spoke at industry events ranging from the FT Climate Finance Summit and Innovate Finance Global Summit to the launch of Economy’s Doing Economics Differently report and the Centre for Responsible Credit’s Redesigning Financial Services conference. We took our message on purpose-driven innovation and financial systems change to the launch of Nationwide Ventures, the RBS board sustainability committee and Barclays’ Financial Institutions Group, among others. Coverage achieved during the year includes Stanford Social Innovation Review, FT Adviser, Wired, Pioneers Post and Prospect.

Finally, we offered our time and insight to a range of organisations and initiatives, including co-designing and judging the Teamspirit #forthebetter award, judging the RSA Student Design Awards and Young Banker of the Year, teaching OnPurpose CEO Programme participants about systems change, and joining advisory groups for Toynbee Hall, Gingerbread, Future of Good, Fair by Design, and Investing in a Just Transition at the Grantham Research Institute.


What’s planned for 2019?

Over the course of the next year we’ll take our 16 Fellows through a nine-month programme to develop their purpose-driven business skills, leadership capability and network of support, and we’ll share the lessons we learn about the responsible use of data in finance along the way. We’ll also be exploring ways to bring to reality the concepts generated in our ideation workshops, and we’ll share our insights on co-design in a new practice guide for fintechs and civil society.

As we develop our approach to intrapreneurship, we’ll be testing and refining our offer to financial professionals, with a focus on identifying how the Lab can support individuals to lead purpose-driven innovation and catalyse transformation in their organisations. We’ll share our learning about the ways in which intrapreneurs can have a wider systemic impact – and the role the Lab can play in enabling that.

We’ll also be launching our new community of practice, offering a variety of ways for innovators, intrapreneurs, advocates and policymakers to support each other in working towards a financial system that serves people and planet. If you’d like to find out more and get involved, please get in touch with Naomi at

And finally…

As our work grows, so do our governance, leadership and operational needs. So early in 2019 we’ll be recruiting for three exciting new roles:

  • Chief Operating Officer (full time, permanent)
  • Trustees (voluntary)
  • Vice-chair of the board (voluntary).

We’ll launch our recruitment drive in the week of 7 January – if you’d like to be notified when we post details of the vacancies or if you’d like to recommend candidates for the posts, please email

The Lab is only as strong as its community of participants, collaborators and supporters – we couldn’t achieve anything without you. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made this year, but we also know that the journey to a financial system that serves people and planet is long and challenging. Thank you for all of your help so far – let’s power ahead in 2019!