The U.K.’s fintech’s response to the coronavirus pandemic so far might best be described as “move fast, [and] make things,” as multiple and sometimes impromptu teams roll out financial technology solutions to help combat the crisis.
Last month, I reported on “Covid Credit,” a project that saw dozens of volunteers from the wider U.K. fintech community build a working prototype to enable freelancers and sole traders to self-certify lost income, in a bid to help the government administer potential compensation.
Since then, a U.K. government grant scheme for self-employed has been announced, prompting employees at Countingup to build a handy “Coronavirus Calculator” that lets you see how much support you could be entitled to and help with financial planning.
Similarly, for U.K. companies — including startups — that need to furlough employees in a bid for survival, Pento’s team created a “Coronavirus Furlough HMRC Claim Calculator” to help you work out how much will be covered by the U.K. government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for each employee.
And just launched this morning, Starling Bank has rolled out the “Connected card,” a second debit card connected to your existing Starling current account that you can give out to friends, family and carers to shop on your behalf if you are self-isolating. Astutely, the card is protected with a balance limit of £200 and can be tracked and administered within the Starling mobile app.
Save My Local
Lastly comes a gigantic effort from another group of fintech volunteers designed to help save local businesses. Dubbed Save My Local, the free website aims to help local businesses generate much-needed cash flow by selling vouchers to loyal customers that can be used for future purchases.
A tweet from entrepreneur Jason Bates (11:FS, Starling, Monzo) inspired Mike Kelly (CEO of Curl.app) to take action and make the idea a reality. Within a week, a team of 20+ volunteers had formed and a first version of the product was “designed, built, and shipped; with businesses signed up and processing orders,” say the group.
The idea is that the vouchers will be redeemable when the coronavirus U.K. lockdown is over, and in the interim will enable small business owners to generate enough cash to stay afloat. Of course, for those purchasing vouchers, there is some risk that a business could still go bust, so it’s best to see this as a somewhat altruistic endeavour, even if in many instances it is a desperately needed one.
The Save My Local group say they are currently recruiting small businesses to test the free voucher platform and if successful can scale to meet demand. They have already had requests for collaboration from groups in Australia, Israel and other countries to see if the solution can be shared more broadly.