Data-Driven Decisions — A Focus For Successful Covid-19 Recovery

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Smart Data Foundry paves the way for financial institutions to safely share data for societal and economic benefit.

Smart Data Foundry paves the way for financial institutions to safely share data for societal and economic benefit

Smart Data Foundry, formerly the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence, announced new partnerships with Equifax, Sage Group, Moneyhub and FreeAgent to support its mission to open finance for good.

Part of the University of Edinburgh and a collaboration with the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) and FinTech Scotland, Smart Data Foundry made the announcement as it introduces its new Chair, Dame Julia Unwin.

These organisations are the latest to join the open finance movement, spearheaded by Smart Data Foundry, which will see the secure sharing of financial data and trends with the specific purpose of achieving societal change and supporting the economy.

The announcement comes on the back of the successful pioneering partnership with NatWest Group, which has demonstrated the wider positive impact organisations can make through a trusted partnership with Smart Data Foundry.

Data for impact and change

The High Street bank shared de-identified data from over a million householders to provide a factual account of the impact of the pandemic on household finances, based on bank transactions. To protect customer rights and privacy, all of the data was de-identified and analysed by accredited researchers in the security of the Smart Data Foundry Safe Haven, operated by EPCC at the University of Edinburgh, a controlled and secure service environment for undertaking data research.

Smart Data Foundry is also working with Moneyhub, the award-winning financial wellness FinTech, which covers spending trends in the UK economy to help with research into the financial impacts on citizens due to the pandemic.

Today’s announcement will see Smart Data Foundry partnering with FreeAgent to focus on SMEs, working with Equifax to investigate changes in creditworthiness and with Sage, to consider the causes and impact of late and slow payments to small and medium sized businesses.  The insights will be shared and continually updated with the UK Government as financial behaviour adapts to the pandemic environment.

Collaboration, key to recovery and our future economy

Details of the ground-breaking partnerships were revealed as the organisation introduced its new chair, Dame Julia Unwin, a well-known senior leader committed to social justice. She was the Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for a decade until the end of 2016, and has had a long career working in government, within the corporate and voluntary sectors.

Commenting on the announcement, Smart Data Foundry’s Chair, Dame Julia said:

“We have started a movement within the financial services sector which is gaining momentum at pace. Driven by our purpose to improve people’s lives, our new name, Smart Data Foundry, better reflects the challenges we face.

“Today’s announcement charts the significant progress Smart Data Foundry has made to date in securing partnerships with these significant organisations which will enable us to unlock the power of financial data that, up until now, was not available for public purpose or common good. 

Dame Julia concludes:

“The science community has shown how important health data was to manage the pandemic. Our aim is to do the same for the economy by providing financial data.  However, our collaboration will reach beyond Open Finance as we look at other significant challenges such as climate data and the transition to net-zero, addressing the Poverty Premium and supporting the intersection of finance and health.”

David Sweeney, who leads the UK Research and Innovation Strength in Places Fund, also added:

“Collaboration and Innovation is key to the UK’s recovery from the pandemic, and Smart Data Foundry’s work with NatWest and others will help policymakers to better understand the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and potential policy responses to them, as governments across the UK work to build stronger, resilient economic recovery plans for this and to inform recovery from future pandemics.

“With this, its first project since being formed last year with support from UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund, Smart Data Foundry is showing how data led innovation and research can unlock the power of data as a force to tackle the biggest issues facing the country and the world. It’s also an example of the many economic and social benefits generated by universities such as the University of Edinburgh.”

Economics of Financial Technology

Edinburgh Futures Institute’s support of the Smart Data Foundry aligns with the work of the Institute across financial technology and services sectors led by Professor Gbenga Ibikunle, and is at the heart of the upcoming Economics of Financial Technology Conference in May.

Dame Julia Unwin, Smart Foundry Chair, will be a speaker at the inaugural conference, hosted by the Edinburgh Futures Institute and the Business School in Edinburgh. The three-day conference aims to stimulate debate and research on financial innovation and the digital economy and how they affect welfare. The conference will include keynote lectures from Dame Unwin, Professors Sanjiv Das and Brono Biais, and a policy-oriented panel discussion on how academic research can help accelerate innovation in the finance sector for societal benefit.

Economics of Financial Technology Conference, 11 May to 13 May 2022

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