Innovation, skills and technology programme aims to futureproof Bath’s financial services firms

April 16, 2024

Bath’s financial services businesses are being encouraged to become more innovative through a pioneering programme launched this week.

The pilot project, which is supported by a number of key tech organisations and businesses in the region, aims to get firms in the sector to adopt new technologies, strategies and processes. 

As a result, they will then be able to unlock more effective product and service design, increase their productivity and profitability, attract and retain new talent and clients and become more sustainable and inclusive.

Called ‘Future Finance’, the programme will also aim to address the productivity gap between London – which is already at the epicentre of global fintech disruption – and the UK’s regions with emerging or established financial services ecosystems, such as the West of England.

The universities of Bristol and the West of England (UWE Bristol) have teamed up with Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian universities on the programme and are also collaborating with the acclaimed University of Bath-backed SETsquared incubator, FinTech West, the advisory body for the region’s burgeoning fintech industry, and a number of prominent industry partners.

Businesses taking part include NatWest, ‘big four’ accountants Deloitte, Bristol-headquartered national law firm Burges Salmon and Hargreaves Lansdown, the Bristol-based investment platform.

Initially taking place in Bath, Bristol and Glasgow, Future Finance will be rolled out to other financial services clusters across the UK later this year. 

The programme will tackle issues ranging from the rise of AI to ongoing changes in financial regulation, from equitable access to financial services to the opening of access to personal financial data.

It will also explore barriers faced by individuals such as poor credit records, lack of digital capabilities and skills and minimal awareness of available services.

Through collaborations with communities, financial services and technology providers, it is hoped Future Finance will lead to new bespoke products and services to support access for the underserved.

James Berry, pictured, CEO of Great Western Credit Union, which gives access to affordable loans to individuals at risk of financial exclusion across the West of England, said: “We have partnered with Future Finance as we believe collaboration across the financial services sector to improve financial outcomes for people is vitally important. 

“With so many families across our region struggling financially and many in financially vulnerable circumstances, it’s more important than ever that businesses of all types that have an interest in this area come together to benefit from the opportunities the partnership will bring and ultimately make sure finance truly works for good, to improve people’s lives.”

Future Finance will also include ‘accelerator’-style support for financial service organisations or fintechs.

Businesses taking part will be able to access free advice in areas such as IP, investment, financial regulation and product development, alongside an initial offering of training programmes in change management, innovation readiness, and leadership.

Future Finance will also provide the opportunity for regular networking events to spark discussion and collaboration with fintechs and technology providers. 

Alongside this, a team of academic and industry collaborators will investigate the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, providing opportunities for businesses in the accelerator to access research and ensure their support measures meet the needs of the community.

University of Bristol chair in Personal Finance Prof Sharon Collard said lack of access to financial services for sections of the community and geographical areas in the UK was extremely damaging.

“In rural areas and smaller towns, it’s getting harder and harder to access physical banking and financial services,” she added.

“This affects the most vulnerable in our communities, limiting their ability to save, invest and access credit and ultimately break out of poverty cycles.

“The opportunity to address these challenges through this programme is incredibly exciting.”

SETsquared interim executive director Marty Reid, pictured, urged financial services businesses to get involved.

“It’s always hard to find the time to engage in additional activities, but this programme could transform the way you work, and there’s funding available to get involved at the very first stage,” he said.

“We’re excited about the potential to roll this out across the UK, as the impact extends not only to the companies it will support but also to improving and opening up access to financial services to the end user.”

Financial services companies interested in getting involved can register at

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