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How fintech start-ups are driving the ethical finance revolution

The average UK consumer has a lot going on right now – with the cost-of-living crunch, rising inflation and eye-watering prices, focusing on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities of the companies they use to manage their finances may just be the last thing on their mind.

But does being ‘ethical’ mean having to compromise? Some fintech start-ups don’t think so.

Broadly speaking, ‘ethical finance’ refers to selecting firms or services that focus on doing good for the planet and society – in line with ESG investing and being “socially responsible”. With climate change on the rise, recent years have seen these terms gain more spotlight in news and discussions.

Fintech start-ups have taken to the trend as well, with a number of ethical fintech start-ups cropping up across the globe.

FinTech Futures spoke to some of these fintech companies operating in the UK to learn more about their modus operandi and why they believe ethical finance is the way forward.

Ethical banking

One fintech which brands itself as an ‘ethical challenger’ is Algbra. For the start-up, ethical finance is built not only within its product offerings, but also in the way it operates as an organisation.

Algbra has built its own values and ethics policy, which boils down to using customer funds in a positive way, and not investing them in industries that carry a negative impact on society – for example – tobacco and gambling.

“We make all our key partners sign up to that values and ethics policy,” says Fizel Nejabat, Algbra’s co-founder and COO. “So what that means from a customer perspective, is when you’ve got your money with Algbra, as opposed to a high street bank, know that your money isn’t contributing to any of those industries.

“And for a lot of people that peace of mind is extremely important and lacking in our climate.”

The challenger is also Shariah-compliant, catering to underserved Muslims in the UK, and also offers carbon offsetting on its mobile app. In the next few weeks, it will also be launching a new donation feature which will allow users to donate to up to 100 different charities straight from the app.

Founded in 2020 and based in London, the challenger launched towards the end of 2022 after around 18 months of development.

“The main thing we spent a lot of time working on is making sure that we can choose the right partners to work with to be able to say we’re not funding or we’re not getting involved in any other institutions that might lend your money out to unethical industries,” Nejabat explains.

“That was tough. It wasn’t just a matter of contracting, we had to build out a whole new set of technology to make that happen.

“But it’s technology that gives us the flexibility to choose who we work with and how we work with them and therefore it is providing the cast iron guarantee in that respect.”

Bringing the ethical to debt resolution

Founded in 2019 and headquartered in London, Ophelos describes itself as “a new kind of debt resolution company, one with a social purpose and mission – putting people and their well-being first”.

Amon Ghaiumy, co-founder and CEO of Ophelos, believes there is a huge void in the debt collection industry, with little to no innovation seen in the past 20 years.

“In my previous roles, I saw first-hand how underinvested and underdeveloped debt collection departments and agencies are,” Ghaiumy remarks, “and how much strain that caused to customers who were in debt, and who are oftentimes facing the most difficult of situations”.

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