The word “unprecedented” has been used a lot in recent weeks by various authors to speak of the ongoing pandemic – and it is rather appropriate. In the UK at least, we have not experienced any comparable national memory crisis or event. We are in uncharted territory and, as a nation, we must work together to smooth the infection curve and reduce the pressure on our NHS.
While the coming months seem difficult for business owners, the first indications suggest that the situation is slightly rosier for many fintechs. For example, DeVere reported a 72% increase in usage and, staggeringly, the British startup Glint App recorded a 718% increase in purchases of gold online. Business is booming and it seems that financial technology companies, far from being in trouble, may well be one of the few types of businesses to come out of the pandemic in a better position.
Given all of this, I would go so far as to say that it is the duty of financial technology companies to examine how we can better support other companies in the difficult months to come. Naturally, business owners are in distress due to the economic slowdown in recent weeks. In particular, the self-employed will need advice and the time has come for the fintechs to step up. Here are some ways fintechs could help:
Continue to employ contractors
Times are decidedly difficult and the argument for cutting costs would make sense under normal circumstances. However, if your bottom line is not in immediate danger, why not continue to give work to the entrepreneurs already in your employ and ensure that important projects continue?
With millions of people at risk of falling into the government's safety net and just under a million people applying for universal credit in the last two weeks of March, you could save them a lot of heartache and stress, while relieving the pressure of an overworked benefit system.
Realize the benefits of remote working
Unless you are running a hospital, supermarket, or other business that requires in-person work, your team should already be working remotely. Once the initial disturbance is gone, are there any positive sides to continuing with the new normal? You could say yes – meetings tend to be shorter and the overhead costs of keeping the building open will be lower or nonexistent.
Instead of letting go
The government has deployed a new aid package for businesses to eliminate the need to let go of their staff. If your business has dropped or stopped completely due to coronavirus, the government has provided you with the means to continue paying your employees.
Be a great example of using technology to find solutions
If you're the CEO of a fintech, chances are you already know your way VPN and Zoom. Do not assume that everyone is as informed as you are and be ready to share your knowledge with other companies that are just getting started.
Consider payment holidays
If you offer a subscription service to businesses, entrepreneurs or the self-employed, ask yourself if you can offer troubled customers a break in payments for a few months. After all, if your client goes bankrupt, he won't be able to pay you anyway, in which case no one will win.
Use your influence to make changes
If you run a successful business, you can be a powerful voice to help others. Consider contacting your local Member of Parliament to lobby on behalf of businesses and the self-employed, in your area and beyond. You can also team up with other companies in your network and talk together. We need a better deal for those at risk of falling through the cracks, because when it comes to a national emergency like the one we are going through, we are really all together.
Darren Fell is CEO and founder of Chew