Reaching the poor: The intractable nature of financial exclusion in the UK

Held on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.


  • Sir Hector Sants (Oliver Wyman & StepChange)

  • Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles (HSBC & Financial Inclusion Commission)

  • Mick McAteer (Financial Inclusion Centre)

  • Christine Allison (CSFI)



As you may know, the CSFI launched a new report just before the Christmas/New Year break, on poverty in the UK. Entitled Reaching the poor: The intractable nature of financial exclusion in the UK , it focuses on both the upside and downside of attempts to address the problem of financial exclusion:

  • The upside includes the very real progress that successive governments (of whatever stripe) have made – including introduction of basic bank accounts, support for credit unions and new regulations governing the high-cost short-term credit industry. It also includes the real possibility that technological innovation can reach parts of the low income population that conventional financial institutions cannot.
  • The downside is that, despite the best efforts of government, the Church, the voluntary sector and even think-tanks (like ourselves), the financially excluded are still with us – and are very likely to continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. Given immigration and language barriers, the growth of the “grey” economy and pressures on conventional finance providers the problem may well get worse before it gets better.

That said, there is no reason to give up. Addressing the problem of financial exclusion remains one of the biggest challenges for the financial sector – but it is also (dare I say it?) one of the biggest opportunities. If only we can find a way for financial firms “to do well by doing good” – but maybe that is too much to ask.

Whatever, I am delighted that we have been able to arrange a launch event for our report. And I am equally delighted that several of those who were involved in producing it have agreed to speak.

Our keynote speaker (who has agreed to speak at 7pm) is Sir Hector Sants, currently vice-chairman of Oliver Wyman and chairman of StepChange. As you know, he is a former chief executive of the (then) FSA. More relevant to our report (for which he contributed an important foreword), he chaired the Archbishop of Canterbury's Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings, which has led to creation of the Church Credit Champions and Just Finance Network.

In addition, three other important contributors to the report have agreed to say a few words:

  • Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles is currently senior advisor to the Chairman of HSBC. He is also chairman of the Financial Inclusion Commission and an ambassador for the Money Advice Trust.
  • Mick McAteer is co-founder of the Financial Inclusion Centre and chairman of the charity Z2K. He is a former board member of the FCA (FSA as was), chairman of the European Commission’s Financial Service User Group and member of CARITAS’s advisory board.
  • Christine Allison is the principal writer/editor of the report, and the CSFI’s Financial Inclusion Fellow. She a former senior manager at the World Bank, specialising in SME and micro-lending.