Joanna Finlay 2017 Winner

  • 22 February 2019
  • Young Banker of the Year

Joanna Finlay's experience of Young Banker of the Year

“I saw the potential for how this competition could enable us, together, to make a tangible difference.”

The problem Joanna identified

“The crux of the issue is that Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) regulations require banks to secure reliable evidence of someone’s name and address,” Joanna explains, “yet the circumstances of financially excluded people can mean that they struggle to prove where they live.” This might be because they are living with family, sofa-surfing or are housed in accommodation provided by a charity.

“These charities provide great support in rehabilitating previously homeless people,” she acknowledges, “but hit a wall when it comes to helping residents get a bank account, which is often the final piece of the jigsaw when it comes to getting a job, a home and moving on.” This means that there are people just below the threshold of financial inclusion who, with our help, could access banking, receive benefits or a salary, reduce their basic cost of living and have a chance to thrive.

The solution

Joanna’s winning idea was to provide a simple, practical solution to help unbanked people to prove where they live, pass Know Your Customer checks and access banking services.

Through talking to charities, hearing their perspective that the ID barrier is banks’ way of preventing unprofitable customers from accessing banking, and explaining the necessity to provide strong AML defences, Joanna identified a simple solution.

This involves establishing local partnerships with organisations that provide accommodation to previously homeless people and building a relationship of trust where they refer residents for bank accounts and institutions accept pre-approved ‘letters of introduction’ from them as proof of address, confident this will be accepted. “In doing so, we rebuild trust at a local level to improve access to banking,” she explains, “while also giving people a reason to trust our good intentions as an industry – a win-win!”.

Making a difference

“I heard about the competition in February when my sponsor, Andy Timlin, observed that the work I was doing in financial inclusion would be a good fit for the eligibility criteria,” Joanna recalls. “At first I was hesitant but when I heard that I might have the opportunity to present my idea to influential people across the industry, I saw the potential for how this could enable us, together, to make a tangible difference to the options for unbanked people.”

Rebuilding trust will not happen by chance, she stresses, but through very intentional and determined efforts to prove that we are working for the benefit of all. “The news is chock full of reasons to mistrust banks, cementing the view that profit is our only priority. So, we need to change the dialogue – and I wholeheartedly support the Chartered Banker Institute’s mission of ‘socially purposeful banking’ because that’s what’s really missing from the dialogue now: our relevance and commitment to enabling everyone to thrive,” she says.

For Joanna, the competition was about more than what one individual might achieve – though she admits it’s very exciting to have a trophy. “It was genuinely about the opportunity to take a stand for unbanked people and try to win support for a brighter future for them – and for all of us.” Trust won’t be rebuilt overnight – or even in a year – she highlights, but it is an honour to be a part of this movement of people who believe it will happen. “For my part, I hope to help eliminate financial exclusion in our lifetime,” she concludes.

Find out more about Young Banker of the Year 2019.