The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used a lot in recent weeks by different authors when talking about the ongoing pandemic - and it’s rather apt. In the UK at least, we have experienced no national crisis or event in living memory that compares. We are in uncharted territory, and as a nation are having to work together to flatten the curve of infection and lessen the pressure on our NHS.
While the coming months look to be challenging for business owners, early indications suggest that the picture is slightly rosier for a lot of fintechs. For example, DeVere reported a 72% increase in usage and, staggeringly, UK startup Glint App recorded a 718% increase in online gold purchases. Business is booming, and it seems that fintech companies, far from being in trouble, may well be one of the few kinds of business to emerge from the pandemic in a better position.
Given all of this, I would go so far as to say it is the duty of fintech companies to look at how we can best support other businesses through the difficult months ahead. Understandably, business owners are in distress due to the economic downturn of the last few weeks. In particular, the self-employed will need guidance and now is the time for fintechs to step up. Here are just a few ways in which fintechs could assist:
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Continue to employ contractors
Times are definitely tough and the argument to reduce costs would make sense in normal circumstances. However, if your bottom line is not in immediate jeopardy, why not continue to give work to the contractors already under your employment and ensure important projects continue?
With millions at risk of falling through the government’s safety net and just under a million people having applied for Universal Credit in the last two weeks of March, you could be saving them a lot of heartache and stress, as well as taking pressure off an already overburdened benefits system.
Realise the benefits of remote working
Unless you’re running a hospital, supermarket or other business that requires in-person working, you should already have your team working remotely. Once the initial disruption has subsided, are there any plus sides to continuing with the new normal? Arguably yes - meetings tend to be shorter and overheads connected with keeping a building open will be lower or even non-existent.
Furlough instead of letting go
The government has rolled out a new package of help for businesses to take away the need to let go of their staff. If your business activity has dropped or stopped completely due to the coronavirus, the government has provided means for you to continue paying your employees.
Be a great example of using tech to find solutions
If you’re the CEO of a fintech, chances are you already know your way around VPN (opens in new tab) and Zoom (opens in new tab). Don’t assume that everybody is as clued up as you and be willing to share your knowledge with other companies who may be just getting started.
Consider payment holidays
If you are providing a subscription service to businesses, contractors or self-employed people, consider whether you can offer struggling clients a break from payments for a few months. After all, if your client goes out of business, they won’t be able to pay you anyway, in which case nobody wins.
Use your clout to effect change
If you happen to be running a successful business, you can be a powerful voice to help others. Consider reaching out to your local MP to lobby on behalf of businesses and the self-employed, both in your area and beyond. You could also team up with other businesses in your network and speak up together. We need a better deal for those people in danger of falling through the cracks because when it comes to a national emergency such as the one we’re currently experiencing, we really are all in it together.
Darren Fell is CEO and founder of Crunch (opens in new tab)
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