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To get Britain growing, we must back digital payments innovation

4 min read Partner content

The UK’s success will depend on its ability to achieve sustainable long-term growth, raise productivity, and create prosperity across the board, Mastercard's Kelly Devine, President, UK & Ireland tells PoliticsHome.

Kelly Devine, President, UK & Ireland, Mastercard
Kelly Devine, President, UK & Ireland

The historic strength of the UK economy has been in its adaptability. Coming up with dynamic responses to changing conditions has kept us competitive and generated jobs and growth. But the challenges the economy faces now are greater and more complex than we have seen in generations. 

We welcome the broad political consensus that technology and innovation is the foundation of the UK’s future economy and growth. We’d like to see this translate into policies that support digital payments innovation. This technology can help grow the UK economy sustainably, as well as create opportunities and prosperity for the people and businesses who need it most.  

Digital technology brings huge opportunities. Through innovation we can help people build their skills to be part of tomorrow’s workforce, improve their life opportunities and resilience, boost businesses of all sizes, increase productivity, trade, and exports, support the transition to net zero, and make the UK more competitive and productive.

At the same time, new technologies bring challenges. Some people may be unable to keep up with the pace of digitisation across key areas of their everyday lives, like paying their utility bills or having secure and easy access to welfare disbursements. And the skills people are currently developing in education or early careers may not be sufficient to secure good jobs or build a meaningful career in the future.

Policy around technology needs to be not just about fostering innovation, but also about how we ensure that innovation is inclusive.

The UK's payments industry has been an engine of innovation for the past two decades, helping to keep everyday payments flowing and giving consumers more choice than ever, helping businesses grow and trade across borders securely, boosting trade and exports, and enabling governments to distribute payments quickly and securely. The UK has pioneered account-to-account faster payments, contactless and open banking. Home-grown fintechs are transforming finance, helping underserved groups, entrepreneurs, and business owners, bringing them into the financial fold and helping them grow; as well as powering the shift to more conscious and sustainable consumption and supporting our transition to net zero. 

At Mastercard, we see first-hand how these innovations keep the UK economy moving and can support long-term growth. And so, we’re calling on policymakers across the political spectrum to back the UK’s world-leading digital payments technology sector – and help it boost growth that creates opportunities and gives everyone a stake in the economy.

We’ve launched Get Britain Growing, a policy programme bringing in some of the UK’s most innovative businesses and thinkers. Algbra, CleverCards, Hi, The Financial Inclusion Commission, and the RSA, have all provided their valuable insights for our first paper.

Girl and aunt looking at screen

Together, we have set out a range of recommendations for policymakers and regulators to consider. And there is a significant role for the government to play.

Firstly, government should lead by example in being a champion for, and adopter of, digital payments technology and innovation. This includes prepaid cards or account to account payments for welfare disbursements, which can help people who are vulnerable and excluded to access financial services and build their financial capabilities and resilience.

It should prioritise inclusion by setting up a National Financial Inclusion Strategy. This would improve access to financial services and products for under-served communities, alongside a national digital up-skilling programme.

We’d also like to see the government invest more in improving digital and financial literacy in tandem, with a focus on minority communities who don’t have the same access to literacy programmes as white communities.

And it should create the right regulatory framework for digital payments technology and innovation. This could be by creating a regulatory sandbox focused on innovation for excluded and underserved customers, or by encouraging investment in emerging innovations.

We’ll be publishing a series of policy papers this year, looking at the specifics of how digital payments technology and innovation can truly get Britain growing. Although the challenge is huge, so are the opportunities.

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Read the most recent article written by Mastercard - Creating prosperity and growth: the importance of innovation in the UK economy

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