New research will look at how to increase the financial inclusion of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

Fair4All Finance are partnering with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, NatWest Group and StepChange on new research into how ethnicity influences access to financial products and services in the UK.

The research aims to fill current gaps in understanding. It will explore practical short, medium and long term solutions to current inequalities, such as:

The goal is to show how financial services providers can be more inclusive of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The group will use the insights to enable the development of well designed and effective solutions. Ones that increase the financial inclusion of these communities.

Regulators, policymakers and people working in financial services will also be able to use the findings to inform their decisions on how to improve outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Joint funding from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Fair4All Finance and NatWest Group is in place. Fair4All Finance are now looking for a provider to conduct the research.

An advisory committee will support on the development of the research and share data led insights with the researchers. The committee is made up of practitioners across the financial services sector including:

Importantly, everyone involved is committed to taking the insights and recommendations forward. And to improving access to appropriate financial products and services for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Sacha Romanovitch OBE, CEO of Fair4All Finance said:

‘People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities face greater exclusion from the financial system. There are multiple issues in the entrenched design and behaviours in the system that contribute to this.

‘However there’s little research on the recent experiences of exclusion by ethnicity in the UK, the reasons behind these issues or how to address this exclusion. This research aims to change that.

‘We’re grateful to everyone who is collaborating with us on this important work, including our co-funders Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and NatWest Group. It’s great to have a major retail bank like NatWest stepping forward to take a lead in this research and we welcome others who want to play their part in achieving equity and inclusion in financial services.’

Ben Smith, Head of Social Investment at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation said:

‘We’re really pleased that the voices of those experiencing racial inequity will be at the heart of this research, which will go on to inform the changes needed for a fairer financial system. We have worked alongside Fair4AllFinance since its creation and are delighted that they are leading this important work’

Katie Murray, Chief Financial Officer at NatWest Group said:

‘Financial inclusion is at the very heart of our purpose, to champion potential so that the people, businesses and families we serve can rebuild and thrive.

‘In our 2020 report, Banking on Racial Equality, we made a number of commitments to our Black, Asian and minority ethnic customers, colleagues and communities, including understanding the socioeconomic barriers facing these communities through research and strategic partnerships, delivering enterprise and career education programmes, and building financial capability.

‘We’re proud to be collaborating on this important and unique research. We know there’s more we can and must do to remove barriers to finance, and this research will help us drive real, necessary change across NatWest Group and the finance industry.’

Peter Tutton, Head of Policy Research and Public Affairs at StepChange said:

‘StepChange Debt Charity is delighted to join Fair4All Finance, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and NatWest Group in this important project. We know that savings for a rainy day and access to affordable credit can make a crucial difference in helping people cope with income shocks and unexpected expenses, without becoming vulnerable to problem debt.

‘Our research on the financial impact of the covid pandemic shows that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have been among the hardest hit groups, with many facing financial uncertainty and problem debt. This demonstrates the urgent need for greater financial inclusion and resilience and we hope this research will highlight ways in which regulators, policymakers and people working in financial services can improve outcomes.’


Note to Editors

Filling current gaps in understanding

People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities face greater exclusion from the financial system. The headline data shows many specific disadvantages:

To properly address these disadvantages we first need to acknowledge that they exist and understand their underlying causes. Change happens when you understand and act on the underlying issues.

Research objectives

This research will build on the 2008 Runnymede report on Financial Inclusion and Ethnicity and follow the recommendations for future research outlined by the report. We are particularly interested in the reasons why Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have poorer access to financial products and services and how to effectively target and improve services for these communities.

The outcomes of this research should be to:

  • Improve understanding of the financial lives of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (including the many factors contributing to race-based gaps in economic indicators)
  • Identify and understand formal and informal products and services used by Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and the opportunities or challenges they present
  • Gain insight into the root causes of financial exclusion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people that come from shortcomings in financial service design
  • Inform financial services providers about how to design financial products and services to be more inclusive of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

This research relies on direct engagement with minority ethnic communities in order to ensure the voices of those experiencing exclusion are driving the necessary changes in financial services. However, when conducting this research, we want to ensure that that all engagement with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities is both necessary and respectful of their lived experience. Rather than focus on changes communities can make to increase their access to financial services, this research will focus on how financial service providers can improve their services to better reach these groups.

Advisory committee

Our advisory committee is made up of practitioners in financial services, many of whom have experience working directly with diverse ethnic communities:

Each of the committee members will:

  • Advise on the development of the research
  • Share anonymised data with the research agency where possible
  • Commit to taking the insights and recommendations forward to improve access to appropriate financial products and services for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities


It’s important to note that there are several words, phrases and acronyms that are used when talking about race and ethnicity, and that these often change depending on the context of the conversation.

This document uses language cited in existing research; however, we want to ensure that we are specific when referring to specific groups, eg Pakistani, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi.

Exploring and unpacking language throughout this project will be key for us to guarantee that we are respectful and inclusive in our language.

About Fair4All Finance

Fair4All Finance is a not-for-profit organisation founded in early 2019 to increase the financial wellbeing of people in vulnerable circumstances by increasing access to fair, affordable, and appropriate financial products and services. We have three main priority areas:

  • Expanding provision of affordable credit through a scaled community finance sector
  • Partnering with banks and financial services providers to support the delivery of products and services for customers in vulnerable circumstances
  • New product and market development –developing and scaling products and services to address market gaps

You can find our full strategy here.

About Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve our natural world, secure a fairer future and strengthen the bonds in communities in the UK. We unlock change by contributing everything we can alongside people and organisations with brilliant ideas who share our goals.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. In 2020, we provided £53.5m in grant funding towards work in support of our aims and our emergency response to COVID. We also have a £45 million allocation to social investments for organisations with the aim of creating social impact.

About NatWest Group

A relationship bank for a digital world. We champion potential; breaking down barriers and building financial confidence so the 19 million people, families and businesses we serve in communities throughout the UK and Ireland can rebuild and thrive. If our customers succeed, so will we.

About StepChange

StepChange Debt Charity provides the UK’s most comprehensive debt advice service. We help people with debt problems take back control of their finances and their lives, and we campaign to change society to better support those facing problem debt and financial uncertainty.


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