FBL 2: The effects of financial technologies on financial inclusion and citizen equality in East Anglia

Faculty: Business and Law

Supervisors: Dr Franziska Sohns; Prof Aled Jones; Alison Taylor (external)

Location: Cambridge

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Monday 17 April.

Background

Although financial technologies (fintech) have created radically new financial products and revolutionised the delivery of financial services over the last decade, little research has been conducted on their impact on financial inclusion and equality in developed countries.

This PhD project will address this oversight by conducting an empirical study of the potential of fintech innovations to foster financial inclusion and equality in East Anglia, drawing upon studies from developing countries where evidence of the potential of fintech innovations to reducing poverty and inequality has been found.

Particular attention will be given to factors that shape users’ ability to adopt fintech solutions in an informed and appropriate way. On the one hand, this will include business characteristics of fintech firms operating in the UK, such as their business models and the features of their products and services.

On the other hand, it will include territorial and socio-economic characteristics associated with social exclusion, such as living in a deprived or rural area; having reduced access to IT infrastructure; belonging to an ethnic minority, immigrant group, and/or the working class; being elderly; and exhibiting low financial and technological literacy.

Research aim and research questions

The PhD project aims to explore whether and how fintech innovations can foster financial inclusion and citizen equality in East Anglia. As such, you will be expected to explore the following research questions:

  • Which fintech products and services aim at fostering financial inclusion and equality in the UK?
  • How do marginalised communities in East Anglia use fintech products and services in their daily financial activities?
  • Which socio-economic and territorial characteristics affect households’ and businesses’ ability to benefit from fintech-driven financial inclusion in East Anglia?
  • How could marginalized communities be supported in their use of fintech products and services, aiming at fostering their financial inclusion while protecting them from exploitative financialisation?

Methodology

You will be expected to adopt a variety of research methods, which could include secondary data analyses of the webpages, social-media profiles, and company reports of fintech companies operating in the UK to analyse which of them focus on fostering financial inclusion; qualitative interviews with a sample of fintech companies to gain a more in-depth understanding of how their products and services are supposed to support marginalised communities; and a quantitative survey or focus group discussions to explore how marginalised communities in East Anglia use fintech products and services in their daily financial activities and to what degree they benefit from them.

As such, it is envisioned that you already exhibit some knowledge and experience in utilising qualitative and/or quantitative research methods.

Support and engagement

You'll be supervised by Dr Franziska Sohns and Prof Dr Aled Jones, associated with the Faculty of Business and Law, and working as part of the Global Sustainability Institute.

You'll be supported in your research skills development in two research methods modules taught by the Faculty of Business and Law. These modules will provide you with additional knowledge in quantitative and qualitative research methods, including survey design, econometrics, and qualitative data analysis.

In addition, you'll be enrolled into the Doctoral Training Alliance on Future Societies Programme, providing you with enhanced training aimed at fostering your professional, personal, and academic development.

You'll also be able to join the Global Sustainability Institute PhD Group, which holds regular training sessions and writing retreats, and encouraged to become a member of the FinGeo Network, a global network of scholars who aim to promote diversity, innovation, and excellence in the field of financial geography.

The PhD project aims to provide local authorities and charities in East Anglia such as Cambridge2030 and Cambridge City Council with important information concerning the availability, quality, and use of fintech innovations in marginalised communities, supporting them in their development of new initiatives aimed at fostering financial inclusion while protecting marginalized households and businesses from exploitative financialization. As such, you are expected to work in close collaboration with these external partners with increasing independence over the duration of the PhD project.

Moreover, the supervisory team will work with you on disseminating your research findings in up to three academic journal articles during and after the PhD project.

If you would like to discuss this research project, please contact Dr Franziska Sohns: franziska.sohns@aru.ac.uk

Apply online by 19 March 2023

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2022/3 this was £17,688 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.