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Brief 5: Fair Finance for All

Design or redesign a way for people who are financially excluded to be better served by banks and other money management services.






  • The term ‘financial inclusion’ means that everyone has access to fair and affordable financial services that they need, including disadvantaged and low-income groups.

  • Having access to a bank (and associated things like a savings account, debit card, insurance and lines of credit), and having the knowledge and skills to use them effectively, is important for anyone wanting to participate fairly and fully in everyday life. It enables people to send and receive money, save for the future, manage financial ‘shocks’ such as reduced income or an unexpected expense, and plan for recurring expenses.

  • Despite this, an estimated 2 billion working age adults – more than half the world’s adult population – do not have an account at a formal financial institution. This remains a problem in developed countries too; in the UK, 1.7 million people remained unbanked in 2014.

  • Financial exclusion particularly affects certain groups, such as people with very low or unstable incomes, and those who have experienced a significant life shock, for example homeless people, migrants, disabled people, those suffering from long-term illness, and the long-term unemployed.

  • Financially excluded people often pay more for goods and services and have less choice. For example, they may be excluded from online deals and direct debit payment reductions. Researchers have calculated the ‘poverty premium’, the extra costs of financial exclusion, at £490 a year.

  • Financial exclusion can adversely affect people’s education, employment, health, housing, and overall wellbeing.

How should you approach this brief?

  • You can focus on a disadvantaged group or segment of low-income people anywhere in the developed or developing world, but whoever you focus on, you should explore the real user need/s of your target audience through primary research. Observe, engage with and listen to them – what are their physical and emotional needs? What is meaningful to them? What are the barriers to financial engagement?

  • Make sure your solution is truly inclusive and accessible for your target audience – who may, for example, be digitally excluded or disadvantaged in multiple ways. What difference would your proposal make to their lives?

  • While digital banking is exploding, some financially excluded people may have digital access needs and/or may not have a smartphone. Your solution does not have to have a digital element – it can be service or experience-based, environmental, or based on a physical product – but if it does, then you must consider digital access. If you suggest an app or other digital element in your proposal, it is essential that you consider the offline system and user experience surrounding it.

  • For the purposes of illustration only, viable responses could include:

    • an intervention that improves engagement with financial institutions (banks) by improving trust or making it easier to engage

    • a service design proposal for a support service for disadvantaged groups

    • an inclusive product or environment that makes it easier for people with accessibility needs to keep track of money, make ends meet, bounce back from nasty financial surprises, or save for the future

    • a way to improve the financial skills of people who are currently financially excluded

... and many more are possible.

Please note: this is an excerpt from the brief, for the full text and information, please download the brief. 


There are 2 awards available for this brief.

NatWest Award of £1500

NCR Placement Award

Grant to support living expenses: £4600 

Placement duration: 12 weeks

Location: Dundee, Scotland

The judging panel may decide on more than one winner and will allocate the awards accordingly. The judging panel may also award commendations.

In addition, all shortlisted entrants will receive mentoring on their project and may be invited to the annual NatWest Executive Team Lunch, Exhibition and Industry Networking Event in Summer 2018.

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With additional support from NCR


Aug 2018 – Briefs launch + register your interest online

Mon 14 Jan 2019 – Competition opens for submissions via

Wed 13 Feb 2019, 4 pm GMT – Deadline for ‘early bird’ submissions at reduced entry fee of £25

Wed 13 Mar 2019, 4 pm GMT – Final deadline for online registration + submissions (£35 entry fee)

20 Mar 2019 – Judging begins (2 stages: anonymous shortlisting + interviews with finalists)

May 2019 – Winners announced

Jun 2019 – Awards ceremony

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