New partnerships to open finance for good

On the day it announces its new name, Smart Data Foundry, formerly the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence, also shares the news it has joined forces with Equifax, Sage Group, Moneyhub and FreeAgent to support its mission to open finance for good.

The Smart Data Foundry was born our of a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh The Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) and FinTech Scotland.

The freshly rebranded company just completed a project with NatWest Group, The bank de-identified data from over a million householders to study the impact of the pandemic on household finances. All of the data was de-identified and analysed by accredited researchers in the security of the Smart Data Foundry Safe Haven, operated by the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) at the University of Edinburgh, a controlled and secure service environment for undertaking data research.

Insights from the NatWest data were shared with the UK Government at the start of 2021 and continue to be updated.

The Smart Data Foundry will now focus on understanding the impact of the pandemic on SMEs. Working with Scottish fintech FreeAgent, Equifax and with Sage, they will research the causes and impact of late and slow payments to small and medium sized businesses.  The insights will be shared and continually updated with the UK Government as financial behaviour adapts to the pandemic environment.

Commenting on the announcement, Smart Data Foundry’s Chair, Dame Julia said:

“We have started a movement within the financial services sector which is gaining momentum at pace.  Driven by our purpose to improve people’s lives, our new name, Smart Data Foundry, better reflects the challenges we face.

“Today’s announcement charts the significant progress Smart Data Foundry has made to date in securing partnerships with these significant organisations which will enable us to unlock the power of financial data that, up until now, was not available for public purpose or common good.

“It is important not to underestimate the work that has gone into getting to this stage which includes data governance agreements to protect privacy. This headway, and the success of the NatWest Group partnership, paves the way for many other partnerships as we strive to improve the lives of ordinary people and support the resilience of the SME sector.”


Dame Julia concludes:

“The science community has shown how important health data was to manage the pandemic. Our aim is to do the same for the economy by providing financial data.  However, our collaboration will reach beyond Open Finance as we look at other significant challenges such as climate data and the transition to net-zero, addressing the Poverty Premium and supporting the intersection of finance and health.”


Simon McNamara, Group Chief Administrative Officer at NatWest said:

“The pandemic continues to be challenging for many, and the impact is unique for each customer, household and business. By sharing data with Smart Data Foundry, organisations can collaborate to create better insights for the good of our communities so that we can better support their recovery. We have a crucial role, guided by our purpose, to support our customers and communities to get back on their feet and thrive”

Roan Lavery, CEO and founder of FreeAgent said:

“Sticking up for microbusinesses is really important to us and so we’re proud that the insights from the data will help to shape public policy to support SMEs, sole traders and contractors. SMEs account for 50% of the UK’s output. Part of the success of this project is down to the very supportive data community here in Edinburgh and in other parts of Scotland.”