Sarah Laitung and Zahra Husain - photo by Simon Roberts Photography. Jesus College - photo by Sir Cam
Giving a platform to people transforming the world of finance - Sarah Laitung
Sarah Laitung (Jesus 2003) co-founder of Humans in Finance (HIF), explains how she’s working to change the world of finance for the better.
We met some amazing people driving transformation in the world of finance, and those connections led to us co-founding Humans in Finance.
My older brother David has profound learning difficulties, and when we were growing up this drove me to study hard and make the most of the opportunities he didn’t have – I felt like I owed it to him to do my best. My mum always encouraged me, and worked tirelessly to ensure I never missed out. So when my school put me forward for the Cambridge selection process, I was so excited. I applied to study economics because I wanted to put myself to some kind of positive use in society.
I arrived at Jesus College in 2003. Right from as early as freshers’ week, I met lots of like-minded people with new ideas. That said, I also found continual challenges to these ideas, both intellectually and politically – in supervisions, in lectures, watching Cambridge Union debates and (not least) among friends in the JCSU bar. The two economics fellows at Jesus are experts in development economics and political economy, and I was inspired by them to pursue international development modules in particular during my degree.
Surviving the financial crisis
After university, I entered the world of finance, joining JPMorgan’s graduate programme in 2007. I wanted to work with international businesses in a diverse and stimulating environment, whilst learning essential lessons in mental and physical endurance. Joining just before the financial crisis certainly gave me insight into the magnitude of impact the industry has on the global economy. And working in finance has also made me realise the huge potential it has to drive change.
The industry has been innovating to become more impactful – from social finance, to green bonds, to environmental and social governance investing, to ‘engaged giving’. My friend Zahra was in the industry at the same time, and we went on a journey together discovering these things. We met some amazing people driving transformation in the world of finance, and those connections led to us co-founding Humans in Finance (HIF).
Giving a platform to inspirational people in finance
HIF is a social enterprise leveraging the power of social media and storytelling to celebrate inspiring people in the financial services industry globally. We launched the HIF movement in 2016 as we felt passionately about the huge potential power of finance in making the world a better place.
Today, HIF is a community of people committed to building a financial services industry that is more responsible and sustainable. We provide a platform for those whose work is contributing to society, by sharing their stories and experiences. Our hope is that these stories and the sharing of new ideas inspires people to get involved, especially the younger generation. We also hope to show the industry in a positive light and raise awareness of the growing number of organisations that are either supporting positive impact via finance or improving financial education.
Co-founders, Zahra and Asad Husain, and I work on HIF in addition to our day jobs – I now use my corporate finance background to advise on energy policy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Meet some of the humans in finance
HIF has grown rapidly - to over 11,000 followers in under 18 months. In recognition, Zahra and I were thrilled to be selected recently for Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 list. But the real stars of HIF are the inspiring people across the globe transforming the world of finance. We have featured many on our Instagram, but let me give you just two examples to illustrate the point, fellow Cambridge alumni: Faisel Rahman and Gemma Newton.
Faisel is putting an end to financial exclusion with Fair Finance, the largest microfinance credit programme in the UK. Fair Finance provides free advice and affordable credit services, and so far has helped over 55,000 people and lent £25m to financially excluded individuals.
Gemma is creating simple and fair finance products at an exciting and growing fintech. Products where the company wins when the customer does, not when the customer forgets that their interest-free period is up or accidentally goes into their overdraft. The business is also planning to give customers more control of their money using the new Open Banking regulations.
We believe HIF’s success so far is just the beginning, as the time has come for the financial services industry and the public to align for a better future for generations to come.
Sarah obtained a BA in economics and attended Jesus College. This article has been written by Sarah Laitung and the opinions expressed are those of the author.
Find out more about the Humans in Finance movement or get in touch.