In 2013, the UK Government announced that seven of the nation’s largest banks had agreed to publish their lending data at the local level across Great Britain. The release of such area based lending data has been welcomed by advocacy groups and policy makers keen to better understand and remedy geographies of financial exclusion. This paper makes three contributions to debates about financial exclusion. First, it provides the first exploratory spatial analysis of the personal lending data made available; it scrutinises the parameters and robustness of the dataset and evaluates the extent to which the data increase transparency in UK personal lending markets. Second, it uses the data to provide a geographical overview of patterns of personal lending across Great Britain. Third, it uses this analysis to revisit the analytical and political limitations of ‘open data’ in addressing the relationship between access to finance and economic marginalisation. Although a binary policy imaginary of ‘inclusion-exclusion’ has historically driven advocacy for data disclosure, recent literatures on financial exclusion generate the need for more complex and variegated understandings of economic marginalisation. The paper questions the relationship between transparency and data disclosure, the policy push for financial inclusion, and patterns of indebtedness and economic marginalisation in a world where ‘fringe finance’ has become mainstream. Drawing on these literatures, this analysis suggests that data disclosure, and the transparency it affords, is a necessary but not sufficient tool in understanding the distributional implications of variegated access to credit.
Bibliographical noteThis work was supported by Big Society Capital, Citi Community Development, Community Investment Coalition and Unity Trust Bank
- Financial geographies
- personal lending
- financial exclusion
- data disclosure