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The AltFi view on pandemic mental health: Fintech can and should lead

More than 10 months of lockdowns, working from home and coronavirus uncertainty have heaped pressures on many - perhaps a majority - in the UK and beyond. Smashing mental taboos will not solve the crisis overnight but could lead to help for many struggling.



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Companies come and go, as do the employees and founders who power them but, when a high-profile leader of a high-profile company in a high-profile industry steps down, many people take notice. 

The departure of Tom Blomfield from Monzo last week, the company he co-founded with several others back in 2014, was also notable owing to Blomfield’s frank declaration of the mental health toll the pandemic had taken on him. 

Founders and CEOs of start-ups are under enormous strain, as are many others in less lucrative and glamorous jobs, of course. The pressure can be very high and from many different sources. It can come from investors and staff, whose hopes and dreams are wrapped up in the potential for a successful exit. Huge amounts of personal pride are also embedded in hitting targets and ultimately creating a sustainable but high growth business. 

Attracting regular, and normally growing sums of capital to keep the strategy in place, and your colleagues in jobs, is omnipresent alongside a need to always be ‘on’ and hustling. This is generally in building something ‘disruptive’, and therefore reams of critics will emerge to deal with too.

Younger people, who often make up a large proportion of start-ups are more likely to suffer during lockdowns and the associated isolation they often bring. 

A recent survey found that 66 per cent of women and 62 per cent of men have suffered from poor sleep, feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety and general feelings of depression and anger during the lockdowns. Of these, 35-44-year-olds were the most impacted by mental health problems with income having little bearing on the likelihood of stress and anxiety. 

Mental health is something still all too taboo in professional circles. Data show that three-quarters of people have never discussed their mental health with their employers and only a fifth (21.3 per cent) would feel comfortable doing so. Still, it urgently needs to be pushed to the top of the corporate agenda, for leaders and junior staff alike. This would have been true, pandemic or no pandemic. But, with the ongoing third lockdown and no reliable timeline for a return to normality, this is only becoming more and more important. 

The UK is a global fintech industry leader, despite the pandemic and Brexit uncertainty, with well over 75,000 people employed in the sector. Good ideas, processes and culture can spread quickly from tiny firms out to the broader world, now more than ever.

There is no quick fix for mental health pressures prompted by the pandemic but creating a culture of openness is an excellent place to start, it’s up to the UK’s fintech industry to lead the way. 

The AltFi Leader is a new weekly view for 2021 from our editorial team. We’d love to hear your ideas, thoughts, feedback and constructive criticism.

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