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Managing digital intermediaries: socio-digital analysis of the design of internet-based social, peer-to-peer financial services

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsCommissioned report

Publication date2014
Publisher3rd Party Dematerialisation and Rematerialisation of Capital
Number of pages8
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This summary report addresses how digital technical infrastructures are managed
and used in two retail financial products currently in use in the United Kingdom: peerto-peer consumer lending and a local digital/paper hybrid currency system. The two products and their issuing firms, Zopa Limited (Zopa) and the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company (the Bristol Pound), respectively, are established leaders in their respective product areas: Zopa was established in 2005 and the Bristol Pound in 2010. Each of these firms seeks to disrupt an established financial market through the application of digital technologies and processes: consumer lending for Zopa and retail payment for the Bristol Pound.

The studies were run over approximately a fourteen-month period from October 2013 through January 2015 in which research teams from Lancaster University examined Zopa and Brunel University focused on the Bristol Pound. Extensive interviews, document analysis, questionnaires, observation of user interactions, and other participatory design methods were employed to investigate the ways that digital technologies were used in making exchanges through digital intermediaries. Our inquiries focused on the uses, resources, challenges, values, interpretations, roles and problems of using technology in accessing the financial services under investigation, which resulted in quantitative and rich qualitative data for all aspects surrounding the use of these systems.

This report presents the primary themes around managing and using innovative
financial products. In the case of the Bristol Pound, the themes explain 1) our
approach to investigating digital transactions as it emerged during the course of the study, 2) how the social and digital infrastructure shaped a sense of community and trust among Bristol Pound users, 3) the local connectivity, playfulness and mindfulness afforded by the Bristol Pound transactions, and 4) the complementary role of the physical and digital media of the currency. In the case of Zopa, the themes address 1) how design was harnessed to shape identity among Zopa users, 2) the transformation of user interaction from playfulness to prudence, 3) Zopa’s experimentation with social media as a source of data, and 4) the data-driven approach to Zopa’s operations.