Can a local digital currency support business-owners in the West Midlands post-covid?

Parity Network Ltd received a grant from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) to develop a platform for business-owners to trade without cash. 

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on small businesses across our region. They have reported losing customers and reduced footfall, alongside needing to invest in tools to operate remotely and trade online. Parity Network Ltd in Birmingham has received grant support from the GBSLEP to launch a platform to help business-owners adapt to these testing economic conditions. The platform offers a local digital currency and marketplace for business-owners to trade without cash. It provides an innovative way to find new local commercial opportunities whilst keeping cash in the bank for when it’s needed most.

Parity is based on successful networks in Italy and Switzerland, where 10,000s of businesses conduct €100millions-worth of transactions each year. Cofounder Stuart Bowles said, “Our platform helps business-owners in the West Midlands thrive through providing a liquidity boost in a local digital currency. They can use it to pay suppliers, invest in tools and services or treat staff to local perks.” The innovative nature of the project is what attracted the GBSLEP to Parity, as it is the first time such a platform has been developed in the UK. Businesses in Switzerland have been using a similar model since the 1930s.

Users of Parity post listings on the marketplace which they are happy to exchange for the local currency. Many of them are posting introductory offers, promotions and special deals as a way of meeting new local clients and increasing footfall. Users also get a zero interest overdraft in the local currency that they spend in the marketplace. This increases the liquidity available to the business-owners, encourages local spending and allows them to trade without cash. The GBSLEP felt this was an innovative solution to the economic challenges facing businesses. Parity has a short video showing how it works.

Kinetic Communications in the Jewellery Quarter offer their introductory services in the local currency. It allows them to build relationships with new clients and later upsell premium services in pound sterling. Angela Podmore, Director of Kinetic Communications stated; “I love working locally and Parity gives me an essential tool to boost my local spending and meet new clients”. Other local businesses include Repc Ltd in Walsall, Achut Ltd in Wolverhampton and Popcorn Email Marketing in Birmingham. They have all increased their local trade and purchased business expenses without cash.

Many business-owners have seen how digital currencies such as Bitcoin have been taken up by investors around the world. Stuart explains how Parity is nothing like Bitcoin, “With cryptocurrencies, business-owners first need cash to purchase the currency. Parity does not work like this. It offers business-owners a zero interest overdraft in a local digital currency to make purchases without cash. It’s why they have worked so well in Italy and Switzerland”. Parity Network Ltd is hosting a free event at the upcoming Birmingham Tech Week to discuss research with the University of Birmingham. That found that Bitcoin is largely useless for business-owners struggling with cashflow. Whereas the model Parity offers provides additional liquidity and new commercial opportunities, helping business growth.

Parity offers a free account where businesses can post listings and receive up to £500 worth of interest free overdraft in the local currency. This allows them to try it out and see how their business can benefit from trading without cash. The grant from the GBSLEP is supporting Parity to also scale its platform to provide the capacity for one hundred businesses from across the West Midlands. Look out for the Parity symbol in local businesses over the coming months. To read more about this funded project, see their blog here or join the free event at Birmingham Tech Week.

Guest Blog written by Stuart Bowles - Co-Founder of Parity Network Ltd