Global star will.i.am’s partnership with Atom bank comes to an end

Global music star and tech entrepreneur will.i.am is no longer The Voice for Durham digital employer Atom bank after stepping down after two years with the business.

The Durham challenger bank made waves in the industry in 2017 when it announced it had struck a consultancy deal with the Black Eyes Peas singer.

The rapper and producer, also known as a judge on ITV show The Voice, was granted a stake in the Aykley Heads digital business which saw him become its first strategic board adviser, providing the firm with an “external perspective on culture, philanthropy and technology”.

No financial details were given on the partnership, though it was said the deal could be worth up to £4m for the rapper.

The deal marked a real coup for Atom bank, which welcomed the superstar into its Rivergreen headquarters on a number of occasions, including for the launch of a partnership with the Prince’s Trust which had been triggered by the star himself.

Atom bank leaders said the link-up concluded last year, and that the company had learned a lot during his time with the firm.

Will.i.am takes part in a meeting at head office.

Chief customer officer Edward Twiddy said: “We achieved and learned a lot with will.i.am whilst he was our strategic board advisor.

“He inspired and shaped our partnership with the Prince’s Trust as their leading STEM partner in the North East and ensured we were one step ahead of the questions that matter as financial services go digital, providing us with an external perspective of technology and cultural trends.

“As one of the leading lights kicking off our research with Newcastle University on bias and trust in financial services – ‘FinTrust’ – his contribution to Atom and to fintech in the North East cannot be understated.

“The partnership with will.i.am was agreed to run for two years and came to an end in 2020.”

The savvy American entrepreneur – born William James Adams Jnr – has built up a multimillion-dollar business and acted as an advisor to a number of firms, also acting early to invest in global enterprises including Twitter and Tesla.

Joining forces with Atom bank resulted from a pitch to the star from founder Anthony Thompson in 2016, saying he wanted the two to collaborate on new innovative ways to provide its service to the UK.

The firm said the following two years has not just aided the business but informed its wider work in the region and beyond.

“Like will.i.am, we believe that technology can – and should – improve and simplify our lives,” Mr Twiddy said.

“We learned a lot from will.i.am’s passion and experience in building successful STEM programmes in the US founded by his I.am.angel foundation. This helped inform the role Atom can play in building a broader skills base and fuelling social mobility in the North East.

“We are a leading partner in our community and have made, and will continue to make, commitments to projects and to people who we believe in. We now employ over 430 people at Atom, and have taken in many dozens of young people through our paid internship programme, offering many of them their first full-time role as we build our team in Durham.”

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