Downing Street

Members of the UK’s long standing banking infrastructure rubbed shoulders with finance innovators at an event this evening held at No 11 Downing Street as part of FinTech Week.

The event involved a speech by Harriet Baldwin, economic secretary to the Treasury, as well as a panel discussion chaired by Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital and HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech.

Joining her on the panel were Lawrence Wintermeyer, of Innovate Finance; Claire Calmejane, of Lloyds Banking Group; Andrew Brem, of Aviva; and Anil Stocker, of MarketInvoice.

The panel shared their views on what makes the UK a great place for fostering FinTech innovation. Wintermeyer explained it’s not down to any one factor, but claimed the large bed of talent available in the UK has been one of the key drivers behind the success of the FinTech space so far. He added that the regulatory environment has also created a relatively open and collaborative space for innovation in FinTech to develop.

Interaction

The interactive session featured input from audience members, which included representatives from the London Stock Exchange, WorldPay, Mondo, the Bank of England and the Open Data Institute.

When asked which location presented the UK with the greatest threat as a FinTech hub, some 43% of the audience answered New York and 29% said California, while 14% voted for China, 10% for Singapore and only 3% said Tel Aviv.

Calmejane said the UK has a unique opportunity as it has expertise in both finance and technology. New York is very ‘Fin’ oriented, while California is very ‘Tech’ focussed.

“Our asset in the UK, and particularly London, is that we are a place that ‘Fin’ and ‘Tech’ come together,” she explained.

“We should play to our advantage – the talent pool here is very strong,” Calmejane added, going on to say that inter-sector collaboration is key if the UK is to remain a leading FinTech hub, with financial incumbents working with talented startups to develop the best FinTech solutions for consumers and businesses alike.

VC funding

Wintermeyer believes that, while VC investment in New York and California far outpaces that in the UK, the rise of corporate VC and the creation of incubators and accelerator programs that include cash injections has played a huge part in boosting the UK FinTech space.

Speaking from the audience, smart bank Mondo’s CEO Tom Blomfield said until there are some large IPOs or exits by UK FinTech companies, the nation won’t attract significant VC funding. A sentiment echoed by Brem, who said there simply aren’t enough ‘poster boys’ for UK FinTech yet.

Driving innovation

Later, the topic of how financial incumbents can help drive innovation in the FinTech space arose and Stocker said data sharing is key.

“As you move from a world where four or five banks dominate financial services, there are lots of pockets of barriers that have built up over the years. One of these is data sharing,” he explained.

Stocker said banks have a lot of “very valuable data” that FinTech companies would love to gain access to. He gave current account information as an example, explaining that if someone applies to get a loan from his company, it would be very useful if his firm could view the applicant’s business bank account.

He added: “There’s no way of plugging into an API from banks to pull that information directly, and that would make the whole onboarding process so much more seamless.

“I think there is a role for government a regulators to play to encourage this data sharing.”

Rounding off the session, Burbidge said she believes one of the things government really commits to doing is convening people together.

“The whole idea is collaboration in the sector and it’s not just about startups or SMEs or incumbents and the existing industry, it’s about the whole ecosystem working together in order to make more efficient and useful financial services for everybody,” she concluded.

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