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Why French startups can benefit UK fintech

Jerome Traisnel, CEO & co-founder of SlimPay, discusses why he is opening up a London office and looks at the challenges faced by fintech startups.

Technology is rebooting financial services, just as it has disrupted industry after industry over the previous decades.

Last year, according to CB Insights, $12bn globally was invested in fintech startups, the wave of companies promising to liberate fusty financial services for everyone – and the UK is playing a leading role.

The UK accounts for at least half of all the fintech investment in Europe, according to SVB. But there is still enormous room for growth – after all, it’s not as though customers feel particularly satisfied with current offerings from their financial providers.

This is why we at SlimPay are opening up a UK office.

Don’t get me wrong – SlimPay is a French company through and through. Based in Paris, we love that the quality of French engineers is revered around the world.

But the UK, and London in particular, has a long history of being an international financial hub. This positions it as a natural gateway for best-in-class fintech startups.

Indeed, the two markets are quite different. Per the definition of finance, banks do three things with your money – invest it, lend it and move it. France has a heritage in the latter, in payments infrastructure provision, with outfits like Ingenico, Gemalto, Mangopay, Lydia and ourselves coming out of the country. But the UK scene is more focused on the technology of investment, with startups like Nutmeg making ISAs easier for consumers, and peer-to-peer lending, typified by Funding Circle and LendInvest.

By bringing infrastructure know-how from across the Channel, we hope we can help UK businesses take a bigger slice of the opportunity on offer by connecting to the continent.

At SlimPay, we help businesses take recurring payments in euros under new standards introduced by the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) initiative. That means UK businesses will get to take Direct Debits from up to 500 million customers in 34 other countries.

For sure, we do not have UK soil all to ourselves. Already, many players like GoCardless and Nuapay exist to make online business transactions easier.

But we welcome all our fellow startups. The real competition for us all is history – outmoded ways of conducting finance.

Whilst the fintech debate is often framed as a David-versus-Goliath clash of startups versus big banks, I am not aiming my slingshot just yet. After all, traditional banks mostly do not offer the kind of service we are all providing. So it is better to think of how we can partner, not fight, with the big banking beasts.

In doing so, our biggest challenge will be to develop our brand awareness and to convince people of the quality of our product.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) predicts fintech will be worth a combined £300bn to the UK economy by 2020. We were really excited by Chancellor George Osborne’s declaration to make the UK “the fintech capital of the world”, and we are keen to play our part in making it happen.

So, onward and upward to the finance of the future.