Business leaders gathered in Glasgow for the first major conference dedicated to stimulating growth of the financial technology – or fintech – industry across the UK.
Hosted by FinTech Scotland, the cluster organisation representing the sector north of the Border, the event welcomed over 165 people including members of a fintech ‘national network’ designed to foster collaboration and innovation at a UK level.
Developing the network was one of several recommendations in the Kalifa Review of the sector published earlier this year by the UK Government, which attracted the support of the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
Authored by Ron Kalifa, former chief executive of Worldpay, the report set out the conditions for growth of the sector in a five-point plan spanning policy and regulation, investment, skills, internationalisation, and national connectivity.
But it warned that unless the UK’s world-renowned financial services industry did more to support the development of digital platforms – which includes the likes of so-called challenger banks – others were waiting for “our crown to slip”.
At stake is an opportunity for the UK to play a leading international role in the technology-led revolution of finance, which according to industry analyst Gartner could see 80 per cent of heritage financial services go out of business by 2030.
Stephen Ingledew, chair of FinTech Scotland, said: “We’re very proud to have successfully hosted this event in Scotland. We are already recognised as a model cluster for developing the sector and this conference allowed us and our counterparts from across the UK to come together to map out the future benefits of fintech to the economy and society.”
He added: “This event came at a critical time for the sector. We have experienced record levels of growth this financial year, so it is key that we take a moment to recognise that achievement but also to build on the success going forward.”
The industry has been buoyed over the last four weeks by a national ‘festival’ of 50 fintech events across Scotland. Yesterday’s Accelerating Fintech Across the UK conference at the University of Strathclyde featured UK Treasury minister, John Glen, and Ivan McKee, the Scottish Government’s trade minister, was the last and most significant of the series.
“Everyone has been through such a lot during the last 18 months, so of course it was great to be able to meet in person once again. One of the main reasons the fintech national network was set up was to instil that spirit of working together – despite our differing regional strengths – as a team,” said Ingledew, who has worked with FinTech Scotland chief executive, Nicola Anderson, to grow the cluster to 186 member firms in the last two years.
On the event agenda for them, and fellow member organisations such as FinTech Wales, FinTech Northern Ireland, Innovate Finance, FinTech North, FinTech West and SuperTech West Midlands, were efforts to support SMEs to scale up to a level whereby they can compete globally.
Ron Kalifa said: “The importance of our regional fintech clusters to the continued success of UK fintech should not be underestimated. Already this year, Scottish fintech firms have raised £91m and tech roles have increased by 25 per cent across both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“It is for this reason that the Fintech Review focused on putting forward a new approach and delivery model for the UK that would nurture their high-growth potential to provide good work, better skills, higher wages, and become an engine of the ‘levelling up’ agenda.
“This included a recommendation for the establishment of a Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT). CFIT would work with the National Network, Fintech Scotland and our other regional hubs to generate new opportunities, secure investment and create the jobs this country needs to build back better. We welcome the Chancellor’s public support for CFIT and look forward to working with him and his department on next steps.”
Speaking at the event, John Glen, economic secretary to the treasury, UK government, paid tribute to Glasgow as ‘hotbed of innovation’ and Scotland’s role in the UK’s fintech success story. He said that government was working with industry to build the skills base and with the regulator to ensure easier access for fintechs to markets. Reforms to the UK’s listing regime, changes to city finance rules and providing a peer network of ‘fintech champions’ to help aspiring companies access international markets are among measures to help the sector, he said.
He said: “In the Chancellor’s recent Mansion House speech, we set out our plans for an open, globally competitive and technologically advanced financial services sector.
“As we develop this vision, we’re re-examining the entirety of our financial services regulation, to determine a path that’s right for the UK and to establish a coherent, agile and internationally-respected approach. And we’re also considering how we can help individual sectors, like fintech, to stay ahead.”
“Right now, we’re at a crucial moment for financial services and the country, as we build back from Coronavirus and begin a new chapter outside of the EU. This is a moment of challenge. But it is also one of opportunity.”
Scottish government trade minister Ivan McKee said: “Scotland’s fintech industry is a global success story. Building on our achievements, we must focus on realising the potential of fintech to support financial inclusion and the transition to net zero emissions. Fintech has enormous potential to make our financial system even more secure and resilient.
“Collaboration and partnership will be key to achieving these goals, which is why conferences such as yesterday’s are so important.”
Julian Wells, director of Whitecap Consulting, a regional strategy consultancy headquartered in Leeds, is involved with the oversight of FinTech West and FinTech North.
He said: “Across the UK there are unique pockets of strength but also common challenges around things like the availability of talent and funding; these are all areas where clusters can work together for the greater good and the benefit of all. Helping make this happen is the challenge for the regional cluster bodies.”
And on the levelling up agenda, David Stewart, group chief operating officer at Wesleyan and co-lead for the finance cluster within SuperTech West Midlands, said: “The Kalifa Review rightly identifies Scotland, Birmingham and the Pennines as established centres for fintech. If the UK is to maintain its position as the world’s leading fintech hub we must focus on scale and supporting regional specialisms, in the case of Birmingham – banking, lending and payments. As recommended in the report, a fintech growth fund is critical and would support both levelling up and post pandemic recovery.”