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A month after #Brexit, what’s new?

After a month, the dust has settled somewhat on the Brexit vote.  We have a new Prime Minister, a new Government and a new outlook.  There were many knee-jerk reactions to the vote that were extreme in the immediate wake of the shock of the vote.  These ranged from the whole FinTech community upping sticks and moving from London to Berlin or Singapore to the match that ignites the path to World War III.  We still don’t know the outcome but what we do know is that it has changed the world somewhat.  My early reflections:

Is that the main impact is that we need to keep Single Market access for bank passporting purposes.   If we lose bank passporting then London based FinTech firms cannot take their ideas to the 27 countries that now comprise the European Union.  They would need a regulatory license for the UK and for Europe.  That wouldn’t make sense, as they could just head office in Dublin, Stockholm or Berlin and passport across the whole region with one license.  Hence, London becomes far less attractive.

On the other hand, everyone says that you can’t have Single Market access without the four pillars that underpin the Single Market: the free movement of capital, goods, services and people.  The last part is the sticking point for Britain and why the narrow majority voted to Leave.  It’s all about migrants and immigration policies.  Without open borders you cannot have passporting, and that is our quandary.

Anyways, we’ve raked over those coals enough and it’s clear that Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, will be taking her time over Article 50 and the process of actually leaving.  That just means a long time to wait and see how all this plays out.

So why am I blogging about this again today?

Well in light of the vote, many commentators wrote that it would have negative impact on the London FinTech scene:

London’s status as the world’s financial technology – or fintech– hub could be under threat should a Brexit occur, lawyers, venture capitalists and start-ups have warned CNBC.

  • CNBC, June 22 2016

Consensus among the technology community is that Brexit will topple London from its position as the most favoured fintech hub on the planet; the view of many startups and venture capitalists.  There are three main reasons for this – firms rely on rolling out products across Europe, many technology companies rely on developers from all over the EU, and the concomitant fear and uncertainly which will curb investment pouring into the capital’s tech scene.

London’s crown as the global capital of fintech is under threat by the decision to leave the EU amid worries about a squeeze on future funding and a brain drain of talent out of the UK.

A month later, the commentary continues:

More than 100 startup companies in London are looking into relocating to Germany’s capital following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a senior Berlin politician has claimed.  During a presentation at the financial technology industry’s conference London FinTech Week 2016, Senator Cornelia Yzer said every time she speaks publicly about Berlin post-Brexit, a number of startup companies approach her office about moving to Berlin.  “Not 10 or 20 or 30, more, over 100,” she said, according to International Business Times.

The vote to leave the EU was not the one the tech community wanted, but one month on and the British tech sector has shown its true colours in the face of adversity. We have continued to attract investors, support talent and remain at the heart of global tech developments. London has shown that it has what it takes to continue its reign as a leading light in the global tech scene. Don’t bet against us.

Investment into London and UK-based technology companies remains strong since the Brexit vote, with British firms attracting $200 million of venture capital funding across 42 deals.

As can be seen, it’s still contradictory and no-one really knows what the final outcome will be.  Some worry that we will lose the London-based multi-billion euro clearing business, and 100,000 City jobs that go with it, whilst others muse on broader horizons such as bilateral deals with Australia, China and other booming economies.   For example, it’s noteworthy that we’ve already started such bilateral deals for FinTech with South Korea, building on similar deals with Singapore and Australia.

Anyways, the bottom-line is that no-one knows what’s going to happen but everyone fears change.  Innovate Finance, the FinTech trade body for the UK, performed a survey of their members a week after the Brexit vote.  Bearing in mind that London FinTech firms are strongly European – 1 in 5 use EU passporting for their services, 1 in 3 founders and CEOs of start-ups are from overseas, and 1 in 3 employees are European – the results are unsurprising.  When asked whether firms consider UK FinTech a less attractive investment in light of the EU Referendum, 14.3% ‘strongly agreed’, and 42.9% ‘agreed’; and half of those surveyed are considering moving out of the UK.

So what does all this mean longer-term.  Well The Financial Times predicts three possible scenarios:

Positive: Brexit could offer an opportunity to maximise London as a less regulated offshore centre for renminbi trading, private banking or fintech, making use of the UK’s timezone advantage between Shanghai and New York.

Negative: Massive job losses as banks move out of the UK into Europe.  Treasury analysis estimates that up to 285,000 financial sector jobs could be at risk after the Leave vote.  In addition, almost 11% of the City’s 360,000 workers come from elsewhere in the EU.

Neutral: London stays as is, due to the concentration of resources and capabilities.  This focuses on the view that liquidity is hard to move as the more you trade, the more you trade and the more the talent comes to where you trade.

From a FinTech viewpoint, I probably focus on the positive or neutral view as there is a key point over-looked by many [Ed: and because Chris Skinner is very biased].

London has become a FinTech hub because there is the talent pool, access, government support and capital here.   The sector has boomed in the last decade due to, in a similar way to the City, a concentration of resources and capabilities.  If that is blown apart by the Brexit vote, what happens?  Fragmentation of focus. 

Back office start-ups move to Dublin; payments start-ups focus on Stockholm; trading front-office companies land in Berlin; and RegTech firms move to Brussels.  None of these cities has the spectrum of infrastructure and advisory services, along with the financial strength, to match London but if FinTech firms have to move out of the UK then my belief is there will be no central EU hub for FinTech.  Just lots of cities with different capabilities.  In other words, if FinTech London is blown away by the Brexit vote, then it is not only the UK that loses something, but Europe.  London’s FinTech concentration has been a bonus for all over the past decade and, for this reason, I firmly believe it is still here to stay.



About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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