I just chaired a nice session at the Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS) focused upon the future of UK FinTech. For some reason, the question they asked us to focus upon was:
What is holding the UK back in the global investment landscape?
I didn’t really understand why we would debate that topic, as the UK isn’t held back. According to Innovate Finance themselves, the first quarter of 2019 was a bumper quarter:
2019 is on track to be another bumper year in UK FinTech investment. Q1/2019 has already overtaken the previous quarter of investment (angel, VC, CVC and PE growth), increasing 41% to over $1 billion of capital invested into FinTech startups in the UK.
Equally, they also point out that 39% of all European FinTech investment comes to London. The nearest rivals are Berlin and Paris who each get just half that amount (Berlin 21% and Paris 18%).
London now has seven FinTech unicorns and is set soon to outstrip Silicon Valley (nine unicorns) as the FinTech centre of the universe.
Therefore, nothing seems to be holding the UK back … but then I read further into the description, and maybe this puts it in context:
Despite being in the top three countries for FinTech investment, the UK doesn’t seem to be able to challenge the US or China. Why is that, does size matter? Our panellists will discuss the different types of money flowing into the sector and give their thoughts on how the UK can up its game.
Hmmm. Anyways, I was joined by four great panellists:
- Eileen Burbidge, Partner, Passion Capital
- Giles Andrews OBE, Co-Founder & Director, Zopa
- Alliott Cole, CEO, Octopus Ventures
- Luis Valdich, Managing Director of Venture Investing, Citi Ventures
And moderated the discussion around FinTech UK and the future.
Instead of asking what was holding the UK back, I reframed the dialogue around this question:
In five to ten years, will UK FinTech be booming or struggling?
And also asked the audience to vote on that theme. The audience view was 72% voted for a continued boom and 28% thinking we would struggle.
The panellists then set to task to correct that view for, as it turned out, they were all immensely optimistic about the UK’s future. All four panellists voted boom and set out their reasons why.
First and foremost is yes, there is a headwind called Brexit coming, but the main impact that will have is on the talent pool. If we lose freedom of movement of peoples then talent may be limited, especially as many FinTech start-ups have been founded in the UK because it is open to all of Europe.
The panellists felt this may be a false issue however, as cities vie with cities for talent, rather than countries. London has its own attraction, and already has a wide and deep talent pool. Why would you want to be somewhere else? The only firms that may need to consider an EU base is if they need passporting but, even then, it may still head office in the UK, primarily because that’s where the money is.
A point was made that most American and Asian firms investing in FinTech come to London. It’s certainly true that Venture Capital, Corporate Venture Capital (the banks), Private Equity and more base themselves here, and that isn’t changing.
Another point is that the UK now has a maturity in the FinTech markets where firms are not just investing but demonstrating proven exits. That’s a key point, as markets that are still early in the game do not have this experience, yet, and the UK leads on the maturity index.
There was quite a lot of debate about the size and style of investing, and the way the ecosystem works here between investment and growth. It was pointed out that, even with Brexit, funding continues to grow and that anyone who thinks it’s difficult to get funding here should take a look again.
It’s not difficult.
We talked a bit about the China and American models, and agreed that China’s FinTech growth is mainly through domestic focus and investment. It’s not global (yet). Americans see the UK as still good for this, because of our global capital markets and maturity, and that it’s a model that’s better than theirs in many ways because of the Bank, FCA and PRA’s commitment to innovation, supporting a FinTech economy.
There were some negatives, mainly around what may happen for FinTech founders post-Brexit if the UK creates a negative market structure for investment and support. However, I quickly forgot the negatives and took home a whole load of positives.
I guess the audience did too as we repeated the question about the UK outlook for FinTech in five to ten years, and now 88% of the audience thought it would continue to boom and just 12% being negative.
Maybe it’s the venue, organiser and panellists, or maybe it’s just me, but I tend to agree with them.
If you’re interested in more on the UK FinTech future, this report from Robert Walters recruiters is worth checking out:
Generating £20 billion in annual revenue and attracting more venture capital investment than any other country in Europe, the UK fintech sector is widely considered the ‘jewel in the crown’ for the country. In 2018, job creation within the fintech space grew by 61% in London and 18% in the regions – making it the fastest growing sector in the country.