Fintech: The Snakes and Ladders of Scaling Up internationally

By Fiona Couper on Thursday, 18 November 2021

Fantastic to have our first live fintech event this morning, in conjunction with the FSF, discussing the high and lows of how to scale across borders.

With many thanks to our panel for their insights and honesty:

  • Dr Steve Long, Chief International Officer, Bought by Many
  • Travers Clarke-Walker, Chief Commercial Officer, Thought Machine
  • Jasper Martens, Chief Marketing Officer, PensionBee

The UK fintech sector continues to thrive , with cross border expansion plans are for many of the higher profile fintechs who have secured funding this year, such as Starling who are looking towards Europe, and the likes of Oaknorth, Funding Circle and Curve who are all heading to the States.

Today we explored the challenges in scaling internationally, beginning with asking when is a fintech ready to make that leap. The panel underlined that just because the tech means that scaling is possible, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. Marketplace similarities in terms of product and attitude are key. For some, increasing market share within the existing marketplace remains the focus.

Conversation moved to the regulation challenge, with the panel confirming why scaling to the US remains notoriously tricky. With no single national regulation, individual state approvals need to be secured and as the panel said, it’s like dealing with fifty different countries. Regulation takes a huge amount of time and money to navigate, which partnerships can help short circuit to some extent. But filings can be easily copied and so entering the US with a totally different product is hard. Positioning becomes even more important.

All agreed that Brand, critical for both consumer and b2b fintech’s scaling across borders, must flex to be genuinely locally sensitive. Language interpretation and imagery have to reflect and respect local norms, and the panel underlined the need to conduct and listen to the research. Having stature in the UK market, in terms of customer volume, AUM and for instance an IPO, definitely helps ensure a backdrop of trust that can be leveraged internationally. Above the line communications can significantly strengthen and grow the business. All cited that nothing beats being genuinely part of the market that you are operating in.

A hugely enjoyable and uplifting session that reminded all the importance of face to face events. If you didn’t manage to make the event a recording of the session can be found here.