Teamspirit Fintech Breakfast

By Teamspirit on Wednesday, 8 May 2019

To wrap up UK Fintech Week, on Friday 3rd May we held a joint breakfast panel with Smith & Williamson, to discuss Fintech Friendly – the UK’s path ahead. The panel, consisting of Alistair Lukies CBE, Co-Founder of Motive Partners and the Prime Minister’s FinTech ambassador; Amir Nooriala, COO of OakNorth; Ben Brabyn, CEO of Level 39; and Kirsty Maxey, CEO of TeamSpirit and discussed what it will take to not only retain our European crown but to realise the UK’s ambition to become a global fintech hub.

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With the UK having attracted 53% of FinTech deals across Europe in 2018 and 50% in Q1 2019, we sit in the top ten countries for FinTech worldwide. But with stiff competition from around the world, and the UK’s current existential political crisis, the question put to the panel was simple – how do we maintain our favourable status despite the uncertain landscape?

The room agreed that the UK must not rest on its laurels in this regard – competitors from China and the rest of Asia, as well as the US and Scandinavia, will be looking to ride the wave of globalisation, so we must ensure we also try to move outwards into other markets. Maintaining our position means actively exporting our successes.

Fortunately, the consensus was that the UK is uniquely positioned to do this thanks to our 800 years of history and geography. From Greenwich Meantime to livery companies to the FCA sandbox, our national legacy as standard-bearers is long and illustrious, and part of our future may lay within exploring our blended characteristics and ‘soft power’.

Our other unique quality, it was collectively decided, is our capital’s density of financial service providers, from regulators to banks to lenders. Unlike some FinTech competitors, the UK is in the enviable position of having a geographically centralised financial ecosystem, supported by a stable legal and political framework. The panel identified this as a key part of London’s FinTech success, and to suggest that we play to our strengths rather than mimicking other models.

This means not copying Silicon Valley, Taipei or Stockholm, and it also means not trying to replicate London’s successes in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. Instead we should harness each location’s unique qualities. Manchester, for example, is a media city with a low salary pool, low rents, but a preponderance of high-quality education. Interestingly, noted one panellist, Cornwall has the highest concentration of scalable tech businesses in the UK. But with Asia, Stockholm and the US providing strong competition, we’ll need to leverage our ability to “satellite” these other key domestic hubs in order to compete. While another declared “Fintechs are a UK success story with a global mindset and the ability to eradicate borders. Now’s the time to get the branding right.”

The distinction between tech and FinTech was another topic of discussion, with a key element of the UK’s future success hinging on an alchemy between tech and existing industries. The panel suggested that tech permeates our lives so much that we should not necessarily consider it a sector, but a horizontal. As tech begins to intersect with new industries – AgriTech, BioTech – we should pursue a ‘fusion strategy’ to identify significant new opportunities, as we saw in the wake of the global financial crash.

The talk concluded with hearing one ultimate wish each from the panellists – from better standards worldwide for the digital revolution, to more humility, to more friends around the world. The panel was even optimistic and pragmatic about Brexit, highlighting trade agreements finding great success and citing the current challenging times were the opportunity for the City ecosystem to reinvent themselves.

Speaking after the event, Teamspirit CEO Kirsty Maxey expanded on these points. “Too many fintechs are so focused on getting the most shares, likes, traffic, and leads. What is missing is the heart. No one makes sales without capturing a prospect’s heart. So rather than ramping up campaigns to cram people through the marketing funnel or push them along in the customer lifecycle, brands should be reaching out and drawing people in where it matters: emotionally, and most importantly, humanly. So it comes back to telling the story, the purpose of where the business originated from, what problem was it solving.”

On top of that, I think there is an even bigger story to tell about London and fintechs, how it was born out of the dissatisfaction with the finance industry, in the mid 2000’s. The government should be out there with a campaign. You will see today, Facebook announced that the WhatsApp payment app will be developed in London, and there is a reason for that, because you have the Silicon Valley, Wall Street and Washington DC, all in one place. It’s one of the best “good news” stories we have at the moment, and we should be making more of it.”

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Thank you to all the speakers for giving us their time and sharing their valuable insight. We’ll be hosting our next have another Financial Services Forum Breakfast in September, for details on how you can attend contact a member of team at hello@teamspirit.uk.com.

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