Eric van der Kleij is Chairman of UKTI’s GEP Advisory Group specialising in FinTech and Blockchain, the managing director of specialist innovation practise Entiq, former head of the Level39 Fintech Accelerator Hub in Canary Wharf, and previously an advisor to 10 Downing Street and the first CEO of the Tech City initiative.
Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is home to a flourishing hub of tech activity. Its tech sector is worth an estimated £8.2bn to the Welsh economy and it continues to grow according to ESTnet. Additionally more than 18,000 people in Cardiff and Swansea are employed in the tech sector Tech Nation, which when combined with other strengths provides a good ‘foundation’ in fintech. But I’d go a little further. I think Cardiff and its surrounding areas are well positioned to become a national fintech leader. Here’s why.
Firstly, and importantly, is the strength of the existing financial sector in Cardiff. The sector attracted a whopping £62m of foreign funding in 2014, and created 1,750 jobs during the 2014-15 financial year. Wales already has some of the UK’s biggest tech aware companies, namely BT and Admiral. As well as a number of savvy SME fintech companies, such as Wealthify; an online investment service using smart algorithms to democratise investing, and Delio, an investment platform which connects a financial institution’s high net worth clients with private investment opportunities. Both are part of Digital 2016’s Digital Dozen, which highlights companies making an impact in the sector using ground-breaking technology.
Another significant consideration is the backing of the Welsh Government, for example the Welsh Government-created Cardiff Central Enterprise Zone (a strategic geographical area that offers additional business support packages). Welsh Government also supports business across all sectors in Wales, including:
- The Wales Technology Seed Fund; Aimed at technology start-ups, university spin-outs and intellectual property-rich companies, the fund helps them to commercialise their innovative products and technologies and bring them to market.
- Innovation Point launched this year, is a Welsh Government and private sector, not-for-profit organisation which will make transformative tech ideas easier to find and fund, assisting tech SMEs to access expertise and forge collaborative enterprises.
Access to higher education in Cardiff – a key driver of any tech hub – is stellar. Cardiff University is a Russell Group institution, ranked 182nd in the world by The Times, whilst the city and the surrounding region is also home to Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales – businesses are never short of bright graduates to help feed growing, ambitious businesses in the region.
Finally, Cardiff has a great networking scene, allowing start-ups, investors and large corporations to meet and share ideas, all within easy reach of UK major cities, and from 2018, just 1.45mins from London. A stand out example of this scene is Digital 2016, a two-day event being helda stone’s throw from Cardiff at the home of the 2010 Ryder Cup, Newport. The event, at which I’m speaking in June, will feature a number of fintech events, and speakers from Twitter and Google among other things.
All the pieces are in place, but some work remains before the region can begin to claim its position as a fintech hub. Our company Entiq recently delivered a report about the Cardiff Capital Region which recommends the creation of ‘Testbed Cardiff’- whereby government organisations based in Wales make their information more readily available to start-ups. We recommended the region and partners support a specialist Internet of Things (IOT) network, to develop new FinTech and Insuretech, and professional services solutions, supported by government and local corporates.
Setting up FinTech and IOT Accelerator Competitions aimed at schoolchildren, through to students, and startups – could also be incredibly beneficial. As well as enthusing young people about pursuing careers in the sector and introducing a competitive element to technology innovation, it would also allow fintech and IOT fanatics to network and share ideas.
Cardiff though has already developed a reputation for its forward-thinking business community aided by a business friendly devolved Government. Complemented by modern infrastructure, international culture and lifestyle which rank amongst the best in Europe, the burgeoning tech scene will be the thing to watch in the coming years.