fintech fringe
Europe Event Analysis Fintech Ecosystems Spotlight

Fintech Fringe: UK is in a Prime Position to Lead Industry Growth and Scalability in Europe

A year after its debut to the world, Fintech Fringe has returned to London during London Tech Week 2024, turning its attention to growth and scalability for the industry.

This year, the event spotlights why the UK is one of the best places to grow and scale a business. From exploring strategies for scaling and acquiring new customers, to fundraising and complying with evolving regulations, Fintech Fringe acts as the breeding ground for new ideas and partnerships as it delivers pragmatic and practical support for scaling fintechs.

The four-day event is taking place across a variety of venues, with Rise by Barclays hosting the first day and Level39 the second. The third day took visitors back into the heart of London as guests experienced enlightening discussions at the Thought Machine HQ. Ahead of the final day at Fox Williams, we reflect on some of the biggest takeaways and highlights from the event so far.

Supercharging fintechs for scale and success

One of the best ways new organisations can learn to be successful is by reviewing what already established firms have done and adopting and integrating these blueprints into their own firms.

Nick Drewett, CCO, Starling Engine
Nick Drewett, CCO, Starling Engine

Nick Drewett, CCO, Starling Engine provided insights into commercial strategies, business growth, and technological advancements of the neobank. All the while, he also explored how Starling Engine is empowering firms around the globe to advance their own infrastructures.

Drewett highlighted the importance of a good customer experience in addition to the role engineers play in decision-making: “At Starling, the way we do things is inverted. The engineers? They innovate and write the code. They have the ability to adjust the platform and toggle features on and off when needed.

“The infrastructure is designed to assume that things will break, but when they do, consumers will never notice.”

He also discussed the importance of call centres in playing a role in strong customer relationships. Traditionally, “they were managed as ‘cost centres’ – not as an opportunity to build trust and relationships.”

How to pivot products to supercharge sales

One of many insightful panels included, David McHenry, head of product advisory and implementation, HSBC Innovation Banking, Alexandra Rivas-Gale, head of product, ClearBank and Adam Moulson, CCO, Griffin. Hosted by Matt Williamson, SVP and industry principal, Endava, the panel explored how firms must keep customers in mind and pivot products to align with their evolving needs.

It also highlighted the importance of recognising and solving basic problems quickly and reliably. Moulson spoke about this further saying: “Why are we solving problems? What value is your customer going to get from solving that problem and how meaningful is that value? Before designing anything, prove that there is a viable business opportunity that is of sufficient size and scale that is worth investing in. If there is, then go for it incrementally with customers.”

Pivot products panel

Growth vs profitability: how to supercharge scale in a safe way

Another enlightening conversation was centred around the challenges and opportunities of navigating business growth and innovation.

The panel, moderated by David Wallace, co-host of David and Dham Demystifying and featuring, Susana Ponce Fremont, global head of financial and credit risk, Tide; Valentina Kristensen, corporate affairs director, OakNorth; and Michael Treacy, head of marketing, OpenPayd, emphasised the importance of understanding the stage a company is at in its business model when balancing growth and profitability.

They also noted the need for effective cost management, agility and compliance. Treacy said: “One of your only roles as a leader within a business is prioritisation.

“That prioritisation comes with assessing what’s happening around you within the business and the external parts of your industry. If you try and take on too many things at once, then you’re not executing well on the core proposition of the business.”

Growth vs Profitability panel

Ecosystems and marketplaces: B2B scaling strategies

Himal Makwana, SVP at FIS; Maeve Heneghan, fintech business development EMEA at Amazon Web Services; and Tom Bentley, head of growth at NatWest Boxed identified that partners play a massive role in scaling a business. As such, choosing the right one is of paramount importance.

Danny Keating, senior director business development at JD Consulting, also guided the conversation by exploring potential procurement challenges and solutions organisations may face.

When discussing potential partnerships, the impact embedded finance is having on potential collaborations was brought up. Makwana said: “The best is yet to come for embedded finance. We’re still very early in this inning. I will measure success the day we don’t talk about embedded finance as a term, and we just talk about what it has enabled – that is success for me.

Ecosystems and marketplaces

Tech tips and tricks

Day three at Fintech Fringe focused on cutting through the confusing techy jargon to help fintechs understand how to select the right systems and platforms to support growth and scalability.

multi-billion dollar fintech
Travers Clarke-Walker, founder and CMO at Thought Machine

With the day’s event located at Thought Machine HQ, the firm’s founder and CMO, Travers Clarke-Walker, took to the stage first to share his insight into scaling a fintech, and revealed important considerations for firms to remember.

“Regarding scaling up, your early deals are a key aspect to the entire journey – it’s all about finding your anchor clients because they are as much sponsors as they are clients. As you move forward, it’s imperative to recognise their importance in terms of their voice back out into the market.”

Clarke-Walker also discussed the importance of building a strong organisation around your technology or product, to ensure success.

“It’s one thing to build a product, it’s another thing entirely to then navigate it into commercialising that into businesses and to clients. The most important thing to consider is that it’s also one thing to have great technology, but you have to build a great organisation around it, to serve that technology to the industry successfully. It’s as much about building the organisation around the tech, as it is the tech itself.”

Sitting down with Bank of America

Next, Elizabeth Lumley, deputy editor at The Banker, sat down with Andrew McKibben, head of international technology at Bank of America. McKibben broke down the bank’s collaborative and mentoring relationships with fintechs and revealed the importance of not losing sight of key fundamentals.

“We have to remember that banking is built on trust,” he explained. “When I speak to clients, they want new capabilities and more innovation – but they also want reliability, resiliency and secure technology. When companies remember that, those pain points don’t emerge. These pain points emerge when those things are forgotten and the focus on the new and shiny.”

McKibben also spoke about collaboration between banks and fintechs: “I think partnerships are really good. The reality is that the landscape is far more collaborative than 20 years ago. There’s now a deep appreciation that collaboration, instead of just direct competition, is better for customers and the industry as a whole.

“Fintechs and banks can learn from one another. Banks can bring resource, scale and knowledge from all of the countries we operate in. Fintechs are, by design, leaner. They offer faster time to market in many cases. So we can learn from one another to deliver the best possible outcomes for customers.”

Bank of America fintech fringe

Remembering the fundamentals 

Another panel focused on stability and resilience of tech, in which a number of panellists also agreed about the importance of remembering to always prioritise the so-called ‘basics’ or fundamentals.

Lee Provost, CTO of Flagstone, told a story from earlier in his career: “For my first job as a Java developer, I was working on a database, made my changes, and logged off – very pleased with myself for a job well done… until panicked phone calls came in.

“Turns out, I didn’t click ‘log off’, I clicked ‘shut down’. Thankfully, they said ‘Not to worry, we should probably have never given you permission to shut down the production database anyway’. That was a very expensive lesson for the bank, but a very good one for me.

“Usually when horror stories happen, it’s because the company, the processes, people and culture allow the mistakes to happen. Whether it’s a UX issue that wasn’t prioritised or manual processes, it more often than not becomes an issue when we were too focused on prioritising the next big shiny thing.”

stability and resilience fintech fringe

Tamsin Powell, CRO at Creditspring, discussed managing risk: “When tech fails, whether it’s ours internally, or a third party, it represents operational risk, regulatory risk, as well as financial risk. Years ago, you’d have a tech team which sat in a different office. Now, it’s very much cross-functional teams that get together for any developments, incidents, or product changes, to ensure we thought about everything.”

Jake Figg, head of product at MMOB, added: “To achieve outcomes that are harmonious among teams, is the idea of psychological safety – where people aren’t afraid to challenge something the business has said.

“It’s about creating an atmosphere where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Only then do you get a sort of contribution which hasn’t got the blinkers on and that considers the whole business. A collaborative atmosphere is how we get the most out of a cross-functional team.”

Authors

  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

  • Tom joined The Fintech Times in 2022 as part of the operations team; later joining the editorial team as a journalist.

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