Leeds
Europe Fintech Ecosystems Weekend read

“Fintech Isn’t Just a London-Centric Success Story” – Growing the Fintech Community in The North

London continues to be Europe’s fintech capital and is second only to New York in the latest global financial centres index. But there’s increasing growth across other regions of the UK. Here we take a look at the North’s dedication to growing a thriving fintech ecosystem of its own.

“For many the image of fintech is stuck in Shoreditch in East London” noted the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech last year, yet investment outside of London and the South-east is booming.

UK regions saw rapid growth in 2021, with $696million investment outside London and the South East compared to $206million in 2020 – a 237 per cent increase, according to industry body Innovate Finance.

MP John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, recently commented: “Last year, UK fintech attracted a record £9.7billion, more than any other country outside of the US. But fintech isn’t just a London-centric success story, in fact investment outside of London and the South-east more than tripled last year. It is fintech businesses in the North that are helping to drive the sector’s incredible growth.”

“Indeed, with their rich financial services heritage, world-leading universities and a growing number of fintech accelerators, it is no wonder that many of our Nothern cities are independently rated as some of the best fintech ecosystems in the world.”

His comments came in a pre-recorded address at FinTech North Leeds’ annual conference, taking place at Salem Chapel in Leeds – a former church now housing telecom operator aql’s head offices, as well as data centres. The event on 17 March attracted 35 speakers, more than 150 delegates to the venue and 60-plus viewers turning into the livestream.

Fintech North Leeds

Northern credentials

FinTech North launched in 2016 and is part of the FinTech National Network, which encourages collaboration between UK fintech hubs to amplify their collective message globally. Operating across a region including Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester, FinTech North’s aim is to ‘grow the fintech community in the UK’s Northern Powerhouse by connecting all parts of the fintech ecosystem to create jobs, growth and attract investment’.

The ecosystem facilitator is confident in the potential of the region, describing the future of fintech in the north as ‘really bright’ with ‘so many innovative organisations coming out with new products that have got significant consumer demand’.

Reflecting on this year’s Leeds conference, Joe Roche, engagement manager at FinTech North, told The Fintech Times: “After two years away from the city, it’s clear to see that fintech in the Leeds region is very much alive and kicking post-pandemic. Not only is the sector growing at some pace, but FinTech North Leeds also showed that the city is maturing when it comes to its fintech credentials.

“It’s still home to some of the sector’s most exciting startups – many of whom joined us – but increasingly, serious players like the Bank of England and the FCA are establishing bases in the city. With each of our regional conferences, the message always comes through loud and clear: the Northern Powerhouse is carving out a strong identity for itself within fintech and is no longer London’s less attractive sibling when it comes to investment.”

Looking at Leeds

Last year, Leeds was chosen as the headquarters for the new UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) set up to channel billions of pounds into big projects and help tackle climate change. The Bank of England also announced its intention to open a northern hub in Leeds. While, the UK’s financial regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – unveiled plans to increase its presence outside London by basing staff in Leeds.

Speaking at the Leeds conference, Eve Roodhouse, chief officer culture and economy at Leeds City Council, described ‘an amazing vibe’ in the city which has a ‘great innovation advantage’.

She said: “Leeds has lots to be proud of: not least the new Centre for Green Finance at The University of Leeds, the home of the UK Infrastructure Bank and the Bank of England as well as the FCA’s recent move to the city. Our partnerships to drive innovation are stronger than ever with various events happening this month. All these things add a real strength, depth, excitement and vibrancy to the city that creates collaboration.”

Building fintech across the UK

Roodhouse later joined a panel discussion on the regionalisation of fintech at the conference which emphasised the importance of developing fintech across the North and beyond with represenatives from FinTech Scotland and FinTech West also taking part.

She suggested that while London is clearly established as the leading hub in the UK, it is important to look at the brand ‘UK’ – “Use London as our leading brand if that’s what people recognise internationally, but use it as a gateway into our regions and their specific strengths and talents.”

Peter Cunnane, director of international & national initiatives at Innovate Finance, added: “What we are seeing across the UK are a number of developed and some emerging hubs with different kinds of fintechs taking root and different flavours of the sectors emerging. What we’re also seeing post Kalifa review and post pandemic is a cross promotion across the sector that we haven’t seen before, right across the country.”

“The important message is that it’s not just what is happening in London and the South East, we need to get past that, it’s the depth of the sector and the quality of the talent and businesses in cities and towns around the UK where fintech is taking root.”

Funding gaps

But access to capital remains a ‘huge challenge’ for fintechs looking to grow across the UK, according to FinTech Alliance, the Government-backed digital ecosystem for UK fintech founded in 2019. It is running an investment series from April to June this year to support companies at each stage of their investment journey in a bid to ‘highlight the unique qualities of various hubs, clusters and regions’.

Olivia Minnock, editor for the FinTech Alliance, addressed the funding gap at the FinTech North conference. She said: “Access to investment in 2022 still remains a problem. There is a lot of money around but alot of that money tends to circulate around the same kind of people… and many important decisions are still made over a beer after work in the city.  So, there are still huge challenges for fintech companies outside of London when it comes to funding and there aren’t the same opportunities to meet investors.

“The FinTech Alliance Investment Series is a series of events bringing together investors and fintechs to create informal meetings and opportunities, as well as workshops around areas that we think founders may need support on. We are holding this series in partnership with FinTech North and all the other regional hubs across the UK.

“We need fintechs from every corner of the UK to take part as we don’t want to just encourage investors to look beyond London, we want to show them some black and white examples of why they should be. Let’s showcase the best of British and not just the best of London.”

 

Author

  • Claire works across print and online as Editor for The Fintech Times.

Related posts

Starling Bank wins Covid with a shed

Sean Hargrave

Fintech’s Asked to ‘Come Scale in Wales’ With Launch of New Zero Equity Accelerator Scheme

Gina Clarke

Fintech Layoffs: Is The Bubble Bursting Or Is This The Era of Responsible Correcting?

John Reynolds