More than 150 business leaders attended the first FinTech North conference in Leeds last week as part of Leeds Digital Festival.
Speakers and delegates from Estonia, Germany, London and Manchester gathered to look at the future of FinTech and how Leeds and the broader northern business community can exploit its opportunities.
Julian Wells, director at strategy consultancy Whitecap Consulting – one of the originators and organisers of the day, said: “Many of us regularly travel to London to listen, discuss and develop ideas in FinTech. As this event showed we have a burgeoning FinTech sector in Leeds and we now need to start positioning ourselves. Last week’s event was a first step.”
FinTech North was hosted by aql in their high-tech Salem Chapel data centre. Adam Beaumont, chief executive of aql, opened the day and explained why south Leeds was a perfect site for businesses needing enormous supplies of power and being close to the intersection of where fibre cables enter the city with superfast broadband.
Other speakers included Dan Rajkumar of rebuildingsociety.com, Chris Sier of FiNexus, Tom Cheesewright of Book of the Future and Richard Carter, ceo of Nostrum Group. They looked at the likely players in the next generation of banking and lending, particularly focusing on those with large balance sheets and vast consumer reach such as Amazon and Facebook.
Dan Rajkumar, MD of rebuildingsociety.com and one of the movers behind the event, said: “We were delighted with delegate feedback. The keynotes were impressive – especially for a first time event – the venue was a perfect fit and the networking enlightening. We were being asked about the next event as people were leaving. It’s clear that Leeds and the North has a hunger for high-tech events that bring together like-minded innovative people.”
Dr Chris Sier, Director of FiNexus, said: “The day was very well organised and the audience was diverse and knowledgeable. Meeting the burgeoning local FinTech community was tangible evidence that companies are making the smart decision to stay away from London. This should be applauded and supported as it not only de-risks the FinTech industry, but provides strong evidence of Leeds’ capabilities in serving the needs of tech entrepreneurs. I look forward to working with Leeds and this community over the coming year to provide supporting infrastructure, especially around distributed ledgers and blockchain.”
Julian Wells summed up the day: “I think everyone knows this sector is full of opportunities, but FinTech North really brought this home. There is no doubt Leeds is now seen as the key FinTech leader outside London both for infrastructure and talent.
“The challenge for FinTech businesses is scaleability. Start-ups feel fresh and transparent and grab the headlines but the truth is they will need robust strategies to grow at pace and provide any real size of challenge to the traditional banking sector.”
FinTech North was organised by Leeds-based businesses rebuildingsociety.com, White Label Crowdfunding, Whitecap Consulting, and aql and originated from discussions between these businesses around how the business community could do more in the Leeds city region. They scheduled the event to be part of Leeds Digital Festival and based on its success plan to repeat the event in future with even more businesses involved.