“Welcome to London: the fintech hub of the world”. Fintech Week London (FTWL), a week-long series of events celebrating London’s innovative ecosystem, got underway on Monday with a call for support in protecting the industry through choppy waters.
Back as an in-person event, Fintech Week London 2022 is taking place from Monday 11 to Friday 15 July, combining the ‘best of learning and networking and covering the fintech industry’s hottest topics’ – with a 2022 theme of ‘The coming of age of the fintech industry’.
On day one of FTWL’s flagship two-day conference on Liverpool Street, keynote speaker Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business, hailed the virtues of London for fintech.
He said: “Welcome to London, the greatest city of the world. When it comes to fintech, London is the fintech hub of the world. Because there is nowhere else in the world where you can have all the things in one place. We’ve got amazing tech talent. We’ve got very supportive regulators. We’ve got a very unique ecosystem with everything just a tube ride away.
“London is now the top hub for VC funding ahead of New York and Silicon Valley, which is something we need to be proud of and hold on to.”
Also on the agenda
Superbly chaired by Chris Skinner, FTWL hosted a number of fantastic panels and keynote speeches covering topics including digital sovereignty, open banking, embedded finance and decentralisation (DAOs) and Web 3.0 business models.
With an array of t-shirts, Skinner fashionably explained how technology has changed banking over the past 15 years.
Taking on the role of a banker at the time, he explained how the ‘Bank of Bankenstein’ – “a dead company with broken systems and parts that are three centuries old that sticks together and can only stay alive by injecting it with electricity” – didn’t like the idea of fintech because “fintechs are fixing the things that the ‘Bankensteins’ don’t understand and can’t fix”.
Discussing the growth in embedded finance, Dr. Leda Glyptis, chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies, said: “The main thing about embedded finance and the reason it has all of a sudden become extremely interesting and engaging, is that it moves the conversation away from the bank.
“The whole idea of embedded finance is using connectivity to make services, easier, safer and cheaper for the consumer. Even though we’ve had over 10 years to digest the components of this thing, the reason it’s accelerating now is because people are working out how to make money with it.”
While, in a panel discussion on how open banking sets a foundation for open finance, Richard Mould at Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE), said: “While we do have digital identities in the UK, it’s just we have lots of them with lots of different people and yet none of them could talk to me. Hopefully someone can figure out how we can leverage that capability. So that actually when you do give your consent for something to happen, it’s safe, secure, and it’s familiar.”
Towards the end of Monday’s sessions, Dave Birch, director of innovation & global ambassador at Consult Hyperion, entertained with a discussion on how to make money in the metaverse. While admitting that if he “could go dressed up as a pink rhinoceros and get a loan from Joanna Lumley” it would be “great”, he explained that he just doesn’t want to go in a bank branch and doesn’t care if a bank is in the metaverse.
“If you talk to serious people in serious financial services, they’re up for the tokenisation of everything. Tokens are the way of actually owning things in the metaverse,” he concluded.
The Fintech Review
However, amid the celebrations of innovation , Fintech Week London also launched an investigation into fintech valuations and funding. Despite record levels of investment into fintech companies in 2021, analysis has revealed a sharp decline in 2022 with firms struggling to raise fresh funds, and growing reports of falling valuations, fire sales, staff layoffs and recruitment freezes across the industry.
Raf De Kimpe, CEO of Fintech Week London, said: “Of the many topical issues affecting the international fintech space, the recent predicted downturn in VC funding is one that affects the entire ecosystem. Fintechs at all stages of growth and development will feel the impact of changing valuations, slower funding rounds and hesitancy from investors. This will have a knock-on effect on tech development, talent acquisition and retention, and ultimately the flow of innovative financial solutions to the end user.
“FTWL is not just an important event in the fintech calendar but a community of key and influential industry players working together to drive positive change. We’re uniquely placed to launch an independent review into how the fintech industry has found itself in this position.
“We’re calling on our community to share their thoughts on what we can do to protect the fintech industry. We want to know how the industry can move away from hyper-valuations and unsustainable business models to refocus on financial products and services that improve the world in real-time. How did we get here and how do we move on from this to ensure fintech remains one of the UK’s great success stories.”
Coming up at FTWL
On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will share learnings on how Chicago’s commitment to equality and inclusion is helping the US city’s fintech ecosystem realise a more diverse talent pool.
Further activity taking place over the five days includes the Open Source Finance Forum on Wednesday and The FinTech Awards London ceremony at The Underglobe on Wednesday evening, which will recognise and celebrate fintech professionals and companies making a difference in London.