My colleague and good friend @riteshs01 didn’t like the first version of this article. He REALLY didn’t like it and made sure, over the course of a range of emails, Slack chats, texts and calls, that I fully understood just how much he didn’t like it and why. Did I say ‘friend’? But, dammit, he was right. He felt that a plod through descriptions of ‘fintech’, ‘envoy’ and ‘NPH’ would not capture your imagination. Instead what was needed was a clear iteration of what was in it for you. So here goes.
(Before I get going though please allow this disclaimer – I’m paraphrasing what I’ve heard from various people and Departments in Central Government. I’m using my words to explain things that have been carefully crafted in terms of their content and messaging by people far smarter and wiser that me. So please give me a break if, in my attempt to translate and intermediate, I put my foot in it. It won’t be the first time and probably not the last.)
The Government has several priorities in its vision for shaping a futureBritain. One is the Industrial Strategy, with its focus on developing a highskilled, competitive economy throughout the whole of the UK, with the Northern Powerhouse helping to drive forward growth across the North of England.
Another is a bet on fintech. This bet is grounded in several key reports (for example https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fintechblackett-review) that emphasize the UK’s pre-eminence and bright future in this space. In other words, we are good at fintech and want to stay that way.
The good news is that the sorts of things that make us good at fintech in the UK exist in abundance in the north of England. For example, Leeds is a mainstream financial center of excellence (organizations like First Direct, Yorkshire Bank, Leeds and Skipton Building Societies live there – it’s where over 60% of us get our mortgages!). But Leeds is also a burgeoning hub for fintech: it has three good Universities, a range of hi-tech companies including ‘fintech’s’; the infrastructure to support a start-up economy (Leeds Council recently released £3.7mn to fund accelerators and other infrastructure); there are plans to build an entire digital ‘City’ in the south of Leeds (called ICON); and FiNexus Labs (a development lab for fintech) will be based there. This is a brief description of what is a very rich environment and I’ll elaborate in future posts. The better news still is that initiatives like this are emerging all over the north. Hurrah. The Government likes it and wants to support it! But how?
I’ll limit myself to three key things here:
First, they’ve appointed ‘Envoys’ to act as conduits between Central Government and the regions. The first to be appointed are the two for the north (yes, two! The other is Claire Braithwaite, who is based in Manchester). As conduits we are there to assist with the implementation of policy, largely from Treasury and, here’s the interesting part, to reverse the flow of information. In other words, we are there to distil the needs and direction of the fintech community in the north of England and take it back to Treasury. So our first job is to build a community for fintech and Claire and I are thinking about how best to do this at the moment. Watch this space.
Secondly, the Treasury has a national event on the 12th April in London where UK fintechs will have the opportunity to meet and greet investors from all over the world. So get your marketing material together and get in contact with me, or directly with the organizing team (actually I’m part of that too) as the opportunity is huge. Sign up at www.events. trade.gov.uk/fintech-conference-2017/
Thirdly, we have our very own fintech event for the north of UK! This is on the 26th April in Leeds and is called Fintech North. It’s an event I am putting together with range of stakeholders. Tickets are available at Eventbrite. The point is there’s a lot going on, it’s all for you, so get involved and let’s build the fintech community for the north together, and if you have any suggestions or are interested I would love to speak to you.
CHRIS SIER Fintech Envoy
for the Northern Powerhouse