We attended Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS) 2023 at the Guildhall in the City of London; which hosted a huge number of fintech and financial services companies. We take you through some of our highlights from talks across the event’s three stages featuring industry experts from every financial and fintech sub-sector.
Kicking things off, TV and radio presenter at the BBC, Katie Derham, gave her welcome address to the ninth year of Innovate Finance in front of a packed hall and explained the “thought-provoking” fintech content from over 200 guest speakers to come.
Chris Hayward, chairman of the policy committee at The City of London Corporation, also displayed his excitement at “the championing of all things fintech” at the event. “$12.5billion was invested in UK fintech in 2022,” said Hayward; who explained that The City of London Corporation aims to support this success as it looks to further “grow and expand”.
Janine Hirt, CEO of Innovate Finance, also welcomed attendees with opening remarks concerning UK fintech. She explained that “the UK remains the best place in the world to start a fintech, to scale a fintech and to grow a fintech”.
“UK fintech stands at the forefront. The UK today boasts more than 10 per cent of the global fintech market share. Fifty-five per cent of all SME lending in the UK is being done by fintech and challenger banks. Eight out of every 10 adults here in the UK are using at least one fintech tool on a regular basis”.
The Fintech CEO Series
The first panel discussion of the day set the scene of the current financial landscape, by explaining where the sector sits today. Katie Derham moderated the panel ‘Disruption Then, Now and Tomorrow‘, which saw Lisa Jacobs, CEO of Funding Circle, explain the importance of remaining agile:
“We’ve been through a lot of change over the last five years in the UK: Brexit, covid, cost of living crisis and recession. It’s always changing. One of the areas we should be super focused on is agility and making sure that we’re able to respond to those crises while keeping the principles we have; customer centricity, the mission in our minds and driving us forward.”
Jaidev Janardana, CEO at Zopa, also talked about the importance of remaining customer-centric, while ensuring an upward trend for the business to ensure its safety:
“Where we still have to grow up is in the sustainability of our business models. The next stage we have to be focused on is making sure that we are profitable. This is a big change we have to achieve while staying true to our customer-centric roots.”
The future of financial services
Michael Hayman MBE DL, chair and co-founder at Seven Hills, moderated the next panel in the series, entitled ‘The Future of FS: Not Just Different, but Better‘.
Frustration around how slowly the financial sector can move sometimes was also evident on stage. Samantha Seaton, CEO of MoneyHub, explained: “Financial services is the ladder of the world we live in. Everyone else is moving forward at speed, but we can’t quite seem to drag our own industry forward in that sense.”
Charles McManus, CEO at ClearBank, echoed this view: “We’re still seeing way too much complexity. What does the PSR do? What about Pay UK or the FCA? Everyone has an opinion. We’ve got to try to cut through that in terms of the number of lobbyists and people that actually make the decisions.”
Louise Hill, co-founder and COO at GoHenry Ltd, discussed the decision the company has made regarding banking licences to remain agile: “We are not currently going for a full banking licence because this allows us to remain more agile by operating as an E-money business.”
Hill also discussed how the attitude of the younger generation has changed and how this may impact the speed of innovation in the future. “Where my generation grew up, your parents took you to a bank and you stayed there all your life and you have allegiances to certain financial services companies. That’s not the case for GoHenry customers. They vote with their feet and expect very, very high standards and everything in real-time. When we talk about the digital generation – they certainly are – the cashless generation. I’m hoping their expectations will speed up change,” she said.
Optimistic about the fintech future in the UK
Janine Hirt returned to the main stage to discuss the journey of challenger banks with Ts Anil, CEO at Monzo Bank, who explained the “massive global opportunity” currently presented by the space.
“I am incredibly excited. This is the place where open banking was born. This is the place where banks like us got licenced first. London has long been a financial capital. It’s a really exciting time to be here.
“I know the policymakers feel the same way too. The policymakers listen to us – they’ve heard from us about proportionate regulation. So while it’s important we stay the course, I’m still very optimistic about the future. This is a global crossroads of talent – so much is possible in the UK.”
‘Financial services are at the heart’ of governmental efforts
Andrew Griffith MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, took the main stage and gave his keynote speech covering the likes of the sale of Silicon Valley Bank and artificial intelligence (AI).
Griffith explained the importance of “prioritising growth, risk-taking and wealth creation, as we charter our way forward with the ability to be able to make our own rules for the first time in decades. It’s never been more important that financial services are at the heart of those efforts.
“Our own commitment to supporting UK fintech is reflected in the actions we took working with the Bank of England to facilitate the private sale of Silicon Valley Bank to HSBC last month.
“I know how many of you in this room were directly affected by the potential collapse of SVB in the UK, and I’m glad we were able to act decisively to secure an outcome that protected both your capital and ensure the continuity of banking services throughout that period.”
Griffith also referenced his view on the important role of AI in the near future. He said: “AI can help firms identify and prevent fraudulent transactions, detecting suspicious patterns in real-time”.
Virtual assets, governmental action and startups in Hong Kong
Christopher Hui, deputy head of investment promotion and fintech at Invest Hong Kong, discussed the current landscape for investment in Hong Kong with Michael Hayman MBE.
“Because of the anonymous nature of virtual assets, there are risks related to money laundering and terrorist financing. But, at the same time, when we look at this holistically, there are also positive elements in blockchain, in terms of the potential to enhance efficiency through payments etc.”
Hui also discussed the makeup of the current fintech landscape in Hong Kong: “We have around 4000 to 5000 startups in Hong Kong and among them, a quarter of the founders are from places other than Hong Kong.”
“One of my boys, when he was 11 years old, was already trading NFTs with his peers at school. So we see the tremendous potential in the younger generation”.
Fintech for good
Katie Derham returned to the stage to moderate the next discussion entitled ‘The Real Impact of FinTech: Using Technology for Good‘.
Alex Craven, co-founder at The Data City, explained that the solutions financial institutions are looking for often already exist: in the form of fintechs and smaller, more agile companies. Craven explained: “Loads of these new and innovative companies are popping up and there’s a huge opportunity there for established businesses. The innovation is out there, you just need to find them, give them investment, give them access to customers and spend the money on them.”
Graham Cressey, Fintech Lab at Accenture, explained the role that fintechs are playing across these spaces: “Whether it’s on climate, whether it’s on inclusion or getting better access for people – fintechs are genuinely leading the way for these”.
Kim Abbott, founder and CEO at Vested, discussed her frustrations surrounding regulation because of its potential: “Regulation isn’t the ‘silver bullet’ however, because it is never fast enough and it never goes far enough. We can’t let perfection be the enemy of progress here. Everyone says what do I do? I say do something within the bounds of the rules – although I do agree we need more standardisation”.
Fintech across the world
The Livery Hall hosted another fintech-centric panel discussion, ‘The FinTech Hub Crawl‘, moderated by Emma Joyce, CEO at GBBC Digital Finance.
Ana Nishnianidze, trade and investment commissioner in the UK and Ireland for Austrade, discussed fintech regulation in Australia. “Australian regulation is really trying to catch up with what’s happening in the world of financial services and innovation and to not all too far behind. I think it’s not just about implementing that legislation, but it’s also about continuing to ensure that it’s actually working”.
Nishnianidze also discussed the role of collaboration in advancing the fintech sector: “I’m a big fan of collaboration and partnerships. It’s so much easier to solve problems together. We can also innovate much better. Each and every one of our regions has different strengths”.
Mark Chorazak, partner at Shearman & Sterling, “Certainly, when thinking about the regulatory spectrum or pendulum, we’re certainly entering into an era of re-regulation. I do believe that user protection is taking on a hyper focus, partly because the fintech industry is much more mature.”
CFIT fireside chat
Following the fintech discussion, Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO-Elect at CFIT, spoke to Janine Hirt about the aims of the government-backed organisation, with a call to the ecosystem:
“We’re backed by the Treasury with £5million. Half a million pounds comes also from the City of London to pilot coalitions solving some of the biggest problems facing the financial sector when it comes to scaling and unblocking those barriers.”
“Charlotte Crosswell, our incredible chair, puts it like this: the fintechs out there today trying to solve problems can only solve problems within the universe they operate in. But what if we could completely change that paradigm? What if we could remove the walls that mean you can only innovate within the space and ask what would you do if?”
Britton also addressed the ecosystem: “It’s all about mobilising the ecosystem right now. Our biggest thing is ‘we’ve done the talk, now lets drive and lets see more action’. Over the next few months we’re working particularly with the regional bodies and trade associations as we work together to understand the core problems so that we can identify what the subculture of it should be. So we really want all of you that want to be involved to provide the data, services, time to engage with the trade associations and regional bodies – tell them, and they’ll reach out and be in touch.”