On Friday 26th February, a Zoom webinar took place. But this was quite different to your regular Zoom webinar, as it was part of the launch event for the HM Treasury commissioned Fintech Strategic Review led by Ron Kalifa.
This Review was part of an attempt to provide a roadmap for industry, policymakers and regulators to build the UK’s success in Fintech, allowing the UK to capitalise on the opportunities fintech presents to create quality jobs and level up the country, increase financial inclusion and play a key part of “Global Britain”. Amadeus Capital, Deloitte, EY, Hogan Lovells, KPMG, SVC2UK and Tech Nation were just some of the companies who contributed to this report.
Kalifa Fintech Strategic Review
The eponymous author of this review, Ron Kalifa, kicked things off by sharing his thoughts with the webinar participants. In his view, and one of the main motivations behind getting involved with this project and report, is that he views Fintech as “the future of financial services” which should be considered as a permanent fixture, something that “should not be considered a niche, nor a sub-sector.” He also expanded on what he sees as the goal of Fintech, namely that “it’s about delivering better, cheaper and more inclusive financial services for customers, especially consumers and SMEs.”
Moving on to what he saw as the future of the UK Fintech, and what he hoped that his report would achieve, Mr. Kalifa explained that he wanted to help build on the “hundreds of years of [global] trust that’s been built up in the financial services system in the UK,” and that the UK should be ones “setting the [global] standard […] because we’ve got the ability to do that, we’ve got the technical talent and we’ve got the financial services talent.”
This launch event consisted of two panels, the first a panel discussion, and the second a reaction from some of the representatives of major UK fintech companies. Both panels were moderated by Julia Streets, Founder and Chief Exec at Streets Consulting.
Julia Streets posed a question to Lord Grimstone, asking for his thoughts on how the UK Fintech industry can maintain its current leadership position and continue to attract inward investment ($4 billion dollars was invested in UK FinTech in 2020).
Lord Grimstone began by stating that he completely agreed with Ron Kalifa in the sense of thinking that “decisive steps are required to ensure that the UK maintains its global FinTech leadership,” and that, in his view “attracting investment is a globally competitive sport […] it’s a sport [in which] the UK intends to win.”
When it comes to the approach that will need to be undertaken to keep UK Fintech at the top of its game, on a global scale, Lord Grimstone laid out that the UK’s approach was “going to be defined by visibility collectivity and global connectivity, […] these are the essential components in striving for ambitious goals in this sector.” And, in terms of what his department would be doing to help, Lord Grimstone explained that they would need to draw on the strong existing relationships with “international investors and financial institutions”, as well as public organisations such as the City of London Corporation and the Centre for innovation finance and technology.
He also reflected on how the post-Brexit environment would have a role to play in the UK’s fintech strategy, first pointing out that “now that we’re out of the European Union, of course, our intention is to put the United Kingdom, at the centre of a global web of free trade agreements (FTAs)” and that “all the FTA is that we are now developing have a financial services chapter in them” as well as highlighting that the UK has recently signed a ‘financial innovation partnership’ with the US.
Julia Streets pointed out, during this second panel, that “we are highlighting in the review that 90% of the UK workforce will need to be re-skilled by 2030, and that’s a huge challenge.” Based on this, she directed a question to Jess Houlgrave, Chief of Staff at Checkout.com, asking her “when you’re scaling up a company, how easy or difficult did you find it to find talent […] and what do you think the UK government can do to help support your talent?”
Jess Houlgrave agreed that “like all the fintechs that we’re talking about today, we do need good and ready access to very skilled and often very specialised people,” whilst also admitting that “the injection of VC money has obviously increased the competition for talent over recent years.” At Checkout.com, they have added 250 people to their London team in the last year, despite Covid-19 and having to onboard everyone remotely, something that Ms. Houlgrave described it as “not being the easiest thing […] COVID has also been a complicating factor to say the least.”
In terms of what the Government can do to help companies like Checkout.com in the UK, Jess Houlgrave was eager to highlight some of the recommendations made in the Kalifa Review, such as “the recommendation for an immigration system that allows firms like ours to hire senior talent,” which would allow UK Fintechs to hire talent from “FinTech hubs around the world who are much more mature than us…San Francisco, for example.” She saw this as being a key recommendation, because “the impact that those people have isn’t just on the business that they join, it permeates through the entire ecosystem, by virtue of the fact that they are bringing experience and knowledge that can be shared across the company and more widely into the sector.”
Ron Kalifa finished up the session with some closing remarks, stating that he felt that “in many ways today is a historic moment […] the beginning of the next chapter for a sector, which is very likely to be one of the global assets for the UK.”
You can find out more on how UK fintechs reacted to the review by clicking here to access our latest article, ‘The Kalifa Review: Industry Reacts to Long-Awaited Uk Fintech Review’.