Fintech Week London – is London still a leading fintech hub?

Day one of Fintech Week London got off to an ominous start when my black cab driver’s card machine froze, and I had to pay with cash. “Technology is great when it works,” he quipped.

Little did he know, I was stepping into a fintech conference with hundreds of people, many of whom are focused on technology that will transform the future of money!

At Tottenham Hotspur’s technologically advanced new stadium, a fitting venue, Raf De Kimpe, CEO of Fintech Week London, opened the day by saying that Beyoncé was a hard act to follow but that he’d do his best.

While the conference didn’t have quite the same draw as a Beyoncé gig, there was a small, engaged audience of the great and good of fintech brought together by a common belief that the industry is the future of finance and much much more.

Given the name of the event, it’s no surprise that a lot of discussions focused on London’s position as a fintech hub. There was a lot of positivity in the room that the city has momentum in its favour, but there was also a sense of realism that nothing is guaranteed.

Charlotte Crosswell OBE, Chair of the newly formed Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) gave an energetic and positive keynote on London’s position as a global fintech hub.

Crosswell commended the inspiration on offer at industry events like this and London Tech Week before diving into how CFIT is working hard to push the industry forward. It aims to bring together the best minds from across the UK to unblock barriers to growth and help the sector to scale.

CFIT already has some exciting projects in place to connect opportunities and drive real change. Crosswell said it’s vital the UK acts now and commits to long-term agenda to unleash a new wave of innovation across every region in the UK.

Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business, also spoke about this theme and shared what he thinks are London’s three key strengths:

Talent – London is home to 40 universities, more than any other city in the world

Regulation – Protects consumers, and encourages innovation through initiatives like sandboxes

Financial Services – 1600 fintechs, 42 unicorns, the largest concentration of foreign banks

Amongst all the positivity in the room about the UK’s prospects, there was a sense of realism that its position as a leading light in fintech wasn’t guaranteed.

A panel which featured Layla White, founder and CEO of TechPassport, Saira Khan, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at first direct, Prakash Pattni, Managing Director, Financial Services Digital Transformation at IBM Cloud, Matt Smith, Co-founder and CEO of SteelEye and Sean Kiernan, Chief Technical Officer at Greengage agreed that the removal of Tech Nation’s funding was disappointing.

They saw it as an important vehicle for collaboration between founders, successful entrepreneurs and government and called for more collaboration and discussion between large incumbents and fintechs to move the industry forward.

Overall, the message from founders, scale ups, incumbents, policymakers and regulators was pretty similar – there has been some incredible work done to date, but we need to keep working together to ensure London remains ahead of its rivals.


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