Meet the City’s newest fintech hub

 
Lynsey Barber
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Finsbury Avenue Square is being reimagined
Finsbury Avenue Square is being reimagined

More than three decades ago the Square Mile sprang up from the Big Bang wave of deregulation.

Big money and big banks went hand-in-hand at British Land’s Broadgate, but, with the likes of tenants such as UBS and Nex Group moving to new locations, the property firm is eyeing up a reinvention of the area that will see it through the next 30 years.

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And it need not look much further than neighbouring Shoreditch and its startups for the answer.

Digital challenger bank Starling has moved in and the developer has also opened its first co-working space, Storey, as the developer reimagines 1 and 2 Finsbury Avenue buildings.

B&Q owner Kingfisher Group has also chosen the spot for it digital team and a listed US tech giant is close to taking on space. Neighbours include Amazon, which has opened new headquarters at Principal Place.

For Starling Bank chief Anne Boden, the digital lender’s swift growth spurred it to look for space about six months ago. It has taken a floor of 15,000 sq ft to home its current 120 staff, but there is room for up to 200.

The set-up brings the challenger bank the benefits of having its own space, but within a wider community like that of a co-working space.

“I think Broadgate is quite symbolic of a different time… power shoulder pads and champagne wine bars. A very different sort of age. Us being here as one of the most high-growth startups is symbolic of where Broadgate needs to be,” Boden says.

Innovate Finance, the industry body representing fintech firms, is moving in, along with some of the startups it represents.

It will also use this new location as a springboard from which to increase its presence across the rest of the UK over the next 12 months.

“The City is key, but it’s something we have to do,” said Natalie Ceeney, the group’s chair. “London’s a fantastic city for fintech but not the only city for fintech in the UK.”

The area’s many transport links are one of British Land’s key selling points of the area, with Crossrail due to add to that when it opens next year at Liverpool Street.

But David Lockyer, head of Broadgate development at British Land, also points to how it plans to “curate” the space, moving away from a work ethic of the 1980s and toward a better work-life balance.

That includes more “mixed use” spaces and a focus on smaller occupiers rather than the banking giants who lease an entire building for decades. “Smaller occupiers are a growth part of the business.”

“Finsbury Avenue will increasingly appeal to to non-traditional City occupiers looking for well designed space, flexibility, location and access to talent,” said Lockyer, as well as becoming a “seven day a week place” rather than an almost ghost town at weekends. That means plans for three floors of retail space, pop-up food joints in shipping containers and events for the tech community.

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