The UK’s fintech industry cannot “rest on its laurels” and presume that a stream of talent will continue to flow in from overseas, the incoming chief of a government-backed fintech body has warned.
Charlotte Crosswell, who was appointed as chief of the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) this month, warned that the UK could be at risk of letting its status as a global fintech hub slip if it does not address the challenges around talent and cash facing the sector.
Fintech firms in the UK have been grappling with a post-Brexit tightening of the talent pool in recent years and have called on government to free up restrictions on workers entering the country.
A “scale-up” visa was rolled out this year to ease the way that skilled workers come into the country, but some firms have called for faster action.
Speaking with the Following the Rules podcast, Crosswell warned that the sector “can’t always assume the talent’s going to be there” and must be proactive in tempting staff over to the UK.
“It’s not a UK race for talent, it’s a global race for talent,” she said. “We’re up against people who want to hire our talent from the US or from Asia or from Europe.”
The comments come amid a debate in government over how to free up immigration policy to allow UK firms to tap into foreign talent. Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry Conference yesterday, Rishi Sunak said the government would create “one of the world’s most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people”.
Ministers are reportedly mulling “growth visas” which would allow high-growth firms to tap into foreign skilled workers.
Crosswell added that it was essential that UK firms could bring this overseas talent to the country rather than relying on remote workers.
“At the moment we are seeing UK FinTech often leverage overseas talent. With the drive for hybrid working, it’s not so needed now to be coming here,” she said.
“Is that something we want to see and want to leverage that so that it helps us scale UK FinTech, or [would] we prefer to see those companies employ people in the UK, pay tax in the UK and really make this a success story?”
Crosswell added that access to talent was the “biggest challenge” facing the industry at the moment.
The comments come as Crosswell prepares to take over the reins as the boss of CFIT from the start of next year.
The formation of the body was a key recommendation of the landmark Kalifa Review of Fintech in 2021 , which looked to cement the UK’s status as a fintech hub post-Brexit. Then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak backed its formation last year with £5.5m seed-funding, alongside the City of London Corporation.