Monday 3 August 2020 3:51 pmApater Capital Talk

Fintech review flags sector’s status as one to watch

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City A.M. contributor

Six figures from the business world have set sail on a six-month voyage to investigate and recommend priorities for the financial technology sector.

Ron Kalifa is helmsman of the ‘Fintech Strategic Review’, announced in March’s Budget but – until now – stuck in the harbour as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Sherry Coutu, Anne Glover, Gerard Grech, Kay Swinburne and Omar Ali are rowing in alongside him.

The UK’s fintech sector is globally admired, estimated to be worth around £7bn and employing about 60,000. But the crisis has shown ‘there is further work to be done to increase mainstream adoption of technology solutions, and to enhance UK fintech’s resilience,’ HM Treasury said, giving Kalifa and his shipmates the thumbs-up to embark on their research journey.
The UK basked in record amounts of fintech investment last year, cementing the country’s status as Europe’s fintech capital. Almost inevitably, investment in the sector slowed by more than a third in the first half of 2020, data revealed by City AM last week showed.

“The UK is one of the leading places in the world to start and grow a fintech firm, and I am determined to ensure this continues,” said economic secretary to the Treasury and City minister John Glen. Citing the sector’s growing worth to UK Plc, Glen said it would be “vital in ensuring both that the country bounces back post-coronavirus, and continues to be at the forefront of financial innovation now we have left the European Union.”

Review based around five themes

Kalifa was chief executive of international payment processing company Worldpay for more than 10 years until 2013, remaining as an executive director until February 2020. Nowadays chairman of payments company Network International and online learning platform FutureLearn, he is navigator-in-chief for an independent review containing five workstreams. 

Coutu, chair of SVC2UK (which stands for ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK’), is looking at ‘skills and talent’; Glover, co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners, picks up ‘investment’; Grech, chief executive of Tech Nation, is examining ‘national connectivity’; Swinburne, the former Conservative MEP now working in the private sector as vice-chair of financial services at KPMG is – naturally – on ‘policy’; and Ali, managing partner for UK financial services at EY, is focusing on ‘international attractiveness’.

There is a lot to chew over amid choppy waters. Cross-cutting challenges include the broader economic crisis caused by coronavirus, as well as the prospect of the transition period for Britain’s departure from the EU ending in December without a deal between negotiators (a ‘no deal Brexit’). Will the investment and innovation continue to flow? 

Seeking alignment in investment, skills and policy

The review’s governance board’s first meeting was on 20 July, attended by Glen. He said: “Tech-based solutions in financial services have experienced widescale adoption, with growth fuelled by a favourable start-up environment. This review will ascertain what is required to accelerate this change, to create a financial services ecosystem that is above all, sustainable, inclusive and world-leading. Technology has a vital role to play in the UK’s COVID-19 economic recovery. The review will ensure that we can leverage this innovative technology to help consumers and businesses, through a joined-up strategy that combines investment, skills and policy to deliver it.”

Kalifa, who was awarded an OBE in 2018 for services to financial services and technology, is asked to report back to HM Treasury at the start of 2021, making recommendations addressing three objectives: ensuring UK fintech has ‘the resources to grow and succeed’, ‘widespread adoption of fintech solutions’ and ‘maintaining and advancing the UK’s international reputation’.

TheCityUK’s managing director for public affairs, policy and research, Emma Reynolds, told City AM: “The UK is already a leading global hub for fintech and the Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to accelerate technological trends and adoption in all parts of the economy. Focusing policymakers, regulators and industry on priority areas such as skills, policy and investment will be a vital contribution to ensuring the sector’s future growth and success.”

As the country seeks to identify and support sectors that will survive and thrive in the post-pandemic economy, the fintech review is a voyage to watch.

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