A lack of talent is threatening to choke off growth in the UK fintech sector, and ministers must do more to open up borders to immigration, the boss of digital lender Oaknorth said today.
Speaking at London Tech Week, Rishi Khosla said that the London-based digital bank had itself been dogged by hiring troubles and more routes should be opened up to allow workers to flow into the UK.
“The UK has an incredible number of startups – the largest number of startups compared to any other big European country. However, when it comes to scaling up, [and] getting [people] to come in who have scaled up businesses previously, it’s a challenge,” he told the event.
“It is a challenge that I know my co-founder and I have faced, and many other entrepreneurs face in this country.”
Oaknorth was founded by Khosla and Joel Perlman and has swelled to become one of the country’s best-known challenger lenders with over 800 staff and a valuation of $2.8bn in 2019.
However, Khosla, a former donor to the Tory party, said the UK’s approach to nurturing and attracting talent was a “work in progress” and the UK should consider adopting a Canadian model to ensure workers can continue to flow in. Canada operates an “express entry” system for tech workers – the scheme welcomes around 111,000 workers every year.
Ministers in the UK currently operate a number of routes to tempt in talent, including a scale-up visa for staff at fast-growth tech firms, a global talent visa and a fast-track scheme for tech workers graduating from a list of top 50 universities worldwide.
However, the routes have not plugged the gap in tech workers in the UK left by the speed of growth in the UK’s tech sector.
Figures from Tech Nation, which operated the global talent visa scheme, found around 54,000 international workers applied to work in the UK’s technology sector and migrated in 2022, with the number rising every year since 2017.
However, the industry employed some 5m people in 2022, meaning that inbound immigration made up just one per cent of the total workforce.