Why London remains the global fintech capital
Uncertainty from the on...
Rodney Bain, Co-Founder and Managing Director of APEXX Global, breaks down why London remains the fintech capital of the world.
Uncertainty from the ongoing Brexit negotiations, global trade tensions and now coronavirus have fuelled a sense of caution towards the UK’s economy. It’s true, we have seen shifts in investing trends and some industries have suffered. But the picture is not as bleak as it might appear – in fact, entrepreneurs and investors have reason to be upbeat and optimistic, especially about the fintech sector.
London’s continued dominance
Data recently released by KPMG found that British fintech companies attracted over £38.4bn of investments in 2019, which was an increase of 91 percent from 2018. Across Europe, the UK accounted for half of the top 10 deals and currently holds pole position as the top destination for European fintech investment, second only to the US globally.
Critics might claim that London’s fintech scene is being overtaken by other hubs such as Singapore, Zurich or cities in the US, but there is no denying its continued place as a global leader in the sector. The US, for example, has made huge attempts to build its industry, but it continues to lag behind London in terms of direct investment. The epicentre of the UK’s fintech sector remains firmly positioned in Silicon Roundabout, attracting a wealth of emergent and growing start-ups. There are of course other hubs such as Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh, but the UK has created an environment for fintechs that has proved much more efficient than other regions. Pair that with London’s history with financial services and it’s a perfect enabling environment for growth and innovation.
This ‘centralised’ hub provides a fertile ground for knowledge sharing, tech cross-pollination and partnerships. The beauty of the Roundabout is that nimble and disruptive start-ups can find a home next to tech behemoths such as Google – what’s interesting, is that both want to be associated with the other. It’s exciting to see such an intertwined combination of global tech players and agile fintechs.
Challenges facing fintech entrepreneurs
Yes, London is thriving as a centre of innovation and originality, but challenges do exist. While I challenge the naysayers, who think that Brexit will halt future innovation and startup growth, it is true that financial services are inherently an international sector. It’s my hope that Europe continues to collaborate and partner with Silicon Roundabout. A lot of fintechs are now faced with hard decisions, for example, whether to register in the Europe or UK for financial and electronic institutions licenses.
In our experience, attracting talent is actually getting easier rather than harder. Today’s talented highflyers are looking for careers that offer creativity, originality and autonomy. A few years ago, graduates would leave university looking for a job at a law firm, investment bank or hedge fund. These days, they are also looking for a community environment, with your employer becoming more like a family than a corporation. Increasingly young people are even open to taking lower salaries for a job that is more personally fulfilling. It goes without saying that London is an expensive place to be and you still need to pay to get the brightest minds, but we see this as an investment in your business and future growth.
In recent years, the Venture Capital pool has got larger and larger, and it will only continue to grow. Valuations are fundamental and will ultimately have significant implications. Historically, entrepreneurs have been focused on growth over profits, shouldering the high cost of customer acquisition. But you only have to look at Uber or WeWork to see that growth is not enough. Entrepreneurs must seek out revenue and find new ways to monetise and to demonstrate a commitment to profit generation.
Key to attracting investors is establishing and building the right founding team. You need different skills and personalities that can complement each other, challenge each other and ultimately balance out. Critical to this is getting on with each other from both a personal and professional perspective – at the very least because you spend so much time together! Don’t be precious with equity – raise money whenever you have the chance to and always be ambitious. You never know when you might need it for a rainy day.
Entrepreneurs have always faced challenges and it’s the resilience and grit that sets the most successful start-ups apart from the rest. As a hub, there is no better place for fast-developing fintechs, ripe to benefit from the network of expertise and talent that can be found at Silicon Roundabout. The macro-environment may present the appearance of a steep challenge but when I look around, I see investment, innovation and growth.
For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.
FIVE things fintechs must do to keep investors onboard
New investors flocked to the stock market during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-eight percent of investors said they had never had a brokerage or similar account before opening one in 2020.
Low or no-fee trading options have helped accelerate the trend – nearly half of new investors said they accessed their account primarily through a mobile app. As FinTechs, how do we create the trust needed to keep new investors in the market and create a fruitful customer experience for them?
The financial industry does a disservice to individual investors if we merely offer tools that focus on making money quickly, an approach that usually backfires. Instead, the surge of interest presents an enormous opportunity for those who want to help more consumers use financial technology to educate them on responsible spending, saving, and investing in order to achieve financial wellness current fintech tools have welcomed individual investors in the door.
Now, it’s time to focus on education and improving their experience going forward. There are several ways those of us in fintech can step up to shape the future of retail investing so that it works better for everyone, starting with the following areas.
Equal access to financial wellness education
Financial health should be available to everyone — but today, not everyone has the educational resources to achieve it. One study shows that only 3.9% of students from low-income schools were required to take a personal finance class. What they aren’t learning in school or from family members, fintech companies can provide on their platforms.
The companies should move from solely offering financial services to a more responsible model of education, advice, and prescriptive choices to help consumers develop better habits and make wiser financial decisions. Not only can they empower consumers and bridge historical wealth divides, but they can also stimulate growth by opening up new consumer segments.
Just as we’ve come to expect that our fitness routines are tailored to our individual bodies, we’re also ready for finance tools that go beyond one-size-fits-all solutions. But only six percent of financial institutions say they’re using the kind of technology that allows them to deliver a deeply personalized experience. Fintech tools need to reflect that financial success looks different for each of us.
For one consumer, it may mean providing guidance on how to pay off student loans early; for another, it may mean prescriptive actions that enable them to stick to a budget for the first time; for a third, it could look like prioritizing environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, so that her portfolio aligns with her political beliefs.
Now, we are seeing financial technology beginning to meet the demands of personalized finance in a substantial and meaningful way.
The rise of AI-Powered Advice
Big-picture advice and predictive guidance used to be a feature of high-end financial advisory firms — a perk only available to those who could afford it. But thanks to rapid advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), that kind of holistic advice is now more accessible than ever. AI-driven robo-advisors can parse many different streams of financial information, delivering customized answers to key questions: Is it time to buy a home, or is it smarter to keep renting? Can I afford to take out another student loan?
Intelligent connectivity powered by AI can anticipate consumers’ needs and next steps, making proactive suggestions that guide them along the path to financial wellbeing. Fintech companies can also help consumers identify when their financial picture becomes too complex for a robo-advisor, and help them find a human financial advisor to meet their needs.
Focus on financial mental health
New investors are quickly finding that the market can be overwhelming. That’s not surprising, financial anxiety is common and studies show that financial stress can have an impact on mental health for some.
It’s not enough for fintech companies to give retail investors access; they also must provide the guidance and support that help consumers manage their financial well-being. Educational tools can ensure that consumers are well informed about their options.
Predictive analytics can anticipate consumers’ questions, serving them key information and insights before they ask. Features that emphasize a comprehensive notion of financial well-being, rather than short-term wins and losses, can also help ensure that consumers are keeping their eyes on the bigger picture.
Gamification for good
The surge of gamification apps has done an impressive job making investing as engaging as playing a video game or joining a social media platform.
Much of the current use of gamification emphasizes short-term thinking, but there’s also an opportunity to help consumers think more broadly about their overall financial picture. One example is peer benchmarking, a feature that enables help consumers to see how their financial habits compare to those of friends and fellow consumers.
Gamification can also be used to incentivize making smaller, smarter choices — for example, rewarding saving over making an impulse buy.
The future of fintech is about more than just broadening access to the markets. It’s about making sure more individuals have access to the tools that can help improve their financial well-being—in the ways that suit their own circumstances and needs. The potential to act within their own set of individual priorities, with their long-term financial wellness in mind is much more empowering to a consumer than simply relying on short-term, high-risk investments.