In one way or another, businesses from every sector will be affected by the rise of financial technologies – or FinTech. FinTech helps companies and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives by using the same software and algorithms found on computers and increasingly, smartphones. FinTech has the ability to both transform existing companies and accelerate the growth of start-ups.
FinTech businesses themselves have exploded onto the commercial and industrial scenes in recent years. Companies such as Monzo – the digital bank – have been incredibly popular with consumers, while services like Transferwise – the international money-transfer service – have opened new doors for companies looking to go global.
Traditionally London has been considered the capital of FinTech, not just in the UK, but across the world. With approximately 64,000 people working in the industry, the city has the highest concentration of financial and professional services firms in the world. However, its popularity is now spreading to other British cities, with FinTech companies now found across the UK.
Below we explore how FinTech has been the catalyst for innovation in the finance industry and look at the UK cities which are joining London in the revolution.
UK FinTech Hotspots
FinTech in the UK is booming. In 2018, investment in British FinTech rose to £2.6 billion – a year-on-year rise of 18% – almost five times the $716 million invested in Germany. In the first part of the year, British FinTech start-ups received more funding than those in any other country on the planet.
Over 80% of the UK FinTech start-ups which received funding were based in London and they claimed more than 90% of the investment value. However, other cities are starting to get in on the act.
FinTech in Scotland
In Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow are both starting to get a reputation as hotspots for FinTech innovation. According to , there are now over 100 FinTech start-ups, scale-ups and success stories across the country and 15 Scottish universities offering courses to develop the required skills. In fact, Scotland has been voted the best European place to start a technology business.
The FinTech company FNZ is based in Edinburgh and provides multi-channel wealth management services to its clients, from portfolio management to investment administration. FNZ enables major financial institutions to invest across different currencies and markets, reducing costs yet creating highly scalable strategies. The company is one of the UK’s 70 tech unicorns – privately held start-ups valued at over $1 billion – and was reported to be worth £1.65 billion in 2018 when Caisse de Depot el Placement du Quebec purchased some of its shares.
Money Dashboard is another FinTech company based in the Scottish capital that has seen a lot of recent success, winning the Best Personal Finance App at the British Bank Awards in both 2017 and 2018. After a successful crowdfunding campaign which raised £1.5 million, Money Dashboard launched in 2010. The free online personal finance management service helps users to make informed decisions with their money by clearly showing where and when it is being spent. Outgoings are categorised and different savings accounts are displayed side-by-side, painting a clear picture of an individual’s financial situation. Money Dashboard has currently 900,000 linked accounts and has seen over 300 million transactions downloaded.
Glasgow is also seeing incredible growth rates in its FinTech sector. The city now employs nearly 20,000 people in technology roles and Glasgow’s International Financial Services District has received more than £1 billion of public and private sector investment.
Bifrost is based in Glasgow and offers the general population the type of wealth management service usually reserved exclusively for high net worth individuals. It connects everyday investors, regardless of how much they have to spend, with wealth managers using matching algorithms. Clients then have access to professional portfolio management, while premium users can utilise wealth planning services, including contact with a dedicated wealth coach. Wealth managers are usually beyond the budget of low-investors but Bifrost means that anyone can now receive high-quality financial advice.
FinTech in Manchester
Manchester has a rich history of industry and innovation and its recent ventures into the world of FinTech are continuing this proud tradition. Billed as the FinTech capital of the north, Manchester is one of the fastest growing regions for finance technology start-ups with a 50% sector growth over the last decade – five times the national average.
Manchester has birthed several successful payment-focused FinTech companies in recent years, with AccessPay perhaps one of the better-known. AccessPay specialises in cloud-based payments and uses automation and artificial intelligence to help finance professionals make better business decisions. Using open banking and a validator API to quickly check payment details, AccessPay connects corporate finance and treasury teams across the world.
Manchester is leading the way for digital in the UK, both through its burgeoning start-up community, its investment in the next generation of developers and also the role of the city’s universities. We have been working closely with the academic community to deliver strides in AI across payments and find their insight is valuable to the research and development work we are undertaking as we look to develop our services furtherAnish Kapoor, Chief executive of AccessPay
Another Manchester-based FinTech firm making waves is OakNorth, which is reported to be the fastest growing European business in the industry. The company uses a machine learning system to provide finance to small and medium-sized organisations. They even license their big data platform, OakNorth Analytical Intelligence, to other banks around the world.The OakNorth Group, which has an operations and customer service team in Manchester, has received over $1 billion in investment.
Access to talent was an important factor. In Manchester, there are four very strong universities with a graduate pipeline. You also have big banks who have built a pool of expert talent. Connectivity is another benefit of being in Manchester. Manchester Airport has two runways – we fly ourselves to India, New York and Singapore amongst other destinations all the time, as we also have bases there. All the boxes were ticked.Amir Nooriala, The OakNorth Group Chief Operating Officer
It is notoriously difficult to launch a start-up and be successful enough to keep it running. Even if an entrepreneur has a truly innovative idea, funding and logistical pressures can often stand in the way of progress. The FinTech boom, however, has significantly reduced the impact of such barriers.
Crowdfunding is one FinTech development which has helped hundreds of UK start-ups get up and running. Originating in the UK in 2007, the concept involves members of the public investing money in new projects in exchange for a stake in the company. Websites such as Seedrs and Crowdcube have helped new businesses raise millions of pounds in initial funding, removing the stress of searching for wealthy investors or taking out traditional business loans.
The digital arena of FinTech encompasses a wide range of themes which have the potential to qualify for the R&D Tax Credit scheme, allowing companies to claim back a proportion of their R&D investment in the form of tax credits. The scheme is designed to enable and encourage UK businesses to invest in the research and development needed to ensure that they stay at the forefront of their industries. The cash injection can also help offset the early financial pressures faced by FinTech start-ups.