On Friday 15th March the inaugural FinTech West event took place at Hargreaves Lansdown’s offices in Bristol. FinTech West is the new name for Bristol FinTech, which has been hosting events in the region since 2016.

Bristol FinTech was founded by a group of businesses operating in the city including Clarke Willmott, Pwc, Hargreaves Lansdown, Barclays, and Deepbridge Capital. The new FinTech West team includes Whitecap Consulting, the co-founders of FinTech North, who opened a Bristol office last year.

Following a short welcome from David Henderson, Head of Transformation at Hargreaves Lansdown, Martin Palmer from Clarke Willmott kicked off the event by thanking everyone who had worked hard to build Bristol FinTech since 2016. He explained that the events had been created to provide a regional focus on the sector outside London, and that the founders now felt the time was right to hand the baton to a new team, to drive FinTech West forward.

Julian Wells from Whitecap Consulting was next to speak, and chaired the rest of the event. Whitecap is a regional strategy consulting firm with five UK offices, including one in Bristol which opened in September 2018. Julian introduced Whitecap and explained how it had been involved in the growth of FinTech North, the events-based FinTech community which operates across the north of England and has since delivered over 30 events. In Bristol, Whitecap has been working closely with Stuart Harrison, a tech expert one of the founding Bristol FinTech team, and has now been invited to help support FinTech West with its evolution over the coming months and years.

 

Fraser Bradshaw, CEO, saintnicks

saintnicks is a Bristol-based creative agency with a strength in financial services. Fraser has helped numerous retail businesses engage with FinTech in the payments space, including operating a fund called Imbiba which has worked with and invested in 106 business to date. Amazingly, every one of these businesses has a female CEO. The brand landscape in retail has evolved dramatically over the years but some of the financial elements are equally as important, including the ways that people and companies make payments and manage their finances.

Fraser also coined the phrase of the day, which struck a chord with many attendees:

“Technology is only innovation if you were born before it – otherwise it’s just part of your day to day life.”

Fraser spoke about the importance of brands, and stated that business brands that engage with changes in social structure are twice as likely to succeed as those who do not. Fraser highlighted that whilst FinTech brands typically simplify choice, a brand is not something that technology alone can create.

 

Sam Williams, Chief Engineer, BJSS

BJSS is a fast-growing IT consultancy with multiple UK offices and operates across multiple sectors including financial services, where clients include various banks and financial organisations.

Sam has a background in banking and financial services and talked about the fact that technology is widely recognised as a disruptor and enabler, but things can be much more challenging when it comes to using technology to create customer value.

“We sometime focus on developing technology but we forget why we’re doing it.”

Sam talked about using technology as a technique to create customer value, outlining three techniques:

Game theory – creating a system to drive outcomes. An example is the way bitcoin relies on honest behaviour and trust to create value.

Transparency – transparency can create trust and value, although it is important to be transparent and comprehendible.

Hiding in plain sight – there is so much data available now that it is possible to get highly personalised experiences, but how do you get benefit from your data without sharing your private data? Sam explained that privacy can be a differentiator, and need not hold organisations back form collaboration.

Sam closed by highlighting that there is a risk that if we focus only on technique, we will forget our customers.

 

Q&A

For the Q&A session the speakers were joined by Gavin Powell, who was representing Richard Theo, the HM Treasury FinTech Envoy for Wales. Gavin explained that the FinTech activity in Wales is soon to be coordinated and promoted under a new entity that is yet to be named but would in essence serve a similar community building / developing purpose as FinTech West, FinTech North, and FinTech Scotland.

During the session there were also two announcements from within the audience:

Debbie Sturge from University of the West of England (UWE) explained the university is to launch a FinTech Masters course in September, and invited attendees to contact her to have input into the course content and explore how they can support the programme. The students will be welcome at future FinTech West events.

John Bradford of High Tech Bristol & Bath announced a two day conference, in which FinTech West will be directly involved in, which will take place on 10th & 11th October.

The Q&A included discussion around skills, international expansion opportunities, cyber security, the capability of the broader south west region, and impact of FinTech and tech innovation on the future of jobs and work.

Moving forward, FinTech West will be developing a brand identity, launching a new website and becoming active on social media as well as planning a programme of events. Expressions of interest in topics, speaking slots, hosting, sponsoring or supporting FinTech West events are invited at fintechwest@whitecapconsulting.co.uk

The next FinTech West event is set to take place in June, with 14th June pencilled in as a date at present.