An article published by Forbes a few months ago claimed that FinTech investment has quadrupled from £3b to £12b since 2013, so it’s been something of a surprise not to see talk of FinTech feature more prominently in the various plans for the Northern Powerhouse.
As a Northern-based consulting firm that has worked closely with FinTech businesses in previous years, we are part of a growing movement in the region looking to encourage support and participation in relation to an initiative that aims to unite FinTech in the North.
The Northern Powerhouse agenda is gaining momentum and the Government has identified FinTech as a significant driver for growth and GDP in the North to replicate the success of London. Further drivers behind this government initiative are the costs new FinTech start-ups are faced with in London, the struggle to find the relevant skills and the cost of living in London.
There is a real opportunity for the Northern Powerhouse to attract later stage start-up companies based on the strength and depth of the existing FinTech and cybersecurity industry in the area. Eileen Burbidge – the FinTech ambassador for the UK government and an experienced technology VC – said in a speech in Manchester in October that FinTech out of London was a massive opportunity for the Northern cities that made it clear they were open for business.
A number of activities are already taking place across the North such as:
- Barclay’s RISE community in Manchester is part of a global initiative which is actively supporting the development of a FinTech accelerator in the North of England.
- GCHQ is recruiting for a variety of new roles such as technical intelligence analysts, apprentices and graduates as well as network operations and cybersecurity specialists which has galvanised the local industry including the creation of the Yorkshire Cyber Security Cluster.
- Leeds and Manchester have established a pedigree for successful core FinTech start-ups rather than FinTech periphery start- ups.
- AQL operates a number of data centres which provide the hub for the region and also carry government accreditation, allowing businesses to better achieve compliance in data storage, processing and transfer, including high capacity links to the academic community. They are also the Yorkshire and Humber champions for the CERT UK Cyber Information Sharing Partnership – which addresses the cyber needs of SMEs, where Cyber awareness and compliance is most needed.
The key takeaway in this context is that there is no concrete mutual initiative yet that transcends the industrial and political agenda, that enables the private and public sector to come together and join forces and that creates real momentum and attracts inward investment as well as companies from all regions.
HOW CAN LEEDS HELP?
The first Blackett Review which focused on FinTech recommended the establishment of a counterbalance to London – this needs to capture the voice of the industry in the North. The second review – which is imminent – is expected to firm up this view by proposing a secure FinTech testing facility outside of London.
Leeds City Council and the Leeds City Region LEP have already signaled their interest in hosting such an initiative in Yorkshire, something that has received particular support from AQL, Futurelabs and Dotforge.
We feel there is a genuine opportunity for Leeds, within the context of the Northern Powerhouse, to become the northern FinTech & Cybersecurity hub – including a secure FinTech testing facility, incubation space and an accelerator programme to drive innovation in the sector.
There is a real opportunity to attract government funding to the North such a FinTech hub but it will only attract this investment if the private sector agrees to match the government’s financial commitment.
If you would like to put weight behind this initiative please contact us and we will send you a copy of a letter recently circulated within the region to gather support.