Julian Wells, Director of Whitecap Consulting, chaired the event and welcomed guests by giving a brief introduction on the history and plans of FinTech North before introducing Paul Connell from ODI. The seminar took place the day before the UK’s new Open Banking rules came into play, something the ODI has published a concise overview of via their blog.
Paul Connell – Founder and Head of Innovation, ODI Leeds.
Paul kicked off the keynote speeches with an introduction of the ODI. He highlighted how the Leeds business and tech ecosystem has been a great environment for the Open Data Institute to be established in. You can read more about what the ODI does here.
Julian then introduced the panel who would be putting questions to each of the pitching FinTech businesses:
– Stuart Clarke – Founder, Leeds Digital Festival
– Julian Graham-Rack – CEO, Curo
– Will Schaffer – Entrepreneurship Coach, NorthInvest
– Richard Carter – Managing Director – Equiniti Credit Services
Guests then heard from five companies bringing innovation into the FS sector. Each had 10 minutes to explain their proposition and 5 minutes of answering questions from the panel and audience:
Pitch 1 – First Direct / Bud – Nick Harrison (Head of Products, First Direct) & Sam Oakley (Strategic Marketing, Bud)
Nick began by introducing First Direct’s forward thinking approach and how it was the first non-branch bank in the UK. He highlighted how banking is changing dramatically, not least with the advent of open banking, and that First Direct is taking a pro-active approach to being at the forefront of this change, in line with its goal to ‘pioneer amazing service’.
The current major trends First Direct is currently responding to are:
– Consumer needs are changing rapidly; increased expectation for personalisation, insights and tools, ease and simplicity
– More regulation is coming on-stream; forever changing the landscape
– Lower barriers to entry are seeing new entrants joining the market; anyone could now become a competitor
– Technology is rapidly changing; collapsing time – and cost – to market
Nick then explained how First Direct actively saw an opportunity to extend the proposition into something new that gave consumers what they wanted, irrespective of whether this resulted in the customer taking out a product or service with First Direct or another bank.
Bud is a two-year-old company with a vision to broker a new deal between consumers and their finances. Their product is a banking app and website that aggregates financial services, enabling consumers to can use all of their financial apps in one place including traditional banks, FinTech companies and other financial services. Interestingly, the business has its roots in Harrogate but made a decision to be based in London, where it participated in the FCA’s regulatory sandbox.
The Bud platform aims to provide personal financial services that align and respond to a consumer’s financial lifestyle.
“People naturally look to banks to manage their finances. The reason they leave to challenger banks is for that added customer experience. So with Bud, we’ve tried to create a modern, engaging experience within the security of First Direct, which we think provides something of real value”. Sam Oakley, Bud.
Pitch 2 – IceFire – Ove Kreison (Head R&D)
IceFire supports finance providers by integrating FinTech solutions to their business. Ove highlighted how IceFire takes advantage of the digital society in Estonia (E-Estonia) which includes e-taxation, 20 minutes to start a company, e-voting, and even digital cabinet meetings that take just 30 minutes.
IceFire, which includes Skype amongst its clients, provides a range of solutions to help banks other organisations to provide better digital services to their customers. This includes an online lending platform, a banking platform, as well as KYC / authentication technology.
This was IceFire’s second visit to Leeds in recent months, as they were one of the participants in the recent DIT Northern Powerhouse Nordic-Baltic FinTech Mission which took place in November. Ove and his team hope to develop relationships with UK finance and technology providers, and if successful then we can expect to see them back at future events.
We are the company that makes money move in finance provider systems – IceFire.
Pitch 3 – Investly – Siim Maivel (CEO)
Investly is an invoice finance marketplace, founded in Estonia, now operating in the UK. Investly does not provide finance themselves, but instead connects SMEs with hedge funds and other portfolio providers. This way, investors are competing on the investly platform, therefore providing a better deal on finance to SMEs.
The traditional invoice finance process (through factoring) usually takes up to three weeks through a finance provider, whereas Investly can have accounts set up in in a few hours, and most invoice finances are processed in less than two hours. Their main sectors are construction, manufacturing and logistics.
Investly provides a white label plug in solution for finance providers that helps them engage with business customers, providing value adding services through efficient and easy invoice finance.
Siim explained how Leeds provides a strong regional flagship centre to connect with SMEs, going through financial providers. Investly hopes to develop commercial relationships and partnerships with finance product providers in the north of England and is interested to come back to speak to the FinTech North community further in the coming months.
Pitch 4 – InvestUp – Dan Rajkumar (MD) & Kieron Greeff (Operations Manager)
InvestUp is an aggregator for peer-to-peer (P2P) investors which currently partners with 15 different platforms. It is currently extending its offering to be an investment management platform allowing users to invest across different cybercurrencies.
Dan explained how there are many people who do not want to pay for professional advice from intermediaries in order to access and be part of finance sectors such as P2P and cryptocurrencies. Therefore, there is a demand for a platform that can use advanced technology to manage investments in these financial sectors. InvestUp allows users to set their robo-lending settings in a way that suits their investment appetite.
Kieron then explained how the cryptocurrency market has grown exponentially and how InvestUp plans to simplify the complex nature of investing in crypto-currencies. InvestUp looks to provide a user-friendly platform where users can manage multiple digital assets across different crypto platforms.
InvestUp is currently raising funding to develop its proposition and is interested to hear from potential investors.
Pitch 5 – LociPay – Kurtis Wright (Founder)
LociPay is an early stage start up that will provide a smart payments and Point-of-Sale system for local independent SMEs. It helps businesses via various services including; providing a platform that showcases the retailers brand/offering; managing payments,; offering engagement/loyalty reward programs; and offering lower transaction costs.
LociPay also helps consumers by rounding up their transactions to the nearest pound helping them to save, as well as providing data driven budgeting support.
The event then finished with a short panel discussion. A key topic was the need for growth support in the north to help create and develop FinTechs businesses. It was also highlighted that there is a requirement for more open communication in helping to showcase the FinTech capabilities in the region, which would lead to more collaboration.
Will Shaffer of NorthInvest highlighted the importance of funding for aspiring FinTech businesses, inviting the delegates to contact him if they would like to discuss their own funding requirements. NorthInvest is a not-for-profit company with the aim to promote equitable investment in the North of the UK, connecting ventures to mentors and investors.
FinTechs shouldn’t have to go down to London to get investment and mentorship, we need to grow that function in the Leeds City Region – Richard Carter, MD, Equiniti Credit Services.
Julian Graham-Rack of Curo expressed his enthusiasm for open banking and invited any attendees to contact him who are interested to explore the opportunities it presents.
Stuart Clarke of Leeds Digital Festival said that the city can benefit greatly from events such as FinTech North, and highlighted that this year’s Leeds Digital Festival will take place from 19-27th April. The opportunity to organise or sponsor events is open to all. FinTech North’s Leeds conference will take place on 26th April.
Julian Wells rounded up the event by thanking the ODI for hosting the event and highlighting the next Fintech North seminar, which will be titled Women in FinTech (North) and will take place in Leeds on 23rd February 2018 – sign up here.