FinTech has been a hot topic for some time. But despite Leeds being the UK’s second hub outside London, the region’s technology innovators in financial services consistently head down to London for conferences, meetings and government consultations. On 27th April 2016 that changed.
Around 150 FinTech business leaders joined us in Leeds for FinTech North, an event hosted jointly by rebuildingsociety.com, White Label Crowdfunding, aql, and Whitecap Consulting, with speakers and delegates from Estonia, Germany, London and Manchester.
It could (and probably should) have taken place before last week, but hopefully we are now on the road to being a true hub.
Our keynote speakers looked at this fast growing market, its challenges, regulatory issues and most of all, its opportunities.
Opportunity was a theme from every speaker – but the challenge for Leeds is how do we ensure our City is at the centre of exploiting these?
Dr Adam Beaumont – collaboration
Adam Beaumont, chief exec of aql, opened the day with the story of why and how his business chose south Leeds as its base (our event was held in their Leeds HQ in the stunning Salem Chapel). aql provides regulated telephony from secure mobile messaging to secure datacentre hosting.
Their business needed high power and fibre connectivity – the former industrial land south of Leeds was well set up for power and apparently the various fibres coming into the city (from motorways, rail etc) all converge on Leeds Bridge.
Despite internet providers being fiercely competitive Adam got IPs in Leeds to co-operate through a not-for-profit, IX Leeds, the Leeds internet exchange point with the simple aim of making the internet better. IX Leeds will ensure that our city has resilient, secure, autonomous baskets.
Our take-away on this is that collaboration is key for Leeds as a global FinTech centre.
Following on from Adam, we heard from Dan Rajkumar, founder of Leeds-based peer-to-peer lending platform rebuildingsociety.com and its sister company, P2P software firm White Label Crowdfunding, who shared his thoughts on FinTech before we welcomed each of the keynote speakers to the stage, also chairing a Q&A session before lunch.
Dr Chris Sier – defining the FinTech market and regulatory challenges
Chris did an informative piece on ‘What is FinTech?’ to set the scene for the day.
His definition is: “FinTech is the R&D function of financial services in the digital age….less to do with technology more to do with business model reinvention and customer centric design”. The market is worth £20bn in revenue and includes payments, software, platforms and data analytics.
Chris sees this as mostly B2C (ie selling to consumers) but also B2B and C2C through crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. He thinks the opportunity still to exploit is in B2B.
He then went on to look at ‘what is a bank?’ and went back to the principles of lending. An investor puts £10 into the bank, which is turned into credit – the bank can lend out £100 based on the £10 loan.
Chris believes we are on the cusp of another banking crisis because this model of bank lending is under threat from peer-to-peer lending, which won’t be held to the same regulatory and solvency requirements of banks.
And the problem, as he sees it, is that traditional banks can’t innovate. An opportunity of course for FinTech.
Tom Cheesewright – frictions starts fire, ambition changes worlds
Tom, author of Book of the Future, got us thinking about data. He used the example of how Lidl managed to reduce the price of their One Direction branded Easter egg from 99p to 79p following the departure of Zayn Malik … a fifth off?! … and emailed this out to their fans. Within TWENTY MINUTES.
Tom also referred to PSD2 – the European directive on payment services which he refers to as the democratising of wealth management. He sees this as facilitating trading and the user experience, and will particularly help new banks.
Richard Carter – who will be the banking names of the future?
Richard, ceo of Nostrum Group, talked us through their latest research into consumer lending. There were too many insights for this blog but you can download the whole report, Personalisation in Digital Lending.
One key fact was that 84% of people don’t know how lending works; and transparency, speed of transaction and brand reputation are now as important factors in choosing a loan as the cost of the loan. Of course, an opportunity for the newer digital-based banks to exploit.
Richard asked the question – who will be the bankers of the future? He picked up on Chris Sier’s point earlier about the traditional banking model – a £10 deposit is converted to £100 of lending.
He also said he thinks Facebook and Amazon are on the verge of becoming lenders. But these corporates have such enormous balance sheets, they do not need to take deposits in order to lend money – and can therefore side-step the rules of current lending legislation.
The afternoon featured further presentations from other FinTech speakers including James Sherwin-Smith, CEO of Growth Street, (who talked about ‘redesigning SME finance for the 21st century’), James Dingwall, Founder & CEO of Thistle Initiatives (‘compliance in FinTech’), and co-Founder of Capitalise.com, Ollie Maitland (‘digital innovation in SME lending’). Attendees were also treated to an overview of digital in Estonia, where Margus Simson (CEO, Ziraff) and Tiit Pekk (Chief Business Development Officer, Codeborne) discussed ‘How to digitise a country’, explaining that 99% of state services in Estonia are now delivered electronically.
Whitecap’s Stefan Haase chaired the afternoon Q&A and there was also a workshop about the lifecycle of a crowdfunding business, hosted by White Label Crowdfunding, which was followed by a drinks reception kindly sponsored by Nostrum Group.
What’s the future of FinTech in Leeds?
So what does all this mean for FinTech and Leeds? Our take-away is that we need to do more as a sector together. Adam’s leadership on IXLeeds is a shining example of why we will all benefit.
Clearly there is an appetite to do this – it was just six weeks ago that a group of us came up with the idea of putting on #FinTechnorth (aql, Whitecap Consulting, rebuildingsociety.com and whitelabelfunding). We plan to do this again – but we’ll give ourselves a longer lead time next time!
And what really struck us is that the opportunities are enormous, but are there the skills to capitalise these? Several speakers referred to the challenge of scaleability in FinTech. Whitecap’s MD Richard Coates recently talked about the noise of new banks and lenders but points out their scale of lending is tiny compared to traditional lenders.
So FinTech businesses need clever strategies and plans to deliver their strategies if they are to grow quickly and have any impact. We want to play our own part in helping FinTechs to get there and there is certainly real enthusiasm in the city to put FinTech on the map in Leeds.