FinTech West is the new name for Bristol FinTech, which has been hosting events in the region since 2016. Julian Wells, director of Whitecap Consulting and FinTech West, opened the event and provided an update on the progress establishing FinTech West, including unveiling the new branding (created by saintnicks) and also announcing two future event dates of 27th September and 6th November, with the latter event taking place as part of Bristol Technology Festival. Read the review of the inaugural event here.
FinTech West operates as an inclusive and collaborative events-based initiative supporting the development of the FinTech community in Bristol and the south west, and also helping ensure the region is aligned to and part of the evolving national FinTech scene.
National FinTech developments
Chris Sier, HM Treasury FinTech Envoy and Chairman of FinTech North gave a short update on regional and national Fintech developments, including referencing the recent ‘UK FinTech – State of the Nation’ report which was published by Department for International Trade and Innovate Finance in April.
The report found there to be over 1600 FinTech firms in the UK, with 76,500 people working in the sector. The number of firms is set to double by 2030, during which time the number of FinTech jobs is expected to rise to 105,500. Chris also noted that although 94% of FinTech investment and 85% of accelerators are in London, approximately two thirds of FS jobs in the UK are outside the capital.
The opportunity outside of London is a real one, and the regions can be highly attractive to FinTech innovators with many of the regionally based FS organisations being more accessible and open to approaches than the larger corporate organisations.
Lois Ollerenshaw, Venture Principal, Nationwide Ventures
Part of Nationwide Building Society, NBS Ventures supports and engages with the FinTech sector via its £50m FinTech fund. NBS Ventures takes minority stakes in early stage businesses that are disrupting in sectors that are relevant to Nationwide, aiming to learn, partner, and collaborate with these firms as well as supporting them financially.
Lois explained that when considering investments, alignment with Nationwide’s core values is the first priority, followed by alignment with its strategy.
Investments to date have included acasa (household finance management), Hazy (synthetic data), Ordo (smart payments), Moneyhub (personal financial management), and most recently Scaled Insights (behavioural AI). Notably, two of the businesses (Moneyhub and Scaled Insights) have their primary operations based outside of London.
When asked about how FinTechs should approach corporates, Lois said ““Don’t just come and tell us what you do, we need to know why it’s relevant and what we can do to help you.”
Sam Seaton, CEO, Moneyhub
Bristol-based Moneyhub is a personal financial management app which enables users to view aggregated data and initiate payments across accounts from a single site.
Sam’s session was titled ‘Making the impossible possible’, and focused on some of the key developments driving change in the UK financial sector. 64% of UK consumers would share more data in return for new benefits that are more convenient, something which clearly plays strongly into the hands of the emerging Open Banking ecosystem that is forming.
Sam asked the audience who Netflix’s biggest competitor was, and it’s fair to say that nobody quite expected the answer….. sleep! There are only 24 hours in a day, and Netflix wants as many of them as possible.
Sam went on to tell us she feels we are facing a technology tsunami, as technology is disrupting at such a pace that the established FS industry will see a seismic shift in the way it operates.
When talking about the challenges of building a tech business, Sam highlighted that coding is actually very difficult. Her tip for FinTechs is to focus on three things: communication, continuous development, and ruthless prioritisation.
Mike Jackson, Entrepreneur Success Director, Tech Nation
Tech Nation provides national and regional support for tech entrepreneurs via a range of programmes. It also publishes reports and insight into the sector, aggregating information on a regional basis across the UK.
Tech Nation is currently running a FinTech programme, which is funded by Treasury. The programme uses peer learning to create a powerful environment, which includes hearing from peer groups who are further progressed in their journey. Brands such as Atom Bank, Starling and Monzo have all previously been involved in the programme.
Mike highlighted the need for strong regional FinTech communities, saying that it can be hard to be aware of companies if they do not have an external profile, even if they are in the same city as you.
Tom Woollard, Co-Founder & CEO, Bunk
Bristol-based Bunk is a marketplace where pre verified landlords and tenants are connected via a secure platform, without the need for an agency. Tom and his team have developed the business within UWE’s Future Space incubator space, and have now taken office space in central Bristol.
Payments and referencing are two of the major pain points in the market, so this is an area where Bunk has focused its attention. Open Banking can have a big impact, including enabling instant bank to bank transfers with no third parties, and the creation of data-driven rental identity verification to enable landlords to make better informed decisions, faster.
Bunk’s solution enables tenants to access deposit free renting, using verified data and insight to mange risk.
John Salter, Head of Client Management, ClearBank
There are four major clearing banks in the UK. Launched 3 years ago, ClearBank is the fifth clearing bank and works with FinTechs and others to help them offer payments mechanisms via its Banking-as-a-service proposition. ClearBank is growing outside London, with all customer service now run from Bristol. It is the only bank that is 100% cloud based.
ClearBank has recently been successful in winning £60m from the Banking Competition Remedies fund, working in partnership with Tide.
Since joining, John has concluded that the people journey is the most important one in the creation and development of a new business. He also spoke about the challenges of maintaining culture when an organisation grows rapidly.
Another tip John offered was that there is no such thing as too much testing, as people do not behave as you expect them to.
For the panel discussion, the speakers were joined by David Henderson, Head of Business Transformation at Hargreaves Lansdown.
David is centrally involved in Bristol Technology Festival, which takes place in November. FinTech West will be hosting an event as part of the festival and people are encouraged to submit ideas for other tech events.
The discussion focused on Bristol. Tom Woollard said that the positive things about being in Bristol were access to experience and help from the regional community, but that the biggest negative was the challenge of raising funding as a non-London based organisation. Sam Seaton said that justifying why you are not based in London can be a challenge when talking to people from outside the UK, but that Bristol is a hidden gem.
Getting access to the regulator was discussed as historically being a challenge but encouragingly the panel agreed that the FCA is now more actively engaging with the regions.
During the panel we heard from Adrian Shedden of Lumio, who explained he and the team were building ‘the Skyscanner of money’, leveraging Open Banking to automate management of peoples’ finances. Adrian has been invited to speak at the next event.
The next two FinTech West events will take place on 27th September and 6th November and are open for booking now (both are free to attend). Expressions of interest in topics, speaking slots, hosting, sponsoring or supporting FinTech West events are invited at [email protected]