Over the past decade, the UK has been quietly undergoing a FinTech revolution – in jobs, innovation, improvements to people’s lives and in increased opportunities in global trade.
A look at the record of achievement helps project the true picture, read the executive summary of the The Kalifa Review of UK FinTech, a government independent review to identify priority areas to support the UK’s FinTech sector.
Let’s quickly scroll back 10 years. Back then, it took days to open a current account. Now you can be onboarded in minutes, and more safely and securely, leveraging RegTech solutions and challenger bank innovation.
Back then, people had only a few options for managing their savings and pensions – using paper updates. Now there is more choice, pensions can be tailored to specific needs, easily amalgamated and they are online with immediate, accessible interfaces.
Back then, if you were a new business seeking SME financing, there was limited choice of providers on the high street with slow decision-making processes. Now, there is digital access to a wide array of lenders looking to leverage machine learning and AI tools, and provide immediate decisions on a new loan or refinancing opportunities.
Fast forward to today, continues the summary. Achievements like these have contributed to making the UK envied around the globe as a hotbed of FinTech activity – and its successive governments and regulators admired for building a supportive enabling environment that puts innovation at the top of the regulatory agenda.
The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) pro-competition mandate has helped support new FinTech firms and ensure a more nurturing regulatory environment.
In 2016, the FCA launched the world’s first regulatory “sandbox”, which was subsequently replicated abroad by regulators looking to follow the UK’s lead in innovation.
Similarly, the Bank of England and the FCA’s ‘New Bank Start-up Unit’ provides additional support and advice for firms looking to gain a banking licence.
This in turn is accelerating the digital transformation of banks, asset managers, and insurers, as they strive to meet changing consumer and business demand.
Big Tech is moving into this space, highlighting the value of data-led solutions in financial services.
Because of the strength of our incumbent financial services sector, FinTech has found extremely fertile ground.
Yet it has also created opportunities to cross-pollinate into broader technology solutions, leveraging cross-cutting applications like big data, AI and quantum computing. Combined, these trends create a pivotal moment to support FinTech innovation.
This catalysed the UK into becoming the FinTech hub of today, coupling it with the sophisticated financial services ecosystem of London, where so-called “unicorns” such as Wise, Onfido, Checkout.com and Revolut have based themselves.
However, the trajectory of UK FinTech is at an inflection point of opportunity – and risk.
While the UK’s position is well established, its future is not assured. There are three broad threats to our FinTech leadership position, each of which point to three opportunities that must be grasped through immediate action to create an economy that works inclusively and sustainably for its citizens while securing the ambitions for “Global Britain”:
- Competition: Overseas centres are seeking to emulate the UK’s success. Competitor jurisdictions such as Singapore, Australia and Canada are investing heavily across many of the areas we have looked at, including capital, skills and direct support for FinTechs.
- Brexit: Brexit has created regulatory uncertainty in specific areas relevant to FinTech. Firms must navigate the immigration system for European Union talent for the first time – whilst rival jurisdictions are rolling out aggressive attempts to lure talent in.
- Covid: The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption globally in a way that marketing or policy never could. This is creating opportunities for jurisdictions that are quickest to diagnose what’s happening and nimblest to capitalise on the opportunities for FinTech.
Eyes on the prize
The prize lies in three opportunities:
- Jobs: FinTech is embedded across the UK with the potential to create high income tech-based employment, becoming an engine of the “levelling up” agenda, as well as playing a part in upskilling and retraining the existing workforce. The sector’s direct GVA contribution to the economy is estimated to be £13.7bn by 2030, with job creation contributing to 70% of this.6
- Trade: Enabling FinTechs to achieve global scale and reach via access to international markets, and continuing to lead on regulation and standard-setting in fast-moving tech. We see FinTech as a core asset for Global Britain.
- Inclusion and Recovery: Supporting citizens and small businesses to access more, better and cheaper financial services – and doing so in a sustainable way to help “build back better”.
Technological change has arrived in financial services and with it, an abundance of threats and opportunities. Threats to the UK’s competitive position, but also opportunities to innovate and grow.
“Threats to consumers and labour markets, but also opportunities for job creation and supporting the development of a digitally capable citizenry.
To succeed, our efforts must be comprehensive and collective. We must hold ourselves to account in delivering the strategy outlined in this proposal.
One year from today, both the public and private sector must come back to report on the progress they have made to deliver the recommendations in this Review.”