FinTech North November
Dan Rajkumar / 14th November 2017
On Friday 10th November, 74 representatives of northern FinTech companies attended the second monthly FinTech North Seminar.
This month, the event was sponsored and hosted by law firm, Ward Hadaway in their Leeds offices.
Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting chaired proceedings and kicked off the seminar with a brief introduction highlighting the current exciting initiatives happening in the region, which include a recent visit from the FCA and the forthcoming DIT Nordic-Baltic FinTech Mission. Outside of FinTech, Leeds was this week named by PwC as the fastest growing UK city over the last five years, year on year.
Simon Brereton, Head of Innovation and Sector Development at Leeds City Council was first up out of the speakers. He gave a brief public perspective on the Leeds FinTech scene and highlighted how the council is supporting the FinTech sector, playing an active role in its development.
“Leeds is great at connecting between and across sectors and creating innovative, exciting new things.”
The council’s inclusive growth strategy is still being developed, and the council are welcoming pledges and discussion with companies about the future Leeds economy.
We are looking to stand alongside the business community and celebrate your success. FinTech is a really important part of our economy and we are delighted to be able to support the growth of this network.”
Keynote 1: Henri Murison, Director, Northern Powerhouse Partnership
Henri Murison, CEO, Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) began the keynote speeches with an outline of what the Northern Powerhouse Partnership is and what it is currently doing.
“We are looking to outline the agenda for the growth and future of the Northern Powerhouse.”
Henri went on to identify the current hurdles of connectivity and transport around the Leeds city region, identifying comments from major corporates in the area. The Northern Powerhouse transport review – commissioned by transport for the north, stated that significant investment in transport would bring together a functional economic area in the north, resulting in a “linked city area for growing the 15 million northern population we have today”.
Henri then observed how advanced manufacturing, energy, health innovation and digital are the major sector strengths Leeds currently has. The NPP is looking to grow this strength considerably and Henri pointed out how digital has been the most transformative in Leeds in recent years.
The commissioned review also highlighted other significant competencies, being; education, logistics, financial services and professional services. Henri pointed out that there may be some hidden opportunities between these areas:
“Some of the most interesting opportunities arise when prime capabilities meet each other. For example, a major one in Leeds has been when data meets health. We’ve seen impressive innovation there that can have large value at a wider landscape.”
Henri also highlighted the risks facing the local economy;
“Two thirds of FS employment is outside London. However, much of that employment is also most at risk of disruption and changes from the economy. We have seen significant changes hitting FS providers in the north as their functions are re-modelled and disrupted.”
On FinTech and growth, Henri stated;
“Start-ups are not the only yardstick of success. A lot of the time we focus on how much FCA activity is happening with companies or how much investment has been raised. But we need to recognise what established businesses are doing for the region and how they are responding to change strategically”.
On bringing in investment;
“The main ‘Sell’ for Leeds internationally is, you don’t need to be near the corporate HQ in London to sell to those clients. But you do need to be near where the data integration functions are for example, or where their customer facing operations are. Leeds holds real value in this area, in the supporting sectors advancing innovation.”
Henri’s closing remarks stressed the need for collaboration cross the north;
“On its own, individual places and cities will struggle to genuinely be transformative. As the north as a collective however, we have the assets to be really competitive. So it is Leeds being the heart of a wider network that is really attractive at a national and global level. The northen FinTech community can be at the forefront of what financial and professional services should and will look like for the wider, future economy.”
Keynote 2: Dr. Iain Clacher, Associate Professor Accounting and insurance, Leeds Business School
Iain began his talk by introducing the university’s current position in the Leeds FinTech scene, and went on to outline some of its plans.
“The university is currently not doing enough to engage and encourage FinTech development. I guess you could say we have spent too much time expecting people to come to us.”
Iain, along with Dr. Chris Sier, who is the FinTech Envoy to the Northern Powerhouse and a visiting professor at the university, are actively involved in starting and developing a FinTech hub at Leeds University Business school with the goal of taking a more proactive approach in engaging with the regional FinTech community.
“The university should be well placed to facilitate knowledge share, insight and development in the FinTech community.”
Iain then moved into his main speech subject on the changing activities of finance and consumer behaviour around financial management. He spoke about how the changes in access to pensions and other financial products leads to interesting changes in consumer behaviour as well as the risk in giving people access to pensions – as consumers may not make the best financial decisions.
“As soon as you tell people something is available, especially money, all of a sudden, we rationalise how to spend and use it straight away. This is very dangerous for those with no financial education and advice.”
Iain also highlighted the lack of financial advice available to poorer percentiles in nation.
“These days you have to have £150,000 upwards in the bank for an IFA to be interested in talking to you. And these numbers are increasing, for both businesses and individuals. As the numbers increase, more and more people are not getting financial advice. 5.5m in the UK are not getting any advice at all.”
Iain then positioned this problem against the growth of robo-advice. He stated that many people have proposed the solution of robo advice to fulfil the gap in financial advice. However, Iain was not convinced robo-advice could successfully fill this gap.
“On paper, robo-advice is prefect and would pass all the tests. However, when we get to the behavioural bit, the complexity is much harder to handle. Humans are complex. Further, when things go wrong you can sue a bank or an IFA – how do you sue a robot or an algorithm?”
Iain concluded his talk by introducing an upcoming event named: Democratising finance, happening on the 4th December at University of Leeds. Details can be found here.
The seminar then moved onto a panel discussion where the speakers were joined by:
– Haaris Ahmed, Founder – UOWN
– Helen Oldham, Founding Director – North Invest
– Stefan Haase, Director – Whitecap Consulting
Topics in the panel discussion covered; opportunities for further collaboration, how Leeds commercial sectors can play a more international role as well as the impacts of Brexit on the Leeds tech and financial sectors.
Other discussions centered around the movement of businesses between London and the north, with Henri pointing out how trends in the movement of business activities / operations are supporting the north.
“The financial services sector is the most engaged with the north and the north’s growth.”
Demographics and talent at universities was also discussed, pointing out how degree formats may be changing to more practical ‘apprenticeship degrees’ that should encourage more local young people to prosper from the higher education we have in the Leeds City Region. From this, they should benefit from staying and contributing to the Leeds skilled workforce.
“The way that society is changing, is that young people do not aspire to work for the big brand corporates anymore. They want to work with the vibrant SME sector, so we need to get better at bringing them through the door.” – Stefan Haase.
Haaris Ahmed is the founder of UOWN, a P2P property platform that launched in April. He shared his experiences of setting up a FinTech business and talked about the opportunity the Leeds City Region can provide for a business that has national and potentially international growth aspirations.
Discussions around FinTech serving the community centered around two main themes; the first being how FinTech sectors can help underprivileged people to get into skilled jobs in prosperous sectors. Here, critical factors were the attitude of business owners staying in touch with the community as well as recognising the demand for young talent with lots of potential wanting to be part of growing SME sectors.
The second theme looked at FinTech’s social responsibility in serving people previously underserved by the FS sector – by innovating new models and taking new approaches to traditional finance structure/processes.
Julian Wells concluded the event by thanking the guests and speakers and highlighting the next events that may be of interest.
– 4th December – Democratizing Finance – University of Leeds
– 8th December – FinTech North December Seminar. Technical topics covered will be: Innovative Finance ISAs, regulatory changes, blockchain, and work with the Open Data Institute in regards to alternative business finance.
– 26th April 2018 – Fintech North Conference.