FinTech North News and Regional FinTech Developments

Hull Conference Write-Up

On the 27th of June, the Northern FinTech Community came together in East Yorkshire for their second-ever Hull event and first conference in the region, hosted in partnership with the University of Hull and in collaboration with Barclays Eagle Labs.

The event saw fantastic engagement, with a stellar 80 per cent engagement and a full room throughout the morning. Nearly 60 attendees joined across the day, and over 20 came together for a thought-evoking roundtable discussion on the opportunities and challenges presented by open finance.

Joe Roche, FinTech North’s General Manager, opened the session by introducing the organisation and highlighting some of their goals, including supporting and showcasing FinTech ecosystems across the north outside of the major hubs. Joe also spoke on FinTech North’s skills agenda, and what better place to talk about bridging skills and academia than at the University’s Aura Innovation Centre, a space dedicated to innovation and collaboration.

Next, Robert Dover, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics from the University of Hull shared a pre-recorded message thanking and welcoming attendees, before sharing some personal reflections on the FinTech sector. One key theme he covered was the cruciality of ‘trustworthiness’ in financial services and the importance of collaboration in the industry.

Qin Xiao, Co-Director of the Centre for Economic and Financial Policy and Accountability from the University of Hull echoed the previous message with her presentation, sharing a call to action for collaboration between academia and industry and calling for knowledge exchange initiatives. She then provided an outline of the introduction of open data and finance, and referenced the challenges and opportunities involved.

Daniel Rajkumar, CEO and Founder of White Label Crowdfunding spoke next, sharing his entrepreneurial story of 12 years in peer-to-peer lending. He shared details of how he first entered the FinTech space, having founded a multi-lingual ecommerce platform. Needing to borrow for this business led Dan into the peer-to-peer lending space, where he founded White Label Crowd Funding.

Continuing the peer-to-peer lending theme, Thanos Andrikopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Finance at the University of Hull presented an overview of his research in the space. He covered themes including, traditional finance intermediation, context around the financial crisis and its outcomes, online p2p lending and comparisons between traditional banks and FinTech platforms.

After an energetic networking session, Joe moderated a fireside chat with Ciaran Savage, Founder and Managing Director of Card Industry Professionals (CIP.) During the session, titled ‘Card and Payments Excellence from the East Coast’ Ciaran shared his journey and business story, highlighting his payments background rooted in his family. Despite lacking an academic background in payments, Ciaran’s strong personal experience has been instrumental in driving his company’s growth, now processing over 3 million transactions a month.

CIP’s approach of integrating multiple solutions and banks, offering various options rather than a one-size-fits-all method, was discussed as a key factor in their success.

The chat also delved into the shift towards digital wallets and a cashless society, showcasing how FinTech is inspiring behavioural change. CIP’s commitment to green initiatives, such as offsetting 84,000 tons of carbon annually, underscores their dedication to FinTech for good.

Ciaran highlighted the importance of collaboration, stating, “if we couldn’t collaborate, we wouldn’t have a business model,” and discussed how the payments industry can bridge the skills gap through placements and progressive roles.

This approach, including his experience with a placement student rising to head of operations, demonstrates the benefits of working with start-ups or scale-ups in up-skilling and developing early career professionals.

Next to the stage was Phil Benson, Founder of Locio, an e-commerce platform that brings together the tech and food industries in Yorkshire and beyond.

Phil discussed how Locio aims to develop community connectivity and support through showcasing local producers, particularly in the drinks industry. He emphasised the value of the beverage marketplace and e-commerce in harnessing and supporting individual food producers, providing them with the market expertise they need to thrive.

Demographic changes, such as young people drinking less but opting for better quality, are informing Locio’s business decisions. Helping people discover local producers is a key aspect of their approach, with a specific focus on Yorkshire and plans for regional scaling. Phil underscored that social impact is essential, as uplifting people ultimately benefits businesses.

Aaron Yates, Director of Product Design and Architecture from rradar spoke on rrelentless, an InsurTech solution. Rrelentless’ aim is to work as an intermediary between insurance and insurers. Aaron provided an overview of the insurance landscape, emphasising their tech-centric approach aimed at enhancing efficiency. Recognising that the insurance industry lags technologically, rrelentless aims to bridge this gap by offering more efficient solutions for handling complex human-centric concepts.

Following the lunch and networking session, Sharon Braithwaite, Eagle Lab Ecosystem Manager AVP from Barclays shared some updates from Eagle Labs and all of the opportunities and support services they offer to diverse and female founders and people in the early stages of their careers. Barclays provide support through initiatives like mentorships, their Eagle Labs Academy and their Demo Directive, a platform for founders to pitch and upload their propositions.

The final session of the conference, linking back to FinTech North’s skills focus and the University’s aim to foster collaboration, was a panel discussion titled: ‘Enhancing the supply of skills: Bridging between Academia and Industry in East Yorkshire,’ skillfully chaired by Ellie Kirkman, FinTech PR Consultant at SkyParlour Started.

The panel consisted of experts from both academia and industry, providing a fusion of knowledge and insights from a range of perspectives:

  • Professor Christopher Bovis, Professor of European and Business Law, University of Hull
  • Daniel Rajkumar, CEO, White Label Crowd Funding
  • Ian Bolton, Head of Learning Programmes,

Chris highlighted the importance of innovation, disruption, and evolution in the industry, while Ian provided a student perspective, noting that young people feel a greater sense of ownership and see diverse pathways to impact the industry. Dan emphasised the role of disruptors and solutions in FinTech.

Ian elaborated on the skills employers seek, sharing insights from course development driven by employer needs. He mentioned the importance of core skills and the willingness to learn, adapt, and grow, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Dan added that necessity drives innovation, sharing his personal experience of entering FinTech to secure funding.

Chris noted strong student interest in tech, law, business, and market evolution, stressing the need to update curriculums to stay relevant. The demand for FinTech education is rising, with various disciplines playing crucial roles. Ian provided an anecdote about active FinTech societies and the entrepreneurial culture among students, leading to internships and SME engagement.

Dan discussed the importance of flexible learning in internships and apprenticeships, citing the trailblazer group and associated courses, including crypto and P2P. Chris highlighted the global perspective of FinTech, with key topics like payments, P2P, efficiency, regulation, and competition with banks.

Ian addressed how students outside FinTech can enter the field, emphasising the need for public education on stable FinTech pathways and the diverse functions within the industry. He encouraged employers to engage with students and provide opportunities. Dan stressed the importance of support for entry-level talent and fostering a professional development environment.

The panel discussed the awareness of compliance and regulatory issues among students, with Chris noting the general lack of recognition but the necessity of regulation. Ian and Dan agreed that while regulation can be learned on the job, fundamental principles need strong training and competency frameworks.

The importance of businesses bringing more young people into FinTech was affirmed, with pathways through master’s qualifications, undergraduate courses, and degree apprenticeships. Chris concluded by urging universities to revamp curriculums to embrace FinTech technology, regulation, compliance, and evolving market dynamics.

As the conference came to a close, 25 delegates came together for a roundtable discussion expanding on Qin’s prior talk, discussing the opportunities and challenges presented by open finance. The largest FinTech-focussed event in Hull to date will surely be remembered, and will surely pave the way for further collaboration and innovation in the region.

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