FinTech North News and Regional FinTech Developments

Newcastle FinTech Forum Write-Up

Last week, on the 7th of March, FinTech North brought together their community at One Strawberry Lane in the North East for their Newcastle FinTech Forum hosted in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork, The Internet of Caring Things, FinPact, North of Tyne Digital and Kani. The day was nothing less than a triumph, showcasing the fantastic work that is being done in the sector in the North East, and a theme of ‘FinTech for Good’ transpired across the day.

After the breakfast networking session, Joe Roche, General Manager at FinTech North kickstarted the morning by welcoming speakers, sponsors and attendees, and providing updates on the organisations current work and thinking for the year. Ryan Walsh, Marketing and Events executive at FinTech North also shared some updates about the launch of their new website, and encouraged the audience to share their feedback on the community survey.

The Momentum Building Behind International Expansion

Joe then welcomed Dawn Dunn, Tech Sector Lead at Invest Newcastle, to the stage to discuss the momentum building behind international expansion. She introduced the organisation, explaining that Invest Newcastle aim to attract companies to recognise the vast benefits of locating in the north, as well as to create economic prosperity in the region – Fintech being a key component within this.

Dawn highlighted overseas activity and collaboration as crucial for the growth of the ecosystem, emphasising the importance of learning from global initiatives while also showcasing the strengths of the North East’s FinTech ecosystem.

She warmly exemplified payments experts, Kani, as a case study, referring to them as the ‘poster child’ for national expansion out of the North East, highlighting their expansion to the United States.

Welcome from Innovation SuperNetwork

Next to the stage was Wayne Bryant, Programme Manager – North of Tyne Digital Cluster Development Programme at Innovation SuperNetwork. Wayne enthusiastically described the event as being a result of ‘two years in the making’, discussing the significant efforts of the project, made possible through funding from the North of Tyne Combined Authority. He summarised what they had achieved, including the creation of seven jobs in FinTech in the region, making reference to the goals addressed in Whitecap Consulting’s North East FinTech strategy report.


Welcome from the Internet of Caring Things

Jennine Jonczyk – IoCT Programme manager at UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing was next to the stage, sharing a thought-provoking presentation on the importance of acknowledging old age as a key and intersectional demographic in financial decision making, especially given the nature of our ageing population. Jennine noted that over-60s are often overlooked, despite their colossal global spending power, due to hit 15 trillion pounds by the end of the decade.

She stressed the importance of financial health and education across all ages and the positive impact this can have on our overall well-being, concluding the presentation by iterating the Internet of Caring Things’ mission of keeping ‘humanness at the heart of technology’.


The Intersection of Longevity and FinTech

Mark Glover, Co-founder of Halixia presented next, speaking on ‘The intersection of longevity and FinTech’, similarly focussing on the importance of acknowledging the aging population and shifting demographics. He shared a range of opportunities in the fintech space that would be ideal innovation candidates, recognising the non-homogenous nature of the age groups.


Fireside Chat with SportFin

Following this, Siddesh Iyer, Founder and CEO and Can Kisi ,Senior Engineer at SportFin came to the stage for a fireside chat to share their work and answer some questions about their journey.

SportFin described their mission to make public and charitable funding more accessible to sports organisations while allowing funders to track the impact of their investments. They highlighted the quantification of cost savings for public institutions and introduced the concept of Social Impact Bonds as a financing solution adopted by the public sector.

They addressed the question of the challenges they had faced in the development of SportFin, including the development of a reliable social value estimator, the establishment of a UK synthetic activity database, and tracking diverse outcomes and open government metrics. SportFin shared strategies for overcoming these challenges, such as leveraging real-time data, collaborating with stakeholders, and utilising estimation tools for data synthesis.

They then outlined their plans for the future, which included developing generative AI reports to streamline administrative tasks for their customers. They expressed their intention to automate processes using AI language models and create a personalised experience for users. Additionally, SportFin expressed their goal of building a marketplace for Social Impact Bonds to further expand their impact and reach.

They then opened for audience questions, discussing their revenue model, which includes different levels of membership, as well as revenue generated from funders and transaction fees. In response to a question relating to accessibility, they emphasised the importance of listening to customer feedback in ensuring inclusion in their services.

FinTech Showcase

Following a networking session, the next session of the morning was the FinTech showcase, a lightning-pitch style segment, which was expertly facilitated by Joe and Charlotte Scott, Investor Relations Manager at Innovation SuperNetwork.

First to pitch was Karl Hewitson, Co-Founder of Keepl, a platform designed to keep personal information safe and secure. Karl emphasised the importance of fraud prevention and security in an increasingly digitalised society.

Next Vicky Wilson, CEO and CO-Founder of Settld joined the showcase virtually, sharing their mission to make the grieving of loved ones easier ‘simplifying end-of-life admin.’ She discussed their progress to date, such as working with Octopus Energy, and their wealth of positive feedback, including being ranked in the top 25 of 100 best start-ups in Britain this year.

Dr. Muhammad Wakil Shahzad, CEO and Founder of EcoTechX Limited then shared his businesses journey, as a recent spinout from the University of Northumbria. His proposition focussed on a unique kind of cooling technology, which aims to make data centres and computers more efficient.

Finally, Alex Mollart, CEO of challenger bank, Tandem Bank showcased their focus on environmental sustainability within the sector. He discussed recent updates in the organisation, including Loop, a banking app aimed towards 17-21 year olds, the introduction of the ‘Green Hub’ within their banking app, as well as recent environmental attitude findings that help to inform their strategy.


Funding your FinTech Start-up

Charlotte closed the segment, before sharing her role in facilitating pathways to funding for FinTech start-ups. She highlighted factors including angel investment, venture capital, and the importance of building investor communities.


One of the North East’s Shining FinTech Lights

Michelle Ord, Senior BI Developer at Kani spoke next, sharing the organisation’s strategy and recent developments. She shared some behind-the-scenes information behind the process of making payments, and where Kani fit into the journey.


FinTech Futures

Steve Kevan, CEO and Co-Founder of FinPact introduced the organisation and their mission, highlighting the ‘impact’ aspect in their strategy. He mentioned their three ongoing initiatives: FinTech Futures, Power of Attorney Digitalisation at Northumbria University, and their Durham FinTech Incubator, before focussing more specifically on the FinTech Futures skills initiative.

Steve introduced the “Fintech Futures” initiative which aims to address some of the challenges faced by firms in respect of the talent pipeline. He explained that the initial phase of FinTech Futures has brought together, under a single umbrella, a programme of existing activities and support which assists schools in their delivery of both financial education and a computer science curriculum. These cover teacher education and support, funding, hardware and digital exclusion. This ensures pupils have an understanding and life skill in personal financial management and schools have the infrastructure to deliver a broad set of digital skills to their pupil communities with the support and involvement of the local FinTech Cluster.

He then explained the aim of phase two of the programme: to now develop, with the involvement of the FinTech community, educational content, workshops, events and competitions which supplement the broad digital skills curriculum with an understanding and appreciation of the FinTech sector and the specific skills the industry requires now and in the future. Steve noted his plans to contact the North East FinTech Community with an outline of what is needed to complete this phase, with a view to launching the initial pilot of FinTech Futures into local schools in September this year.


Skills in FinTech Panel Discussion

The panel, chaired by Wayne Bryant, delved into embedding careers in computing education, supporting STEM initiatives, and addressing barriers to technology-focused careers for young people in the North East.

James Dixon, Strategic Hubs Lead and Vocational Lead at National Centre for Computing Education highlighted low aspirations, gender imbalance, and stereotypes in computer science careers. He emphasised the need for professionals to engage with schools to raise aspirations and tackle stereotypes.

Owen McAteer , North East Regional Network Lead at STEM Learning UK, emphasised the importance of positive reinforcement and the effectiveness of STEM ambassadors in engaging young minds. He referenced the work the organisation had done to date, while stressing the need for businesses to get involved in various ways, such as providing hardware for schools to use.

Sarah Marks, CEO at RedSTART Educate underscored the significance of teaching financial education to primary school children, citing research showing habits form by age 7. She emphasised the emotional aspect of finance, and the cruciality of understanding that maths does equal finance. She also spoke about the engaging nature of gamification, in financial education in young children, expanding on the work the charity has been doing in primary schools.

Plans to integrate initiatives like FinTech Futures into school frameworks were discussed, aiming to bridge the gap between education and industry needs. Overall, the panel highlighted the importance of early education in fostering interest in FinTech careers, the need for collaboration between industry and education sectors, and the potential for innovative approaches to address challenges in the North East’s tech talent pipeline.


As the Forum drew to a close, Joe once again thanked the speakers, sponsors and audience for their support and participation. Rachel England, Events Coordinator at FinTech North then shared their busy calendar of upcoming events for the year, thanking the audience and encouraging them to return for their next event.

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