FinTech and the Northern Powerhouse

8 October 2015

Earlier this week, I discussed the UK's burgeoning financial technology (FinTech) sector on the BBC's Today radio programme, in particular talking about opportunities outside of London. This is a subject close to my heart, as in 2014 Funding Options took the gamble of moving its main operations centre out of London, and into the Northwest. This was contrarian, as London is rapidly emerging as perhaps the world leader in FinTech, mixing world-class creative industries with a status as the leading international financial centre.

As I mentioned on the Today programme, London is an amazing financial centre, but it's also quite difficult to hire the right people at the right price as you’re in direct competition with big banks with big budgets. I'm old enough to have been working in the City at the time of the first dot-com bubble, the one that brought us the likes of Amazon and e-Bay, and remember the big banks became increasingly worried about losing their brightest staff to exciting new internet companies. The banks quickly responded with dress-down policies, flexible working and higher pay to retain their best staff, and I do wonder if the same might now happen again as the banking industry finally emerges from licking its wounds. As a footnote, the story ended with the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, and within weeks we were all back to wearing sober suits, eating lunch at our desks, and earning minimal bonuses!

Recently, a lot has been said about growth outside of London, notably George Osborne's vision for a Northern Powerhouse, and FinTech has a definite role. Although a fraction of the scale of London, the Northwest is undeniably a hotbed of finance and technology, reflected in Barclays' recent decision to open a new FinTech community in Manchester. In fact, the UK has a number of other strong financial centres, notably Edinburgh, Birmingham and Leeds. Any of these cities could (and should) take take a leading role in FinTech, considered one of the great growth sectors over the next decade. As I note on the Today programme, developers that are currently flooding to London from all over the EU may soon discover that they have a better quality of life outside London whilst finding the same exciting FinTech job opportunities!

As the Northern Powerhouse gains momentum, I'm really excited about helping to make FinTech a UK phenomenon, not just a London one.

You can hear me on the BBC's Today programme here.