There is more to UK fintech life than London

There is more to UK fintech life than London

Neil Ainger, Banking Technology’s editorial contributor, looks at UK fintech firms working outside of the London “bubble”, examining where they are based and why; their history; target markets; clients; tech specialisations, concerns and future plans.

This is the second instalment of the three-part report (click here to read the first article).

Southwest: Bristol, Bath & Exeter  

Principal fintech areas: Temple Quarter, Emersons Green and Filton are key areas for fintechs in Bristol. The Engine Shed business hub at Temple Meads and the Bristol & Bath Science Park in Emersons Green are particularly popular with innovative start-ups. Fintech firms in Exeter tend to gather at the university’s Innovation Centre.

Approximate number of fintech companies:  There are hundreds of start-ups and established companies in the Southwest area of the UK, with the specifically fintech figure continuing to grow.

More generally, the digital sector that includes media, films, games and other enterprises’ that have transferable skills has more than 4,000 high tech companies in its span, according to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership. However, this 4,000 figure does include university research institutes.

Further south and west of the major conurbations of Bristol and Bath is the Exeter University Innovation Centre, which the very successful equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube grew out of. It acts as a gathering point for the local FinTech community. According to its website, Crowdcube has so far raised over £213 million from its 350,000+ registered members for 480+ start-ups and companies, including well-known names such as BrewDog and the mobile-only bank Monzo. It is a regular speaker at the Innovation Centre’s Start-up Weekends and a supporter of The Generator co-working space in Exeter and of nearby Bristol Fintech events.

“Being disruptive and challenging the status quo has always been part of Crowdcube’s story and has distinguished us from our peers, which I believe are heavily biased towards the UK capital,” says Crowdcube co-founder, Luke Lang.

“Being based in Exeter and emanating from there has helped foster a courage and determination to advance that has certainly contributed to our success. I think it makes Crowdcube’s story more interesting and it has never held us back in achieving our vision. I don’t believe tech has any boundaries and that includes where you are based.

“We’ve recruited extremely high-quality staff members to our team from companies such as Google, eBay and MySpace, as well as ambitious young graduates from the regional Southwest universities who are inspired by our mission and also want to be here in Exeter as a lifestyle choice.”

Local specialisations: User experience (UX) design; front-end apps; cyber-security; mobile; back-end operations & processing are all prevalent in Southwest England, as are data management and analytics; software development; and education technology.

Approximate value and number of people in the local fintech scene: There are 35,924 digital tech economy jobs in Bristol & Bath, according to the 2017 Tech Nation report. In the wider Southwest area 137,070 people are employed in the digital tech field, according to the Nesta innovation foundation that does the figures for the report using data from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Some highlighted companies: “CX Partners (UX specialists) are situated in Bristol, as are Lloyds Bank Group’s back office processing unit and many other banks,” explains Dr John Bradford, CEO of High Tech Bristol & Bath (HBB), which is part of the SETsquared tech hub.

“Nationwide, the mutually-owned building society, also opened a UX centre in Bristol in 2016 and there is Oracle; Cray UK (supercomputers) and many other large and small tech players present in the city.”

Other notable local Bristolian finance and/or tech-led disruptive companies include Hargreaves Lansdown, Parmenion and Triodos Bank UK, while further afield in Exeter is the aforementioned Crowdcube.

Supporting organisations: HBB and the aligned SETsquared organisation is one of the principal hubs for the Southwest technology community. SETsquared comprises of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Southampton and has an office locally at Temple Meads in Bristol and affiliated offices throughout the region.

SETsquared helps researchers, students and others set up companies and supports technology advances. “It provides a valuable local support network offering start-up help, investors, commercialisation tips, mentoring services, and so on,” says HBB’s Bradford.

There is also the Bristol Games Hub, TechSpark and a business incubator at the University of Bath Innovation Centre, allied to support from the inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath – all of which contribute towards the wider digital sector and sometimes overlap. In addition, there is the local chapter of the Tech City UK Cluster Alliance, which is reproduced nationwide across the UK, and regular Bristech meet-ups, among other gatherings.

Sample firm & practitioner comments: Bristol

Moneyhub Enterprise

HQ in Bristol and an additional representative office in London.

Established/founder: Conceived by CEO Toby Hughes in 2011, the firm was formally set up in 2013.

Company details: 35 staff. Revenues not available as still in investment phase after being taken over by Momentum UK, part of the large South African financial services group MMI Holdings, in 2014.

Specialisation: Provider of B2B personal finance management (PFM) tools, data and white-labelled assistance.

Future plans: The business currently works with large British enterprises from its state-of-the-art office in Temple Back, Bristol. It also has plans to expand its remit to work with European businesses in the future.

Why Bristol?: “Bristol is great if you’re thinking of starting a FinTech business. It’s very creative and attractive for millennials – who often drive this sector – as they already know the city for its great bands like Massive Attack, Tricky and it’s musical and artistic credentials, which draw people in,” says Dave Tonge, CTO at Moneyhub Enterprise…

This is an excerpt. The full article is available in the May 2017 edition of Banking Technology.