UK fintech feels the force

Sam Shead

There's rarely a week that goes by without a press release landing in my inbox informing me that yet another young fintech (financial technology) startup has been backed by new investors with millions of pounds.

Much of this money is coming from venture capital corporations like Index Ventures and Balderton Capital. Index, one of the largest venture capitalists in Europe, has made 12 fintech investments in the past 12 months, while rival Balderton Capital has also been on a fintech spending spree of its own lately, backing Credit Benchmarck and Revolut within the last two weeks. But they're far from the only ones. Camilla Dolan, an investment director at MMC Ventures, told me today that professional footballers and other high net worth individuals are entrusting her and her firm to make calculated risks with their millions on everything from fintech to foodtech.

In a nutshell, money seems to be pouring into fintech from all angles. Supporting this is a report published earlier this year by IT outsourcing and consultancy firm Accenture showing global investment in fintech firms tripled from $4.05 billion (£2.6 billion) in 2013 to $12.2 billion (£7.8 billion) in 2014, with Europe the fastest growing region in the world.

Investors are optimistic that the shares they buy in fintech companies today will be worth considerably more down the line, with some hoping to cash in quickly when one of the companies they back opts for a public listing on a stock market or gets aquired by a larger firm.

The same investors are spoilt for choice and often overwhelmed by the number of fintech companies out there, particularly in London where there's already a very well established financial services industry.

The sheer variety of fintech firms has boomed as the sector has matured to the stage it's at today. The first innovations came in the form of business to consumer (B2C) services like peer-to-peer lending, remittance and foreign exchange but today there's innovation occurring everywhere, with clever cofounders with experience working for the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley developing services around fraud detection, cybersecurity/threat detection, back end financial services and exchange platforms.

TransferWise, Nutmeg, Crowdcube and Funding Circle are just a few of the big name UK fintech firms that have been on the receiving end of large investments over the last couple of years; their disruptive platforms going head-to-head with some of the world's biggest banks, forcing them to innovate or go into decline, possibly even die.

Personal banking is ripe for disruption and companies like Starling and Mondo are doing their best to revolutionise the way we bank by digitising the entire experience. Mondo is now in talks with the Bank of England after applying for a licence earlier this year. It has also received £2 million from investors to get the business up and running, according to reports, and will be seeking further investment to meet capital requirements.

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