Fintech market participants are growing wary of the impact of Brexit, with some suggesting the recruitment pool will be the most pressing issue.
“It’s the joy of living in a single market zone,” said Asif Faruque, of Level39, at Fintech Week London 2018, “but Brexit will seriously hamper access to talent. It needs to be as frictionless as possible.”
“I spend half of my life scouting some 8,000 fintech companies with Colab and bringing them to our scale-up programme in London,” said Helene Panzarino, MD of Rainmaking Colab, on the same panel. “The other half of my life I spend teaching Masters at 3 London universities. I don’t see the talent materialising before 2019 when we leave the EU. There will be a talent gap, we can no longer ignore it, it will exist.”
The panel further suggested that preemptive fintech moves away from London had already begun.
“House prices in Amsterdam have shot up by 40% recently.” says Panzarino “in the short term, cities like Amsterdam, Dublin or Berlin have a great opportunity now as companies look for alternatives in the uncertainty of Brexit.”
But the panel was optimistic on the approach needed to grow and keep fintech talent, and the public sector’s role to make the pathway to fintech positions as seamless as possible.
“I was in Lagos,” said Dr Jane Thomason of Abt Associates. “The government is giving fintech and tech a huge push, allocating land for technology hubs, and implementing technology throughout the academic lifecycle starting children off with simple games followed by more advanced programme writing.”
Faruque agreed, explaining how fintech can take a leaf out of the wider tech sector’s handbook. “There’s a lot of work that the government is doing for young people. IT was a completely different kind of subject now than when I was at school - it’s now moved into programming and coding. The traditional barriers to a Computer Science degree have lowered considerably. The private sector is also having a big influence on that, one example being great initiatives like Code First: Girls, providing afterwork lessons.”
Panzarino was less convinced by the public sector’s ability to bring in fintech talent without further government support. “It needs to be a blend of public and private, but it should be driven primarily by the private sector.”
Private investment has traditionally played a crucial role in London’s ability to attract new fintech startups looking for initial capital.
“Every day I see new fintech investment in the UK and it certainly hasn’t waned in London. We hear the contrary in the industry - that London is receiving weaker investment, but that’s not what the data is telling us. A lot of investment is coming from West Coast smart money who are spotting great opportunities here,” said Faruque.
“Setting up a company in London is not the problem, keeping that company in London is the problem,” said Panzarino “the wave of ICO investment will be levelled out by regulation, making London’s private investment all the more important for fintech startups looking to thrive and scale.”
“Ultimately,” Faruque added, “it is not a zero-sum game as many people assume it is. As long as fintech wins, it wins for London as well. As such, London will retain its place as a fintech capital.”