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A comparison of the world’s leading fintech hubs: London

London fintech London fintech
Photo credit:

Davide D’Amico

Part four of this series by executive search firm 360Leaders, analyzes London's position as a leading fintech hub.

London has always been a global player, even when the rest of the UK has struggled to maintain an even keel financially.

Part of that reason is thanks to its unusual role as a hub for all the UK’s major industries. In the US, Silicon Valley has a monopoly over digital innovation, New York is a center of finance and Washington is the home of the country’s political machine. London has all three. And the capital’s tech industry has grown exponentially as a result.

According to statistics from the Greater London Authority (GLA) the high-tech industries have increased their Gross Value-Added (GVA) by 16.4% since 2009 and now contribute over £35 billion per year.

Tech companies in the capital generate £56 billion in revenue and employ more than 300,000 people. Over the past five years London has attracted more investment than Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam combined.

London is now home to 14 out of 47 of Europe’s unicorns – double the number of the next closest country.

In 2016, London hosted 22,000 tech related Meetup events– nearly three times as many as Berlin, Amsterdam or Paris. London is now the world’s largest center for financial technology, with more workers in fintech than either New York City or San Francisco-Silicon Valley.

In 2016, the Alternative Investment Market saw 39 IPOs raise almost £1 billion with London tech companies attracting £2.2 billion in VC and PE funding.

Big Investment

Venture capital into London is now 10 times higher than in 2010. More than half of all fintech investment in Europe is channeled into the city.

In 2014 alone, the capital’s fintech startups attracted £343 million of investment, three times as much as in 2013 and is generating in excess of £20 billion of revenue each year.

Major tech funds that have set up shop in London include Santander (£60m), Index Ventures (£328), Google Ventures (£76m).

When he was in office, David Cameron backed a manifesto to make the UK a world leader in Fintech by 2020 and increase the number of people working in Fintech by 100,000.

London alone attracted over US$743 million in venture capital through 50 deals with the largest ones being Funding Circle’s US$150 million Series E round, Atom Bank’s US$128 million Series B round and WorldRemit’s US$100 million Series B round.

Success Stories

Arguably London’s biggest player in Fintech is Funding Circle, the peer-to-peer lending service founded in 2010 and as of February this year has facilitated more than £2.5 billion in loans to small and medium-sized firms and even the British government.

TransferWise, a peer-to-peer money transfer service founded in 2011 has more than a million customers who send £800 million through the platform every month. At the time of writing the company has raised a total of $117 million in funding.

Rounding out the top three is WorldRemit, a service that lets people send money to over 140 destinations worldwide. It has raised $120 million since it was founded in 2010 and oversees more than 580,000 transfers every month.

Areas of Expertise

Money transfer and payments services make up the bulk of the expertise in the London fintech scene, according to accounting firm EY. Spearheading this area is TransferWise and its $1 billion valuation.

A second area of expertise in the growing London fintech community is savings and investment products which include services such as peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, online investment advice.

A new and emerging area, however, is insurance, with startups including Back Me Up, Cuvva and Safeshare are all spearheading a new sector within London fintech.

Challenges

While the UK still attracted a high number of deals for fintech there’s been a significant drop in investment year on year to Q3 2016.

Many are pointing the finger at the Brexit referendum and the uncertainty of London’s role as the continent’s financial powerhouse.

Rival Fintech hubs like Berlin have been quick to seize upon the uncertainty and also remind companies of the incredibly high office and living costs in the UK capital compared with its German counterpart.

The future

While the regulatory future is still unclear over the terms of the Brexit deal, London still has 300 of the world banks choosing to call the city home.

Thanks to the city’s undisputed place a foreign exchange hub – some £4 trillion moves through the city every day – the uncertain future provides fertile ground for fintech companies to help larger institutions navigate the transition.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recently created a “sandbox” allowing startups to experiment in a regulatory-light space to help accelerate growth. The government meanwhile has backed the development of open APIs in banking to help open up the payments market to increased competition.

With more software developers in the city than any other fintech hub, and more unicorns than anywhere else in Europe, don’t expect London to give up its fintech crown without a fight.

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