Birmingham should be nurtured as a hotbed of the fintech sector, according to a newly published government report into the industry.
The Kalifa Review makes key recommendations including fostering Birmingham as one of the key fintech (financial technology) “clusters” across the UK.
But it also says Birmingham has not quite lived up to its billing for the sector as the UK’s second city when compared with other regions such as the Pennies and Scotland.
HM Treasury commissioned former Worldpay chief executive Ron Kalifa to lead the study into the industry which is focused on using technology in financial services such mobile banking and payments.
The review makes key recommendations in five areas – policy and regulation, skills, investment, international and national connectivity.
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Among these are a fintech ‘visa’ to attract international talent to the UK, providing regulatory support for growing firms and creating a £1 billion fund to help firms grow independently.
It also says a private sector-led Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology should be established to support national co-ordination and growth across the UK.
Referring to Birmingham as one of ten clusters nationwide, the report said: “Clusters are a worthwhile focus, as they are recognised as powerful economic and social development tools that empower innovation and show more resilience.
“Analysis shows that ten clusters in particular are producing high growth fintechs and have the most potential to grow and develop further.
“Birmingham qualifies as an established cluster with a growing financial services presence, one example being HSBC’s relocation of its head office from London.
“However, given Birmingham’s size and status as the UK’s second city, there is a sense the fintech footprint there today is below potential, with greater upside to come from this cluster.
“The UK’s clusters have evolved at differing speeds with different drivers, funding, organisational structures, governance and approaches.
“Some have grown independently in duplicative ways (which) reflect the different local support. Though Birmingham has plenty of high-growth fintechs (which) are often more
mature, Scotland has double the number of fintechs overall and the Pennines has double the number of high-growth fintechs.
“This is surprising as the expectation is that such a large city, with a significant presence of academic and financial institutions, would be much higher.
“This may suggest a disparity in how the Birmingham cluster has used local foundational capabilities and how successful it has been in fostering local connectivity in
comparison to other clusters such as Scotland.”
The over-arching aim of this new review is to set out a strategy to make the UK a global powerhouse and and help with job creation.
The Treasury said the UK has more than ten per cent of the world’s market share in fintech and the sector was now worth more than £11 billion a year to our economy.
SuperTech was recently launched as a new group to bring together professional services firms with digital companies across Birmingham and the wider West Midlands to see how technology can be integrated into everyday business activities.
David Stewart is group chief operating officer at Birmingham-based financial services firm Wesleyan and leading on fintech for SuperTech.
He said: “The West Midlands is the UK’s largest centre for business, professional and financial services outside the capital (contributing) more than £400 million per annum to the region’s economy.
“In line with the Kalifa Review, we aim to implement a number of strategies to ensure fintech firms can continue to grow, ensuring they are able to realise opportunities in complementary sectors. As the Kalifa review highlights, fintech is in no way a London-only development.
“The West Midlands is fast becoming a proving ground for companies exploring the future of payments. If the UK is to maintain its position as the world’s leading fintech hub, we must focus on scale and supporting regional specialisms, in the case of Birmingham banking, lending and payments.”
Julia Streets, founder and chief executive of advisory firm Streets Consulting, hosted the online launch of the review.
She said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen what a game changer financial technology can be.
“Under lockdown and unusual working conditions, we have bought, sold and conducted our businesses ‘as usual’ with relative speed and ease.
“The Kalifa Review showed that, even before the pandemic and its economic shock, some 90 per cent of the UK workforce will need to be reskilled by 2030. I firmly believe roles in fintech will provide real opportunities to do just that and the West Midlands is a fertile ground.
“The five leading academic institutions in Birmingham, supported by many other learning establishments, are already building their capabilities and capacity to equip students to seize and build on the potential fintech can offer. I, and many others, firmly believe fintech is part of the West Midlands’ prosperous future.”