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According to the annual FinTech50 list, there are more promising fintech startups in the British capital than ever before
Having produced such high-profile companies as financial-information firm Nutmeg and peer-to-peer lending unicorn Funding Circle, it’s no wonder London has long been hailed as the European capital of fintech. And while a 33.7% drop in investment in the UK sector in 2016 may have raised doubts about the British capital’s ability to keep its crown, it seems the number of fintech startups hailing from the city has never been higher.
Organised by FinTechCity, the fintech community, the FinTech50 lists 50 of most promising startups in the sector from across Europe. And with over 1,500 businesses to pick from, it’s safe to say that the judging panel – which featured representatives from companies like Microsoft, Silicon Valley Bank and Samsung – had their job cut out for them.
Of the startups to make the cut, 31 hailed from London, which is an increase from 29 in 2016 and 24 in 2015. Among the ventures on the list were Azimo, the money-transfer company; Onfido, the background-checking scaleup; and MarketInvoice, the marketplace connecting investors with growing businesses.
And the FinTech50 wasn’t the only list where the UK shone bright. Celebrating successful fintech companies that have featured on the list over the years, the separate FinTech50 Hall of Fame list recognised ten European startups, six of which were British. The companies singled out include Funding Circle, WorldRemit, the money-transfer startup and Zopa, the company connecting investors with borrowers.
And it didn’t stop there. British companies also dominated The Hot 10 list, which highlights ten up-and-coming startups to keep an eye on. Six of the startups on this year’s list hail from London, including Bud, the banking platform; Cleo, the money-managing smart assistant company; and 10xBanking, the fintech consultancy.
Noting that more traditional financial institutions are working with emerging fintech firms, Fintech50 founder Julie Lake told City A.M. that “there is a new generation of innovators going direct to the consumer in areas such as insurance and financial management”. She added that the even though challenger firms don’t have “the customer volume of traditional providers”, they “are winning hearts and minds in a style more often associated with consumer goods”.
So at least for now, it seems that London is safe on the throne when it comes to being the world’s fintech nerve centre.
UK’s online retailers can access loans of between $1,000 and $750,000 for up to 12 months from the e-commerce giant
On the back of news that it has lent more than $3bn in loans since launching in 2011, Amazon is set to ramp up its finance offering to small firms across the UK, US and Japan.
Amazon Lending provides small business sellers on its e-commerce marketplace with loans ranging from $1,000 to $750,000 for up to 12 months.
With rates ranging from 6% to 17%, the company says it supplies funds from its own balance sheet within 24 hours and automatically deducts payments every two weeks from the customer’s account. If the customer is unable to pay, Amazon can freeze merchandise until they are able to continue.
Of the 20,000 small businesses that have taken out a loan through Amazon Lending to date, more than 50% have gone on to secure a second loan.
Now, the e-commerce giant is hoping to expand its offering to a further two million or so businesses on its marketplace platform. These small sellers across the UK and the world are estimated to account for half of Amazon’s total units sold worldwide.
Peeyush Nahar, vice president for Amazon Marketplace, said: “We created Amazon Lending to make it simple for up-and-coming small businesses to efficiently get a business loan, because we know that an infusion of capital at the right moment can put a small business on the path to even greater success.
“Small businesses are in our DNA. Amazon is providing capital to small businesses to help them expand inventory and operations at a critical period of their growth. We understand that a small loan can go a long way.”
We’ve spoken to the UK tech investor, VC, angel and private equity community to find out what it makes of news that the Conservative Party has made a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a new government.
As a quick summary, Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority after calling an election designed to strengthen it. The Conservative Party secured 318 seats out of 650, losing 12 seats. The Labour Party secured 261 seats, gaining 31.
Having failed to secure the majority, the prime minister struck a deal with the DUP, which won 10 seats to form a new government.
Last month, we published articles giving an overview of what the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos would mean for UK tech, but here we find out what the UK investor community makes of the election news.
Summary: Tech is borderless, so the result will have little impact.
“Technology is a borderless sector. It moves faster than governments can cope with and indeed is moving at a rate that is faster than the public can track. Politics is not irrelevant to the sector but I believe the impact of the election will have little change to the entrepreneurial and creative of the UK technology market.
“I am confident that the resultant political power will look to negotiate a suitable Brexit that attracts the great minds and engineers for our collective future.”
Summary: A change of PM is required to strike a Brexit deal that won’t harm UK tech.
“Clearly uncertainty is never good for business confidence, and because Theresa May’s ability to negotiate Brexit is fatally compromised (she’d be a laughing stock both in Europe and in parliament), there will likely be another leadership hiatus and temporary power vacuum.
“That said, as early stage investors, we are optimists and we back optimistic entrepreneurs who always looks for the opportunity rather than the downside. For example, a new ‘safe pair of hands’ prime minister such as Hammond might be less anti-immigrant on Brexit, which would be welcomed by startups needing international talent. Thankfully the UK has strong self-preservation instincts and I expect the Conservatives will make a swift and pragmatic change of leadership, and set out a fresh agenda to restore business confidence.”
James Codling, MD of scale-up investment platform VentureFounders:
Summary: The government must now invest in growing businesses sothe UK tech industry can flourish and boost the economy.
“While the election results were a surprise, it does not change the need for the new government to prioritise the need to invest in the businesses looking to scale in the UK. These companies, which have the potential to be the global tech leaders of tomorrow, are failing to grow due to a lack of financing.
Perversely, the success of these businesses will be crucial when weathering the storm of Brexit, as they will provide jobs and, as they grow, they will continue to contribute to the economy through tax payments and public spending. By ensuring these businesses are a success, the UK can retain its status as a European and global leader in tech entrepreneurship, attracting overseas investment and talent, whatever the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations.”
Simon Cook, Draper Esprit:
Summary: The government must connect with the startup community and ensure Brexit doesn’t damage access to talent.
“It’s important that the government continues to connect with the startup community, which is the lifeblood of future innovation and growth in the UK. We believe that there is a global investment appetite for UK tech startups and scaleups but key on the agenda has got to be continued access to talent.”
Stuart Veale, managing partner at Beringea:
Summary: The government needs to act fast to mitigate market worries. But the industry must also be proactive to encourage and facilitate change, too.
“With understandable uncertainty around the hung parliament, it is critical that the formation of a new government happens as quickly as possible. The continued success and growth of British businesses depends on the new government’s ability to mitigate any market worries. While it was reassuring to see the manifesto commitments to innovation and continued support for investment startups and scaleups, the industry is looking for more clarity around the specifics of these plans. The UK economy and the international investment community need reassurance that the government is committed to allowing high-growth businesses to flourish here.
Around negotiations with the EU, it is vital that the government sets out its position as quickly as possible – any prolonged period without clarity in a Brexit strategy could have a major impact on operations and future prosperity. For the UK tech industry, access to the single market and a guarantee of the right for European citizens to stay in the UK are defining issues. However, with 18 months of negotiations still ahead, we must be proactive as an industry and navigate the challenges we face together. The key priorities must be proactively closing the skills gap, encouraging STEM education and upskilling professionals.”
Tim Mills, investment director at Angel CoFund:
Summary: The investment community must work together to back back bold high-growth investments, spreading investment and diluting risk.
“While there will be concerns and added layer of uncertainty, the results of the election should not impact on the continued success of British businesses. Without a doubt, the UK is well positioned to maintain its ranking as a global leader in innovation, with an amazing track record for attracting investments and driving growth across the country. With continued governmental and investment support, the UK is the natural home for innovative high-growth companies.
In the investment community where we are trying to build the future economy, we must continue to back bold high-growth investments that will help cement the UK’s position as a powerhouse of technology and innovation. Specifically, we need to continue to work together with individuals and institutions, using syndication to enhance investment prospects and spread the risk. A model that allows a more extensive range of companies to be supported with a greater supply of finance across the UK.”
Summary: The focus of Brexit negotiations must be to ensure the UK is the best place to grow a business.
“With investor sentiment towards Brexit resoundingly strong, the new parliament must remain steadfast in driving a global agenda for free-trade and investment. Critical to this will be securing the best possible agreement with the European Union and the enacting of targeted initiatives to make Britain the best place to grow and indeed invest in a business.”
Business groups have urged politicians to act quickly to provide economic stability in the wake of the shock election result, as Britain heads towards the uncertainty of a hung parliament with Brexit talks looming.
Confederation of British Industry director general Carolyn Fairbairn warned that this is a “serious moment” for the UK economy and politicians must “get their house in order and form a functioning government, reassure the markets and protect our resilient economy”.
”Politicians must act responsibly, putting the interests of the country first and showing the world that the UK remains a safe destination for business. It’s time to put the economy back to the top of the agenda,” she said.
The British Chambers of Commerce struck a similar tone, with director general Adam Marshall saying: “After two long years of elections, referenda and wider uncertainty, many businesses were doing their best to ignore the noise of politics – up until today.
He added: ”The electorate’s split decision generates further uncertainty for business communities, who are already grappling with currency fluctuations, rising costs, and the potential impacts of Brexit.
“The formation of a workable administration that can give voters and businesses confidence around economic management must be the immediate priority. Businesses are adept at forming alliances and coalitions when important interests are at stake. We should expect the same of our politicians.“
Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said businesses had “been thrown into political limbo”, by the result. ”With crucial Brexit negotiations coming up fast, in addition to the significant domestic challenges we face, the lack of a government with a majority undeniably creates uncertainty,” he said. “The majority of British business will be waiting to see whether a stable government can be formed in short order.
”If the Conservatives govern as a minority, they must recognise that they have not earned a mandate to implement their manifesto in full.
“Now is the time to move on from the rhetoric of the election campaign and focus on preparing for Brexit talks. The issues of access to EU markets and the need for skilled workers are still paramount, and Brussels will be keen to get negotiations underway soon.“
The Federation of Small Businesses urged more caution, saying that Brexit talks should be postponed.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: “Negotiations should be led by a government and a prime minister that will be in place for the duration, and so we call for a delay to the scheduled start of negotiations rather than a rush to begin in 11 days’ time. The need for a transition period now becomes even stronger, providing the time to get Brexit right.”
Robert Gordon, chief executive of of Hitachi Capital UK put forward a more positive view: “Uncertainty is always bad for business and investment, but we need to remind ourselves that we have been here before. While we hope that the political situation is resolved in a timely fashion, I have great confidence that the enterprising spirit of the populace will prevail and that we will continue to create new jobs, generate greater wealth and remain a key player on the global stage, whoever eventually assumes power.
“After all, it is businesses first and foremost, and not politicians, which dictate the health of our economy.”
Small businesses expect practical help and a change of tone and approach from the Government, which has too often viewed them as a problem, in the wake of the Election result.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Up until the Election, a lot of small businesses were doing a good job of ignoring the noise of politics, but I think this becomes a lot harder as the uncertainty is reaching all corners. They want to see a workable Government formed and they want it to be focused very strongly on the practical issues around doing business and the economy.
‘The run-up to the Election was extremely frustrating for small firms because those economic practicalities were basically absent throughout the campaigns from all sides. That has to end today.’
He urged: ‘They’ve got to be for business and the economy. Equally, the tone has to change over business, which is not a problem to be solved, but is part of the solution, and working together between business and Government is going to be really important in the coming weeks and months.’
Emma Jones, founder of small business support group Enterprise Nation, said: ‘If this astonishing Election result is the catalyst to make the incumbent Government finally sit up and listen to what small firms want, then something good at least will have come from it.
‘Our own debate in front of a small-business audience weeks ahead of the Election and within striking distance of Westminster should have fired a warning shot to policy makers that something was not going to plan.
‘A vote put the Tories in second place – unprecedented for the so-called party of business. It happened on the day the Conservatives unveiled their manifesto, with all its reforms that would hit small businesses in the pocket and impact productivity. The fact that this was ignored shows that small businesses were not being taken into account. If they had been, we may not be in this situation.’
The Federation of Small Businesses has called for a delayed start to Brexit talks and a clear timetable for the coming weeks in the wake of the Election result.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry has said talks should be led ‘by a Government and a Prime Minister that will be in place for the duration, and so we call for a delay to the scheduled start of negotiations’.
Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, said: ‘Business abhors uncertainty and what we’ve got is even more uncertainty, so it’s very difficult for business. And I’ve got to say, business didn’t really seem to feature much in any of the parties’ manifestos and I think that’s a priority for whichever Government is formed, getting a focus on business.’
Because of purdah – the pre-Election period where civil servants’ work is restricted – followed by the UK waking up to a hung Parliament on Friday, a number of decisions have continued to be put on hold.
Marshall said: ‘Those have real practical ramifications. So whether it’s the launch of regional investment funds, which have been delayed, delayed, and then delayed again, City deals or other devolution things that are very important to business communities in many parts of the country, there is a knock-on effect that can hit business confidence.’
He advised: ‘Businesses need to keep focusing on the fundamentals: relationships with suppliers and customers, cash flow and the order book. That’s got to come first.’
Lewis said: ‘In times of uncertainty and when facing inflation, there are two things you have to focus on: sales and gross margin.
‘One of the problems of being a small firm is you can’t turn down business, so you can tend to get a big percentage of sales with just a few customers. So if they then get into trouble, that has really adverse affects on your business.
‘If you’ve got a significant customer, you must keep your eye on their credit rating and make sure their payments to you do not slip further than they have already.’
The so-called “special relationship” between the United States and Britain was forged on the beaches of Normandy 73 years ago.
This alliance, nurtured by presidents and prime ministers for decades, has taken a battering since President Donald Trump took office.
Trump criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan after the most recent terror attack in the city and he has previously suggested British intelligence agencies spied on him during his campaign.
Both outbursts drew widespread condemnation throughout the U.K. and beyond, and raised the question: Are U.S.-U.K. ties irreparably damaged?
Most analysts would say the relationship may be a bit bruised but intact.
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“The core of the relationship between the U.S. and U.K. rests on its nuclear, intelligence and special forces cooperation — and is usually protected from the vagaries of politics,” said Tim Oliver of LSE Ideas, the foreign policy think tank of the London School of Economics. “The U.S. and U.K. trust each other in ways we don’t trust anyone else in the world.”
That said, the usually courteous diplomatic relationship between the two nations may be a bit frayed.
After the terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, in which at least eight people died and 50 were wounded, Trump took to Twitter to describe Khan as “pathetic.”
A survey of more than 70 large, publicly-listed companies in the UK has revealed that businesses remain broadly confident, and firms are not making major changes to their strategies and operations as the UK creeps towards an uncertain, post-Brexit world.
An overwhelming 89 per cent of respondents to the study, which is conducted annually by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, said that Brexit had not changed their spending habits, with many stating that it is too early and too uncertain to determine the specific effects that splitting from the EU will have on their business.
“Nobody knows how things will change,” one of the respondents said. “But the lead time is long so we are confident that we can adapt as required.”
More than half of respondents, or 57 per cent, said that they anticipated the long-term effects of Brexit to be neutral on their business, with those expecting to see a negative or positive impact roughly equally split.
In the shorter term, companies were slightly less optimistic though. A total of 45 per cent said that they expected the impact to be neutral, while 41 per cent expect the impact to be negative initially.
“Brexit may cause short term choppy waters for businesses but there is a sense that business will revert to the mean over time,” one respondent said.
Another said that confidence in the longer term is reflective of the fact that “UK business is very fluid and the UK economy itself is flexible and better prepared structurally to deal with change”, compared to some other European economies.
Kristen Roberts, a partner in the law firm’s corporate debt financing business and one of the authors of the report, told the Independent in an interview that the resilience was both surprising but also encouraging.
“Psychologically, the shock of Brexit appears to have passed,” he said.
He added that companies were making informed and rational decisions about the possible implications of Brexit and avoiding “knee-jerk reactions”.
Prime Minister Theresa May is due to trigger Article 50 next week, firing the starting shot to Brexit proceedings, but Mr Roberts said that this event was unlikely to change sentiment either.
“Article 50 in terms of business and Treasury is a bit of a red herring,” he said.
“There might be some reaction in currency markets but corporates are generally well-hedged.”
The findings of the Herbert Smith Freehills survey, which was conducted throughout February and March, chime with a report published by ratings agency Moody’s last week, also showing that credit implications of Brexit are likely to be modest and manageable for most UK companies.
Moody’s analysts wrote at the time that their base case is that the UK and the EU will eventually come to an agreement that “broadly mimics most — but not all — of current trading and regulatory arrangements”.
The Herbert Smith Freehills survey also found that around 40 per cent of businesses were generally unconcerned about their ability to raise debt over the next three years.
Respondents said that there were several factors that could hurt their ability to access debt markets, but the undercapitalisation of banks and an economic downturn in the Eurozone were both cited as more likely barriers than anything related directly to Brexit.
In fact, when asked whether financial institutions that they transact with had indicated to them that they will no longer be able to provide certain products after Brexit, a staggering 97 per cent of respondents said no.
But despite this resilience, the businesses questioned did show some signs of heightened caution—albeit more generally around the economic environment.
The survey showed that only 37 per cent of respondents were looking to increase debt levels this year, compared to 49 per cent who said that they were planning to so in last year’s survey.
Almost half also said that they anticipated that the cost of funding would go up this year.
Mr Roberts said that this is likely the result of banks becoming more conservative when it comes to financing.
Last month, a report published by PwC argued that Brexit would likely prove to be little more than a bump in the road for the UK economy in the long run, and the country would likely successfully defend its spot as one of the world’s fastest growing developed economies in decades to come.
But some economic consultants and industry leaders have sounded warnings about certain sectors.
In January, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said that a failure by the UK to clinch adequate trade deals with the EU after Brexit “could damage UK automotive manufacturing beyond repair”.
Earlier in March the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyorssaid that almost 200,000 construction jobs could be slashed if Britain loses access to the European single market, jeopardising dealing a sharp blow to major UK cities’ global competitiveness.
The Federation of Small Businesses has called for a delay in the start of talks due to the political fallout.
Aston Martin has warned that future investment could be at risk without clear indications for future EU relations.
And other groups have insisted new ministers refocus their positions ahead of the start of official Brexit talks.
Few individual chief executives or companies have commented on the shock election result, with many privately waiting to see how a potential Conservative-DUP coalition is formed.
But the boss of luxury car maker Aston Martin, which has invested heavily in a new plant in Wales, spoke out.
Chief executive Andy Palmer said: “We cannot stress strongly enough the need for rapid and decisive policy direction.
“Clarity over our relationship with Europe must be established quickly together with the wider reassurance to our key trading partners that Britain remains a dynamic and thriving business environment.”
Lobbying groups representing small and large organisations across the country were quick to call for a renewed focus and more specifics on Brexit.
Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Businesses have shown in the last year that they are resilient to surprise results, but they have now been thrown into political limbo.
“Now is the time to move on from the rhetoric of the election campaign and focus on preparing for Brexit talks. The issues of access to EU markets and the need for skilled workers are still paramount.”
His views were echoed by the FSB, which went further in calling for a delay to negotiations.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “It is important to go into the Brexit talks from a position of strength, focused on getting the best deal possible for trade and access to workers and skills.
“We call for a delay to the scheduled start of negotiations rather than a rush to begin in 10 days’ time.
“The need for a transition period now becomes even stronger, providing the time to get Brexit right.”
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “The Brexit negotiating strategy requires a careful rethink.
“Industry should be at the table, alongside whatever administration is formed, to help ensure we have the right negotiating position, which is something that’s been sadly lacking until now.”
Elsewhere, Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, and her counterpart at the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, both demanded clear objectives over Brexit.
Ms Fairbairn said: “With only 10 days before Brexit talks begin, the UK needs to be fast out of the blocks.
“Agreeing transition arrangements and guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights should be early priorities to get the talks off to a good start and show to the world that trade and people come first.”
Mr Marshall added: “No business would walk into a negotiation without clear objectives, an agreed starting position, and a strong negotiating team. It is hard to see how Brexit negotiations could begin without answers on these important questions.”
John Allan said there has been a shift away from white men after millennia of bias in their favour – despite the group overwhelmingly holding the top positions, the Press Association reported.
Allan later said the comments, made the day after International Women’s Day, were “humorous” and a “rather colourful turn of speech” used to encourage an audience of budding business people.
Speaking at the Retail Week Live conference on Thursday, he said: “If you are female and from an ethnic background and preferably both then you are in an extremely propitious period.
“For a thousand years men have got most of these jobs, the pendulum has swung very significantly the other way now and will do for the foreseeable future I think.
“If you are a white male – tough – you are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.”
Three of Tesco’s top team are women and eight are men.
There are no full-time female executives on Tesco’s board, according to the Guardian.
Women are still poorly represented on the boards of FTSE 100 companies.
Last year, Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the CBI, said fewer than 10% of their executive directors are women and described the aim to raise this to 25% as “ambitious”.
After the London event, Allan told The Guardian: “The context was (that) I was talking to a bunch of aspiring non-executive directors, many of whom were women, and I wanted to give them some encouragement and, therefore, I used that rather colourful turn of speech.
“It was intended to be humorous, a bit hyperbolic. Clearly, white men are not literally an endangered species but I was actually wanting to make the reverse point, which is that it is a great time for women and people of ethnic minorities who want to get on in business.”
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