Last week, 68 UK fintech leaders shared their 2016 predictions at a fintech event hosted by Anthemis and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), the bank of the world's most innovative businesses and their investors. Six fintech experts from Stripe, Anthemis, GoCardless, Passion Capital, Funding Circle and SVB sat on a panel at the event.
Last month, SVB asked fintech founders and investors in New York the same questions. The survey examined issues that are top of mind for startup companies interested in disrupting traditional financial services. The results were strikingly similar in the UK, with one exception: geography.
It seems that relatively few UK fintech businesses consider US expansion, in contrast to other digital companies. When asked where respondents saw the greatest opportunity for growth or expansion for fintech companies in 2016, 39 percent of UK businesses said Europe, compared with just 22 percent targeting the US.
Across the pond, the numbers were inverted, with 35 percent of businesses focusing on US expansion and just 14 percent targeting Europe.
Though 37 percent of respondents cited regulation as the biggest threat to growth, members of the panel applauded the regulatory environment in the UK, finding it more relaxed than in the US. One panellist quipped that the UK government has been so supportive of their business that they are running out of things to ask for.
Alex McCracken, Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank's UK Branch, said:
"UK fintech companies have a big advantage since UK government and regulators have open dialogue with fintech companies and modify regulations to support them, compared to state-by-state regulation in the US. Europe is also on the doorstep of UK companies wishing to expand."
Eileen Burbidge, who advises David Cameron on fintech issues, added:
"London has more ingredients than anywhere else in the world for starting a financial services company, but we must continue to attract talent."
Findings from the UK survey:
- Growth Anticipated in Europe – Unlike the US respondents, UK leaders see Europe as the best place for growth and expansion for financial technology (39 percent), ahead of the US (22 percent) and, perhaps surprisingly, Asia (15 percent).
- Regulatory Hurdles Challenge Fintech – 37 percent said regulatory issues were their biggest impediment, followed by reticence by corporations to adopt new technology (29 percent), changing consumer behaviour (22 percent), and access to funding (12 percent).
- Experts Mixed on Blockchain – Respondents were divided as to whether blockchain "is a technology looking for a problem to solve" (45 percent) or one that "is providing a solution for financial institutions" (55 percent). This result differed from that in the US by just 1 percent.
- Funding is Available – Half of respondents (50 percent) believe that the financial technology sector is funded appropriately. Just 18 percent feel that the sector is currently over-funded.
- Industry Disruption to Continue – When asked to identify the greatest opportunity for fintech disruption, "infrastructure" (including blockchain and API) was the top pick according to 37 percent of respondents. Payments came next (22 percent), closely followed by insurance (20 percent). Wealth management and robo advising were identified by just 15 percent of respondents. Alternative lending gave rise to the biggest disparity between UK and US data – 6 percent in the UK versus 20% in the US cited it as having the biggest opportunity for disruption.