The UK FinTech Symposium looked at how homegrown innovation is offering opportunities for growth, skills and exports

Scotland was the location, but the audience was from across the UK while the focus was on the world.

The UK FinTech Symposium, hosted by NatWest Group at the OX innovation hub in Gogarburn, Edinburgh, welcomed leaders of industry, government, academia and regulators from across the UK and offered them a deep dive into the ecosystem supporting this strategically important sector.

Hundreds of delegates from across the UK attended a day of sessions highlighting activity, growth and investment across the UK.

With much fintech activity based in London, the event hosted speakers from the City of London Corporation and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as well as the two main national bodies that have emerged following recommendations from the groundbreaking Kalifa Review: the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) and the FinTech Growth Fund.

The lens of the event, led by FinTech Scotland, was across the UK. Scotland’s fintech cluster body chairman, Stephen Ingledew, chaired a series of presentations, panels and question- and-answer sessions with representatives from similar organisations across UK nations and regions.

From the north of England there was FinTech North, which takes in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, while its fellow northern organisation FinPact, which has its roots in the North-East of England encompassing Newcastle and Teesside, also presented.

Chairman of FinTech North, Dr Christopher Sier, who was dubbed the ‘godfather of fintech’ thanks to his pioneering work with regulation and the asset management industry, took part in a ‘fireside conversation’ with Ingledew. He addressed the challenges of entrepreneurship and the risks of venture capital funding for the sector.

Chris Jessup, chair of FinTech Northern Ireland, and Emma Pollock, chief technology officer from FinTrU, one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies, provided local insights into some of the unique conditions which have delivered the highest concentrations of fintech employment in the UK.

Speakers from the West Midlands, including cluster body leader Hilary Smyth-Allen and Professor Karen Elliott, chair of finance and fintech at University of Birmingham, highlighted how the strength of business, professional and financial services in the region was giving rise to new fintech subsectors, including proptech and legaltech.

The event also highlighted how the West of England was playing a key role in enabling fintech innovation across the UK. Professor Jonathan Beaverstock, an advisory board member for regional cluster body FinTech West and deputy dean of the University of Bristol highlighted how his institution was collaborating with the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian University to deliver an innovation accelerator for the sector.

Looking outwards to global opportunities, the UK Department of Business and Trade (DBT) hosted a panel of some of the UK’s best and brightest fintech entrepreneurs to highlight some of the challenges and recent opportunities they have grasped in recent global expansion activity.

Hugh de Lusignan, DBT head of financial services, chaired a panel featuring James Varga, serial entrepreneur and chief executive and founder of Scottish global credit and risk platform, DirectID. He was joined by Pollock of FinTrU and Melissa Beckett, the chief marketing and growth officer for Newcastle-based Kani Payments, to discuss the global outlook for ambitious, growing fintech pioneers.

Sponsors and partners of the event also took part including Yvonne Dunn, head of financial services and technology with leading law firm Pinsent Masons. Following her presentation of a masterclass of legal issues facing the fintech sector, she joined Bryn Coulthard, chief technology officer of University of Edinburgh spin-out, Smart Data Foundry, in a fun final session workshopping the capabilities of a fintech dream-team.

The innovation and partnerships team at NatWest has been growing significantly, winning support from top banking leaders in the business to enable ‘short, sharp’ experiments that have driven innovation on the global banking giant.

Elaine McLaughlan, the core capabilities and cluster lead for NatWest Group, said: “Getting the UK fintech audience together in one place is an ideal opportunity for us to showcase our deep partnerships with the fintech ecosystem.

“The ability for the bank and our innovation team to collaborate and experiment at speed with start-ups and innovation organisations across the UK’s regions, building mutually beneficial relationships, is so important.

“This helps us stay at the forefront of innovation, not only helping Scotland’s fintech sector to grow but actively driving positive customer experiences in areas such as financial inclusion and protection.

“Looking ahead to 2024 we’re interested to see how the coming together of the community can continue to drive innovation within fintech whilst keeping the customer at the heart of the design.”

David Grunwald, director of innovation and partnerships at NatWest Group said: “It’s great for NatWest to be able to host the UK fintech community at Gogarburn with Fintech Scotland, and connect with the wide range of stakeholders present on the day to deliver on our vision of building a relationship bank for a digital world.

“By thinking like a fintech, and combining relationship banking with innovative, intuitive, safe and data-led technology, we’ll be able to transform how customers interact with banks today and tomorrow, and better serve their needs and continue to protect them in the future.”