With focus on growth in the fintech sector outside of London, regions are building on traditional strengths with tech superclusters
SuperTech was formed three years ago to focus on growing fintech capabilities.
The group’s executive lead Hilary Smyth-Allen notes it is the “youngest of the clusters” in the UK but it has significant potential to grow.
The body was formed in response to the Kalifa Review, which identi- fied Birmingham and its surrounding areas as one of the largest clusters of fintech activity in the UK.
Headquartered in Birmingham, the group draws on the strengths of the West Midlands region – its geography, its proximity to London and its traditional industries, from the birthplace of HSBC (formerly Midlands Bank) as well as automotive manufacturing.
The area is also acknowledged to be the largest centre of business professional financial services (BPFS) outside of London. It is this strength of professional and financial services that gives SuperTech a unique angle on what has been called ‘proftech’. This encompasses the group’s scope on fintech as well as proptech, lawtech and insuretech.
Hilary said professional services with specialisms in property and law were on a similar journey to the financial services firms on a revolutionary change. “It’s the same story,” she said. “We have a really big hub for legal services and a really big hub for real estate.
“Tech doesn’t respect silos. I have businesses that will call themselves a proptech one day and a fintech the next, literally, because they are revolutionising the way that small house- building finance is happening.”
In the last three years, SuperTech has measured a 179 per cent growth in fintech businesses and proptech has grown 500 per cent from the business base in 2020.
Smyth-Allen said: “That involves pension, real estate, consumer finance with the property at the middle of it. That then helps us go into law tech.
“We know that conveyancing is still the area that the regulator really hangs on to because it’s so deeply personal, there’s a need for consumer protection around that. However, it is probably one of the most commoditisable processes and where data and AI should be able to do a better job to improve the customer experience.”
Speaking of the UK’s ‘fintech family’ she says SuperTech is “most closely aligned” to Fintech Scotland in terms of its business model.
SuperTech emerged as an initiative developed by the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership, a key method of supporting economic development in England. Smyth-Allen says her organisation is now focused on taking a leaf out of Fintech Scotland’s book in developing its relationships with academia.
“That’s our next phase of evolution, and hence why we’re taking Scotland’s leadership around the research and innovation roadmap,” she said.
“I’ve watched them with a slight envy over two years. It is clearly making a difference to them.”
The group also works closely with the City of London Corporation and is continuing to build on this relationship as the wider professional and financial services sector in the region continues to extend its reach. This creates a pathway for the West Midlands’ fintech firms.
“We have reached a critical mass as a business professional financial services centre, which is globally relevant. The sector is servicing national, international and local out of Birmingham, and Covid has accelerated that,” said Smyth-Allen.
“Most of our firms are servicing the world. The cluster isn’t yet, that but that’s the opportunity for us to grow into.”