Amsterdam: The Heartbeat of European Fintech

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Fintech hubs around Europe have been constantly developing and expanding, with one of the largest and most successful of these being in Amsterdam. It is home to several unicorns and a thriving payments sector. Following the pandemic, companies like Ayden have been able to capitalise on the evergrowing cashless economy and e-commerce shopping boom as it is now valued at £6.1billion.

Don Ginsel, chairman of Holland Fintech, the fintech hub, said the Netherlands is the country with the fewest cash payments in the world: one company looking to expand into the financially aware country is Storm2, as it launches its third global hub. Storm2 work in global Fintech recruitment, connecting organisations with the talent to drive their mission. Launched in 2019 with the highest institutional backing in recruitment history from Puffin Point Investments, the company have gone through three stages of investment funding. 

Here, Angela Ward, Storm2’s European VP, discusses the current key challenges and opportunities that Fintech’s in Amsterdam have:

Angela Ward, Storm2's European VPAngela Ward, Storm2's European VP
Angela Ward, Storm2’s European VP

Amsterdam is one of the most prominent European fintech hubs, home to several unicorns and a thriving payments sector. The city has the winning combination of a strong financial sector, successful tech ecosystem and vibrant startup scene. Entrepreneurial spirit runs through the city like the canals and high adoption of new tech makes it the ideal base for fintech businesses.

Home to the world’s first central bank and stock exchange, Amsterdam is no stranger to pioneering financial innovation; Dutch banks were amongst the first to introduce mobile and online banking. Today, the city is home to a rich ecosystem of over 500 fintech companies, supporting over 20,000 jobs and ranks #4 in Europe’s best startup hubs. Post-Brexit, the Dutch capital is quickly becoming a prominent financial hub connecting all of Europe and ranks 3rd for VC funding in Europe.

The Impact Of Covid-19 On The European Jobs Market

The last year has been devastating to so many industries but fintech was born out of disruption and has innovation in its DNA. It’s thought that up to seven million jobs will have been lost due to covid-19 across Europe but, the fintech sector has remained strong. Startups and established fintechs alike were quick and agile in their adoption of remote working, and the tech-first approach to business meant that they were able to bounce back from the initial shockwaves of the pandemic and come back stronger.

The Dutch startup ecosystem has been a huge job growth engine over 2020, surpassing most individual sectors. In Q1 2021 Amsterdam saw over €250million in startup funding. As businesses and revenue continue to bounce back, we’re likely to see a big uptick in hiring levels with growth for some businesses exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The Number One Problem For FinTechs Today

Fintech companies are a big contributor to a growing labour market in the Netherlands, and across Europe. The number of companies in the city is expanding, and the funding for already established startups is only increasing. This leads to businesses expanding and requiring talent.

According to EY’s 2019 Dutch fintech census, most of the fintechs in the country have relatively few employees. At the time of the report, it was found that “no fewer than 85% of fintech companies want to increase the number of employees.” Although the pandemic may have shifted priorities short-term, the need for talent to maintain growth will not have shifted.

Amsterdam is an attractive city for international emigration not least due to its high fluency of English which allows people from all over the world to integrate with ease. A 30% tax advantage for highly skilled migrants, outstanding physical and digital connectivity to the wider continent, and a modern, productive, flexible and internationally oriented workforce, combine to make one very attractive package for fintech-specialist talent.

Still, attracting and retaining the best thought-leaders in fintech is the number one issue for this sector worldwide, and can be a costly problem should a business get the process wrong. EY found that attraction and retention is a key issue for the fintechs in the 2019 census, with 53% indicating that it is “not easy to find personnel with the right skills.”

The Opportunities For FinTechs in Amsterdam

With relatively few Digital Banks in the area, there is a huge opportunity to provide innovative, homegrown banking services to the Dutch market. As well as new startups, there’s an opportunity for scaling global businesses to expand their international reach and create a base in this connected city.

Historically, the payments sector has had a strong presence in Amsterdam and across Europe, with unicorns Adyen and Mollie flying the Dutch flag for tech innovation in the region. As the pandemic supercharges the need for digital payments solutions, Amsterdam will see further growth in this area. Payments businesses and banks have a high focus on KYC and compliance currently, and so too the RegTech market will continue to blossom. AMLOs, Chief Risk Officers and Head of Compliance will become necessary hires for emerging fintechs as an increased focus on technology to identify suspicious transactions, or automatically generating reports becomes a priority.

Other services, like InsurTech, are not as common in the Netherlands compared to the rest of the world perhaps, due to the consolidation of the insurance sector, but with fintechs continuing to diversify the products and offerings, there will likely be an increase in requirements for experienced Product Leads and Development teams.

The Future Of FinTech In Amsterdam

As we look to the future, Amsterdam has already positioned itself as a forerunner for European fintech. The city is the world capital for green finance, embracing sustainable practices and pioneering future-thinking trends that will guide the global finance world. The country sits in the top-12 of the diversity index and, although there is still plenty of work to do in that area, is making headway to championing a diverse and dynamic fintech ecosystem.

As employees shift away from traditional ways of working post covid-19, Amsterdam is an obvious choice for not only homegrown talent, but also skilled fintech professionals looking for new opportunities. Amsterdam is fostering the type of innovation that is changing the way the world sees money, and for the modern fintech fan, the city is a very exciting place to be right now.

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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