The West Midlands has cemented its place as a strategically significant hub for levelling up fintech in the UK with its appointment to the Fintech National Network – the UK’s first network connecting fintech hubs and supporting nationwide financial innovation.
The Fintech National Network brings together regional clusters up and down the country to encourage collaboration and amplify the collective voice of the UK’s fintech sector. The network facilitates mutually beneficial initiatives across skills, talent, capital and investment, as key enablers for growing the UK’s fintech capabilities.
Spearheading the West Midlands’ presence on the Network is SuperTech – the UK’s first professional services technology (proftech) supercluster designed to showcase the talent, innovation, and investment potential of the West Midlands’ rapidly emerging expertise in fintech, legaltech, proptech and insurtech.
Charlotte Crosswell, CEO at Innovate Finance – the body behind the Network – comments “We are delighted that SuperTech is joining the Fintech National Network and look forward to working with the West Midlands, alongside the other Network members, to drive the domestic fintech agenda in the UK.”
“The UK is a global fintech leader and a highly attractive destination for investment, but in order to retain its position, it is important to leverage the collaboration between the various centres of excellence that are thriving across the country,” she continues.
The membership builds on the recent recognition of the region’s fintech scene at a national policy level in the independent Kalifa Review, which highlighted how regional hubs – including the West Midlands – could ‘level up’ the UK’s fintech economy to preserve the country’s reputation as a global financial powerhouse.
The region’s eligibility to rebalance and advance the sector is already evident, with high-profile institutions from the UK’s traditional financial heartland in the capital attracted to explore the benefits of coworking with West Midlands industry leaders.
March 2021 saw the City of London Corporation join forces with SuperTech to harness the rising potential of modern services innovation underway in the region, of which fintech is an integral element.
The agreement will see the two bodies work closely to promote West Midlands professional, financial and technology firms on a national and global scale, to ensure that the UK remains the fintech capital of the world.
Hilary Smyth-Allen, Executive Lead at SuperTech, said “We launched SuperTech in January 2021 with the sole purpose of shining a spotlight on the strength of the West Midlands’ burgeoning community of tech-led professional and financial services expertise, as the exemplar of how UK regions hold the key to unlocking emerging sectors vital to the country’s economic future.
“We are eagerly awaiting a formal response from Whitehall outlining the industry’s future policy direction, and in the meantime continue to champion our region’s ProfTech potential as clear evidence of ‘levelling up’ in practice.”
The Kalifa Review
In response to the Kalifa Review, SuperTech has called on Government to enact the recommendations made in the report, which strongly advocated for “a UK fintech landscape where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Signatories from financial advisors Wesleyan and startup incubator MillionLabs – both SuperTech’s fintech leads – alongside the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the West Midlands Growth Company – the region’s official promotion agency – have written to Treasury offering the region’s collective support to shape the sector’s future policy agenda.
The West Midlands’ growing influence is swiftly gaining momentum, turning heads of typically London-centric financial heavyweights.
Significantly, prestigious global investment bank Goldman Sachs announced earlier in April 2021 its plans to establish a major new tech function in Birmingham – its largest office investment outside of London creating several hundred jobs.
The investment bank’s decision was the result of a rigorous site selection process, which favoured the city as a strategic location for expansion because of its deep-rooted talent pool and strong leadership in technology and related industries. Proximity to London was an additional advantage.
“Goldman Sachs’ investment undoubtedly cements the West Midlands’ prominence on a global scale; it is a powerful affirmation of our region’s appeal to the aspirations of the world’s most iconic, multinational financial services brands and the talent they seek to attract,” comments Neil Rami, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Growth Company. “As the outcome of a meticulous review of the UK’s digital employment base, it is another resounding endorsement of our best-in-class talent from the technology and finance sectors.”
The West Midlands is the metropolis for Business, Professional and Financial Services activity (BPFS) activity outside the capital, contributing £27.8 billion GVA annually to the UK economy and employing 358,200 people. Fintech alone is worth £411.7 million per annum to the local economy and boasts a collective workforce of 7,375 people across 122 companies, within a wider ecosystem of over 12,500 tech and digital organisations.
Among the region’s fintech residents is the mobile payment specialist, PM Connect – a provider of in-demand content monetised through Direct Carrier Billing (DCB).
Founded in Birmingham in 2012, PM Connect has grown to process over 10 million payments a month, with a reach of one billion consumers around the world. February 2021 saw the company expand into the increasingly popular cloud gaming market, launching a ground-breaking partnership with gaming provider RemoteMyApp to offer subscribers using its streaming platform, Vortex, access to over 165 top tier hi-spec games on their mobile phones, without a console.
Initially partnering the product with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in France, Belgium, Spain and South Africa, the subscription package marks the first mobile deal of its kind within these territories and has the potential to be rolled out with other carriers across the globe.
“As we continue on our ambitious growth journey, we are proud to be carving out PM Connect as a Birmingham-based global business,” comments PM Connet CEO James MacFarlane. “PM Connect is now active in 40+ territories, processing 10 million payments every month, with five offices around the world but the West Midlands remains the best location for us to be headquartered – offering both the tech talent to support planned growth and a vibrant place to work for our dynamic, driven team.”
Also counted among the region’s fintech community is pension administration technology provider Delta Financial Systems, account tech leader BlackLine and Parisian Artificial Intelligence order-to-cash firm Sidetrade, which last year opened a new Tech Hub in Birmingham’s City Centre and announced £12 million in R&D investment over a 24-month period, supporting around 100 engineers.