The general election was historic for many reasons – Britain had a stark choice to elect its first female Prime Minister of the 21st century, nationalise many of the country’s utilities and infrastructure to a degree not seen since 1945, or even renege on the decision to leave the European Union after all.
Whoever took on the reins on 9th June would undoubtedly be taking on the most challenging brief since David Lloyd George or Winston Churchill, Britain’s leaders during the great wars of the twentieth century.
Now that the dust has settled, and parliamentarians will soon return to Westminster from the summer recess to take up the challenge of Brexit, you would be forgiven for overlooking the fintech sector in a list of Theresa May’s top priorities for this two year parliament that has the potential to define a generation.
Fintech may not be at the top of many commentators inbox’s, but it has a huge part to play in Britain’s future. The industry is after all currently worth £7 billion to the UK economy and employs 60,000 people up and down the country.
The UK is Europe’s fintech capital and home to four unicorns – that’s those businesses worth over $1 billion – and seven more exciting fintech companies currently operating on our shores have been forecast to join this elite billion-dollar club. Many other start-ups look promising and I wish them well for the future.
Brexit is clearly Britain’s main preoccupation, it will affect every sector, some will benefit, some I fear may not do so well in the long-term. The fintech sector relies on foreign talent to drive its businesses, many of these businesses are born global and so depend on the skills, knowledge and experience of Europe’s graduates to power their growth in the EU, the world’s largest economy.
Understandably the lack of certainty over Brexit is a concern for many entrepreneurs (the users of our digital currency).
However, I think in the near-term not much will change, a lot will depend on how far policy modifications emanating from Brussels will influence British trading patterns. Without British diplomats occupying a place at the negotiating table, access to the world’s largest single market could become far more difficult.
But frankly many of the arguments that politicians are currently grappling with are rather parochial. They miss the wider revolutions that are taking place in financial technology globally. While Britain and the EU argue around trade agreements and currency clearing they forget that new technologies are increasingly taking these decisions out of their hands.
The power of peer-to-peer digital currency trading is that it is between individuals on a global scale, no banks or states playing middleman. That is where the power will lie in future. Britain’s politicians need to start thinking bigger than Britain – financial technologies don’t need to have borders.
One of the reasons I started my business here was because Britain offered a European base for my organisation, it has an enviable reputation for being open, tolerant and fair. I hope and expect it continues to be exactly that.
In 2015, the then chancellor George Osborne said he wanted London to become “the global centre for fintech”, I share his vision and still believe this country has the infrastructure, skills, and entrepreneurial drive to be the centre of global fintech in the future. But the financial revolution will continue with or without Brexit, Britain’s politicians need to make sure this country remains ahead of the curve.