Unicorns or white elephants? A tour of UK fintech
The word fintech is everywhere, as banks, regulators and consultancies scramble to figure out how they can benefit from new technologies and applications.
London is at the forefront of this movement. Indeed, since the financial crisis of 2007/8, the UK has grown into the global fintech capital, with more people working in the sector than NYC, or the combined fintech workforce of Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
Now fintech is firmly entrenched with the British economic landscape, the focus is shifting from “disruption” to “collaboration”. Fintech companies are seeking to partner with financial institutions in order to access their infrastructure and reach, and brands want to optimize their businesses by leveraging innovative ideas and technologies.
The sector is buzzing and at times it can be hard to spot the unicorns of tomorrow amongst the white elephants. So, we decided to highlight a handful of fintech companies based in London that we believe are leading the way.
DueDil enables businesses to find opportunities and mitigate risks by providing authoritative data on over 40 million companies. The platform aspires to make information on private companies as rich and accessible as it is on public companies. It’s known for its innovative approach to refining and packaging up big data. Indeed, the UK government’s Cabinet Office transparency team cited DueDil as a business providing innovative services using open data. Since being founded by American entrepreneur Damian Kimmelman in 2011, DueDil has become a veteran of the UK fintech scene and it’s still going strong today.
Cybersecurity might not be sexy, but it’s crucial. Enter CheckRecipient, an email security platform using machine learning to automatically prevent sensitive emails being sent to the wrong person. The machine learning technology works by scanning employee emails and creating a social graph of who they frequently communicate with. It’s clever, because it sits in the background, with no need for behaviour change or disruption amongst users. The company is a great example of what can be achieved by bootstrapping. With no marketing team, CEO Tim Sadler and his head of business development, Abhirukt Sapru, secured business with some of the UK’s largest law firms and they are branching out into financial, technology and healthcare.
In 2014, City trader Nikolay Storonsky was wasting hundreds of pounds on foreign transaction fees and exchange rate commissions. Storonsky tried to find a multi-currency card and was told it wasn’t possible. So he decided to solve the problem himself with Revolut, a smartphone app that provides free international money transfers and fee-free global spending. Three years on, Revolut recently announced a monster $66 million capital raise. Revolut is based in Level39, the Canary Wharf fintech incubator, home to many innovative startups. As you expect for a company that specialises in cross border payments, Revolut is integrating cryptocurrencies with its platform. You can read more about its approach here.
Like Revolut, Property Partner was born out of frustration. CEO Daniel Gandesha wanted to invest in residential property but was intimidated by the process. He realised buying a residential investment property is akin to starting a business, with hurdles including a huge up front cash requirement, a mortgage, and onerous admin. So, he decided to tackle these challenges from the perspective of what investors want, building a platform to allow investors to choose from properties all over the UK, Europe and beyond. The platform does more than simplify the investment process: it aims to bring liquidity to an illiquid marketplace. That’s an ambitious, potentially transformative idea.
Young people enjoy a high degree of education, but we’re struggling with financial literacy. So says Finimize, a startup that’s bringing financial news and education to the mass market. This fintech aims to help people get their personal finances in order. It launched with a daily email to explain financial concepts in simple terms as they coincide with financial news. Since those humble beginnings, Finimize has expanded its team, built a free personal financial guide and grown its community to over 100,000 subscribers! Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
Fintech in the UK is more than a sector. It’s an ecosystem supporting startups and larger players, helping consumers access financial services more efficiently and enabling financial institutions to adapt to a world in transition.
We cannot overstate the importance of this sector to the health of the UK economy. The plethora of launches, collaborations and partnerships demonstrates how UK fintech is maturing and approaching critical mass. Competition is increasing from international financial centres, so it’s incumbent upon us all – founders, leaders and regulators – to roll up our sleeves and build on successes already achieved. If Origin’s peers are anything to go by, the future is in safe hands.