31 October 2014

Elizabeth Lumley

Elizabeth Lumley - Finextra

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One group to unite them all...Or...?

07 August 2014  |  2140 views  |  1

OK - so yesterday saw the 'standing room only' launch of the new UK-wide industry group Innovate Finance. The industry body, heading by Level 39's own Claire Cockerton was kicked off by the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne (whom some people in the audience got a little too excited about, not naming any names...Duena Blomstrom*)

*Seriously, Duena if you are going to lust after a finance minister...go South American. 

Anyway, back to FinTech. Judging from the people squeezed into the room there is a huge appetite for FinTech to get its own space and focus. God knows Finextra has written its fair share of 'Where's the capital of FinTech?' stories over the past few months. So I applaud the move towards a central body that will focus the industry's mind on a growing, and very dear to my heart, sector. (You have no idea how long I've waited to be cool...20 years writing about XML and data fields people, 20 years! I <3 ISO 20022 ;-) 

It was, I have to admit, a great show. The audience was spot on, the founding companies were interesting, the graphics were cool. It's just...

Before the launch none of the founding companies I spoke to had any idea how Level 39, Claire's company Pivotal Innovations and Innovate Finance would work together, if at all. "I don't know" was the most common answer. Claire did clarify in the media Q&A later on in the morning saying that Innovate Finance would act as an independent entity.

However, questions from the media about whether the big, bad traditional banks would be allowed as members of the new group were evaded with chat that went on about the need for 'collaboration' and 'central vision' before (after a push) the executive committee conceded that the 'membership criteria' for joining Innovate Finance was 'written' but yet to be finalised. (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds RBS and Santander are founding members, but honestly, they gave themselves wiggle room)

The same answer was given when the media asked about pay day lenders, such as Wonga. And despite the cool FinTech companies on show - where were the some of the more established FinTech players - Misys, SunGard...or the granddaddy of FinTech, once proprietor of the Green Screen, [Thomson] Reuters? Is there a Shoreditch-cool test on this membership criteria?

According to Claire, the current set of founding Innovate Finance companies all approached the group, and were not 'recruited' to join. 

In my heart of hearts I hope this group is headed in the right direction - which it will act as a centralised point to promote FinTech and FinTech innovation in the UK and abroad and not descend into a vanity project for their founders. 

But I want to know what you think? The ones who don’t ask snarky questions from peanut gallery. 

So...

Innovate Finance - One group to unite us all ... or...?

TagsInnovationStart ups

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member | 07 August, 2014, 18:17

Is the current focus on FinTech is a genuine, widespread disruption to be celebrated and nurtured, or is it simply the result of increased VC attention to the sector who smell the scent of large profits to be made in an industry full of legacy IT?

I think the recent "40 leaders in fintech" by eFinancialNews highlights this well. 17 of the 40 represent companies positioned to profit financially from expanding the FinTech sector - investors, accelerators, communities and lawyers. (It was surprising not to see Level39 on the list for this reason reason). The list contains an equal number of 17 "start-ups", at least half of whom have received over $20M each of VC or angel funding in their short lives.

Please don't misunderstand my point - the funding from VCs and banks (who now fancy themselves as accelerators despite lacking qualifications) is an important part of this movement, as many start-ups would quickly fail without it.

But with such emphasis on funding, the cynic in me wonders whether this new wave of entrepreneurs is now more motivated by getting funding or being bought out, rather than delivering on their original vision of improving the financial industry that used to employ them.

So will a FinTech "Sillicon Wharf" actually benefit the banks who live there, or (like Sillicon Valley) only really benefit the people who invest, incubate and code?

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name

Elizabeth Lumley

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Multimedia and Special Projects Editor

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Finextra

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2009

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London

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I am the multimedia and special projects editor at Finextra.

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