The UK government is pumping another £10 million into fintech research as it explores the opportunities presented by the distributed ledger technology behind bitcoin.
In a speech at the British Library extolling the virtues of fintech, Economic Secretary to the Treasury Harriett Baldwin emphasised the importance not just of backing firms in the sector, but investing in skills, research and development.
The blockchain has emerged as the hottest fintech niche, with startups and major banks all investing in the technology as they seek to cut costs and improve efficiency in areas such as retail payments and post-trade services.
The government has now committed an extra £10 million to investigate the blockchain, bringing together the Research Councils, Alan Turing Institute and Digital Catapult with industry, in order to address the research opportunities and challenges.
In her speech, Baldwin reiterated George Osborne's stated aim of making the UK the world's leading fintech centre, claiming that it employs some 135,000 people in the country and that "our GDP was £20 billion greater as a result of the sector’s activities," in 2014.
The minister (who recently talked to Finextra) says that efforts to set up a new regulatory regime for digital currencies are already bearing fruit, winning overseas investors and convincing firms such as Circle to set up shop in the UK.
Another fintech firm tempted to the country is Lend2Fund, an Australian marketplace lender for commercial property deals, which has decided to relocate to London.
The startup was one of 10 Oz fintech firms that visited London last month as part of a trade delegation. Now it has decided to make a move, citing a better regulatory regime and better support system for young firms looking to take on the banking industry.
Company co-founder Paul Missio, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "Australia can't match the powerhouse of London for a fintech company that has global ambitions. The UK nurtures fintech for global scale but we aren't seeing a cohesive 'global' vision in Australia.
"In London, there is a greater support for emerging fintech start-ups like ours, on all levels, from government, capital markets, through to those simply wishing to provide advice and mentorship."