The UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has vowed to help make London the world's fintech capital, promising to oversee a regulatory environment that encourages innovation in areas such as mobile payments and bitcoin.
Speaking at a Bank of England Open Forum event, the chancellor revealed that he has been speaking to Tim Cook this week about Apple Pay. "I was thinking how extraordinary it was that you had a finance minister and the head of a tech company talking about the future of banking," Osborne is quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
Not for the first time, Osborne expressed his desire to make the UK the centre of fintech, adding "we will go out of our way to make that happen". To help with this, the government is teaming up with professional services firm EY on a benchmark that will compare London with its rivals in fintech innovation.
Osborne is also promising an innovation-friendly approach to the regulation of new technologies such as cryptocurrencies, which the chancellor said had been "once dismissed" but "may now well play a big part in our financial future".
Osborne's praise for bitcoin flew in the face of views expressed by UBS chairman Axel Weber at the same event. Echoing recent dismissive comments by JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon, Weber said that private currencies will fail to gain traction because of the absence of a lender of last resort. "There will always be boom and bust," Weber told the audience.