Leeds community gets behind UK regional fintech push

Leeds community gets behind UK regional fintech push

At YBS hosted event, local fintech stakeholders grapple with challenge of acting quickly but strategically.

As new Finextra research finds that the Leeds City Region has a clear opportunity to expand and further benefit from its growing fintech ecosystem, leading local players have come together to endorse a more strategic and proactive approach to developing the fintech business in the region.

At an event hosted by Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) in its Broad Gate office in Leeds on 19 September, a wide range of financial institutions and fintech players were among the audience invited to get behind existing local fintech initiatives as well as participate in the creation of a strategy to press home the region’s natural advantages in the fintech space.

The event marked the official launch of Finextra research commissioned by Leeds City Council into the current state of the region’s fintech ecosystem, and its potential to do more. The research, based on in-depth interviews with local and national fintech stakeholders, finds that Leeds City Region does have a credible opportunity to increase its activities in fintech, assuming a number of factors are in place. These include a clear, visible strategy created in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, a high-profile body to lead its execution, a strong PR and events campaign, a physical space as a focal point and a problem solving-focused specialism (or series of specialisms) – not a generalist fintech approach – based on the region’s existing strengths.

The research explores a number of possible specialisms including blockchain (in particular outside financial services), data analytics, insurtech, future payments and information security.

Presenting the findings, Finextra’s director of research Thea George emphasised the importance for the region to raise awareness of its fintech credentials beyond its borders. “Everyone in this room is well aware of Leeds City Region’s fintech strengths, but for fintech to really drive the full benefits possible for the region and the UK as a whole, those strengths need to be recognised outside the region as well,” she said.

The region’s native advantages – among them the biggest financial services business outside London, strong data and digital credentials, leading universities and an attractive cost base – are all important, she said – but if this bigger fintech vision is to be realised, they must all be actively leveraged. In addition, some key risks, such as the availability of investment funding for start-ups and the need to move quickly while also making a long-term commitment, need to be managed.

In the discussion that followed, a panel of local fintech experts engaged in a lively debate with the audience about how to bring coherence and strategy to fintech in Leeds City Region while also continuing to react quickly to opportunities in a fast-changing environment.

There can be no long, drawn-out strategy writing period, it is clear - and there was also agreement that initiatives currently under way, such as the creation of a laboratory facility to serve among other functions as a sandbox for local innovation, being driven by Dr Chris Sier, director, FiNexus, need and deserve the backing of fintech players in the Leeds City Region to serve as a focal point for both action and promotion of the region’s strategic emphasis on fintech.

Download Finextra’s research into the fintech potential of Leeds City Region.

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