Fintech sector is helping to fuel Northern Powerhouse

Julian Wells

The North West’s emerging Fintech sector is set play a major part in driving the Northern Powerhouse project forward.

Julian Wells co-founder of FinTech North, is bullish about the future prospects for the industry and the part it can play in growing the region’s economy.

He says: “We have the skills, the infrastructure and the determination, and the big players from all over the world have already started to take notice.”

The big opportunity, Wells believes, will come from established businesses working out “how best to engage with FinTech”.

He says that there is a general “misconception” that there are large numbers of FinTech start-ups outside London.

What there is, he adds, is an increasing focus on cities outside London, fuelled by existing businesses moving in and seeing the opportunities.

Wells, who is also director of Manchester-based Whitecap Consulting, says: “What we need in the regions is more of that early stage support for businesses and for entrepreneurs who can bring a new idea to market.

“There is a huge opportunity but we are probably at an earlier stage than people think.

“We need investors, we need public sector support, we need universities to engage with businesses and with entrepreneurs and we need to see the right kind of skills being developed and the right kind of connectivity.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, also believes FinTech’s growth will come from existing financial services businesses in the region, pointing to its undoubted strength.

He says: “Looking at what is achievable in terms of growth, it is about existing businesses bringing new offers to the market. Disruption in retail will also bring other opportunities forward.

“If you look at retail banking there is an opportunity to service people differently and we’re seeing a changing relationship between people and their banks.

“There is an opportunity for significant employment through some of these changes, developments and transitions.

“I believe we are on the cusp of something that could be very big and have significant potential for growth.”

He talks of a FinTech cluster stretching across the Pennines from Manchester to Leeds and adds: “We believe we are starting to get some real traction.”

Manchester-based AccessPay recently secured a £1m investment from NPIF – Maven Equity Finance, part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

The financial tech company has enjoyed strong growth over the past two years, with chief executive Anish Kapoor now lining up plans for further growth.

The money – secured from the Maven Capital Partners-managed fund – will be used to significantly increase the size of AccessPay’s workforce at its central Manchester offices.

AccessPay is one of the 50 fastest growing tech companies in the UK and the fastest growing FinTech outside London. The business is a world leader in payments and cash management for companies of any size.

Marketing director Dan Greenall says the business moved to Manchester around four years ago. He is full of praise for the FinTech community in the city and its talent pool.

The large financial and professional services community in Manchester was another attraction for the business.
He says the latest funding round will be used to “invest in people and innovation” and he describes it as “a sign of real confidence in our products.”
Greenall adds: “The investment will create jobs; we are looking to double our present workforce of around 50 and invest across our R&D. We are looking at growth through products.”
Matthew Elliott, is co-founder of Nivo, Barclay’s first FinTech spin out. The business, based in Spinningfields in Manchester looks to make it easier to “onboard and serve customers”, while also keeping them safe.

He says: “The aim is to make this technology – previously only available to big banks – accessible to all businesses, of any size, in any industry, so that they can sign up new customers much more easily, safely, and cost effectively than ever before.”

Elliott adds: “The energy in Manchester is tangible. Look at the strength and quality and presence of tech companies here, young companies growing and raising investment and choosing to be here. It is getting stronger all the time.
“The banks may have their head offices and make executive decisions in Canary Wharf but most of their onshore tech operations are here, in the cities of the north.”

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