The new CEO at Innovate Finance explains why financial technology is revolutionising the way we use our money. And why finance is suddenly more cool.
On May 14 Innovate Finance, a membership organisation representing dozens of financial start-ups and accelerators in the UK, named its new CEO just 8 months after it was launched in August.
Lawrence Wintermeyer, 30 years of experience in the sector as a consultant for the likes of Deloitte and EY and as the CEO of Integrasco, is the new man in charge.
Wintermeyer relishes the challenge: financial technology (also known as FinTech) is booming all over the world, and in London it found the perfect cradle to grow up. “If you consider the FinTech movement as a whole in 2013 it was about £4 billion, moving to £12 billion in 2014. There is a lot of momentum in it,” Wintermeyer says.
“Here in the UK, we have seen new ventures, new investors, capital being brought in. We have seen accelerators like Level 39, new start-ups and a whole new scene in London.”
FinTech is already receiving some attention from the big guns: “Santander has just created a special fund for accelerators, a sign that institutions are moving in,” says Wintermeyer.
“Other signs are legislative. The FCA is bringing up its new Project Innovate. The Treasury is engaged.”
Wintermeyer and several IF members have been invited to 10 Downing Street, to assist the Government to connect with this rising scene. More significantly, George Osborne was smiling on stage when IF launched.
“If the UK is going to dominate FinTech on the global scale it is time to execute. Ultimately what we want to do is give Silicon Valley and Wall Street a run for their money.”
Bringing together the expertise of centuries of financial transactions and the hacking scene of the East End, London is at the core of the movement, but Wintermeyer believes FinTech is already seeding in other parts of the country: “Digital is not confined by geographical boundaries. London of course has been at the forefront for 300 years, the insurance sector is based here, in currency markets London is like no other place in the world. But you don’t need to be tied there. Leeds and Edinburgh are particularly strong when it comes to finance. And they are just two cases.”
Looking for the companies that are changing the way we approach to finance, the first example that comes to mind is Transferwise, a foreign currency transfer application that has just been valued $1 billion in its latest founding round.
“It is a good poster child, absolutely,” says Wintermeyer. “Then there is nutmeg, a private wealth managing app, they have just been quoted by the Economist in a piece on investment advisors. yoyo is cool because it is like a virtual wallet that you can use to do small shopping, like buying lunch. It is used in 15 universities in the UK and has just raised £10 million to bring this technology to the US.”
What makes these companies successful, Wintermeyer believes, is the ability to engage and bring a vision. “The outcome that we are going to have in10 years will be like what Ryanair did to air travelling. Ryanair has not replaced the big players: what it has done is actually growing a whole new sector of the market that never was there because its prices are so low. Similarly, a whole new type of finance is going to emerge but nobody should feel threatened by it. Big banks are already reacting and they will survive, as national carriers did in the airways industry. And certainly it will all be at the advent of the consumer.”