February/March 2020

The future of FinTech in Greater Manchester

The end of January saw pro-manchester organising a panel presentation and debate on the growing FinTech sector, hosted by the Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School on Oxford Road in Manchester. Greater Manchester is already recognised as the FinTech capital of the North, and the local financial technology ecosystem and industry is evolving rapidly. The speed of growth means that, even within the city, many businesses are unaware of the scale of the sector, the barriers to growth and opportunities for new entrants to the market.

The event brought together FinTech experts to offer their views and insights on the sector – locally, nationally and internationally. First to speak was pro-manchester sector group manager Ilona Alcock, who introduced the panel and briefly explained how the sector event came to be. It was a request from strategic partners MIDAS – Manchester’s inward investment agency – to highlight the growth of FinTech within the city region and to start a dialogue supporting business within the sector.

Ilona then went on to introduce the first of the panel Julian Wells, director with Whitecap Consulting. Julian went on to describe the sector as traditionally being seen as ‘London-centric’ but went on to highlight the recent growth of the National scene, particularly identified as Manchester in the Northwest region. He then presented a series of figures relating to the UK FinTech sector, which generates £6.6billion annually in the UK. There are an estimated 1,600 FinTech firms currently in the UK, which is expected to more than double by 2030. This represents 76,500 people who work in the sector currently, and this figure will rise to over 105,500 by 2030. This relates to two thirds of jobs in the financial services sector being based outside of London. However, currently 94% of the UK’s FinTech funding is still invested in London.

Looking at recent research Julian identified 108 firms currently making up the Manchester FinTech scene, 34% being established Financial Services and FinTech businesses, 32% Start-ups and scale-ups, and 16% being Tech firms. He also suggested a similar number of businesses and organisations in the wider FinTech ecosystem, offering advisory and support services, digital hubs, funding, public sector and higher education.

Next to speak was Eleanor Simmons, consultant at Whitecap, who went into more detail coming out of interviews recently completed. Eleanor pointed out that although Manchester was well equipped with a strong financial sector and burgeoning tech sector, plus a great platform as a UK second city to support the FinTech community in many ways, all the separate components simply weren’t clicking together to facilitate the expected surge in growth. Taking on board a great many comments from those directly involved in the sector, there were three main areas that if supported could bridge the lack of connectivity – events,  education and promotion – and if these were pushed correctly the Manchester FinTech sector had the potential for quick and substantial growth.

Ilona then thanked Julian and Eleanor for their presentation and went on to introduce the full panel, consisting of Dan Greenall (AccessPay), Rachel Eyre (MIDAS), Niels Pederson (MMU), who were then joined by Julian and Eleanor. Rachel was first to make the point that FinTech businesses looking to set up in Manchester were not doing so as a cheaper option to London, but were taking advantage of the city being a global city, with a fantastic pool of talent, an ability to profile raise also on an International stage, and without the risk of being drowned out in a place like London that was incredibly busy with a very crowded sector.

Dan was next asked about the good and bad elements of being a growing FinTech business in Manchester. He pointed out three very positive aspects – firstly access to financial services and banking in terms of partnerships with those organisations, many high profile organisations having a significant presence in Manchester. Next he talked about access to talent, particularly from within the local large financial services businesses, plus the wider ranging supportive services like Northcoders providing training and personnel. Finally he described their relationship with the academic community, specifically the MMU who AccessPay had a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with looking at Artificial Intelligence (AI) from a FinTech perspective. From a negative perspective Dan re-iterated the fact that the majority of funding still happened in London, however, he did suggest things were changing slowly with more venture capital becoming available for investment within our own city region.

The debate then moved onto skills and education, with Niels suggesting the issues around the growth of the Manchester FinTech sector relied not just on hard skills such as engineering and software development, but soft skills such as sales, marketing and professional services for example. The courses that the MMU were promoting aimed to bridge the gap between these different sides to create a well rounded educational experience with the human factor at the core. The panel then went on to discuss the sector in more depth, and once the event had finished the overriding feeling was that in order for FinTech to flourish in Greater Manchester an emphasis on collaboration was needed across all stakeholders, something that seemed to be happening with events like today’s playing a key part in creating.

pro-manchester is the largest business development organisation in the Northwest. They represent the business community across the region and support growth and development to promote the North as the place to do business. For more details call 0161 833 0964 or email admin@pro-manchester.co.uk