Why has London rather than Silicon Valley become a global fintech hub?

3 min reading
Fintech / 01 September 2016
Why has London rather than Silicon Valley become a global fintech hub?
Why has London rather than Silicon Valley become a global fintech hub?


There are various basic conditions for an area to become established as a global benchmark within the fintech sector: that it should draw young and talented people and investors; that there should be a high demand for services of this kind; and that regulation should boost the progress of startups. 

The list appears in the latest report that the British Treasury (the government area in charge of tax and economic issues) has commissioned from the consultancy firm Ernst & Young. The objective of the document is that of comparing the UK’s fintech ecosystem with that of such other entrepreneurial centres as California, New York, Singapore or Berlin.

In order to analyse the situation, a study has been made of the extent to which each one of these nuclei meets requirements, assessing their performance by category (talent, capital, regulation and demand) within a scale. These parameters place London at the head of the ranking, above its competitors. 

The figures of British fintech confirm the result: last year, the sector generated profits of more than £6,000 million (over €7,500 million) and created jobs for some 61,000 people.  

One of the keys to the success of the valuable startups lies in favouring the international markets, looking further beyond the domestic realm. The Transferwise transfer service and the Markit financial data tool are among the most noteworthy examples. Both are valued at more than $1,000 million dollars, which makes them unicorns (the crown jewels of the entrepreneurial universe). 

London contains all the ingredients needed for the fintech recipe: “It is not only the European centre of finance; it is also the centre at an international level and therefore houses many investors, potential  customers and talented people,” explains Alicia Navarro, CEO of the start-up Skimlinks.

A political push

The mayor of London is actively involved in the fintech Innovation Lab London accelerator programme, which is managed by Accenture, and promotes the celebration of events and conferences within the sector. Moreover, for the last few years, the city has had its own Silicon Valley, located in East London. Businesses started to congregate in this area on account of the low rental prices following the financial crisis of 2008. 

Two years later, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a package of measures to feed a growing ecosystem. Such major names as Cisco, Facebook, Google and Intel have invested in some of the projects, and several London universities participate as partners in many of them.

In view of its success, the British government has continued to provide the start-ups with tools so as to pave the way for them. Its latest idea has been that of implementing a regulatory sandbox exclusively for emerging fintech companies, which allows them to try out their products in the markets with hardly any legal restrictions.

These advantages are all reflected as well in The Fintech50 list, which gives the 50 most important European companies in the sector. In this year’s list, 31 of them are London companies. However, Julie Lake and Nicky Cotter, its publishers, note that “London’s status is also being very energetically challenged by fintech communities in capitals such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Stockholm.”

California, for its part, still remains dominant in the investment area. The startups in the west of the United States raised €4,500 million last year whereas those in Britain reached close to 658.

In order to maintain their current hegemony, the financial managers of the British government proposed various measures, including the creation of an administration body specialising in the sector and the development of tools to facilitate the international expansion of companies. Everything indicates that London will have to work hard if it wants to remain the world’s leading fintech hub.

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