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UK fintechs claim Brexit could lead to “lost generation”



Buildings surround the Old Street roundabout dubbed
surround the Old Street roundabout dubbed “Silicon Roundabout” in


  • UK fintech leaders claim applications from the EU have
    dropped in the past 12 months.
  • Retaining talent and keeping investors is key to
    avoiding a “lost generation” of London fintechs.
  • Most fintechs have succeeded despite Brexit but
    industry fears remain. 

One of the UK’s fasting growing and most exciting industries,
fintech, is thriving despite Brexit fears weighing heavily on the
dynamic sector. Business Insider spoke to 10 UK fintech leaders
to get a better perspective on the impact Brexit is having on the

British fintechs claim to have made the best of continued
uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the EU, but
warn that talent and investment will leave the country is clarity
isn’t forthcoming. 

Many of the world’s leading fintech innovators call London home
with access to political and financial institutions unrivalled in
the British capital compared with its European neighbours.
Competitive regulation and flexible labour laws have all aided
startups in the UK with major names like Transferwise, Monzo, and
Revolut calling London home. Many fintechs are based around
London’s version of Silicon Valley dubbed “Silicon Roundabout”
near a formerly underdeveloped part of East London. 

Talent Drain?

Access to EU talent has been a key driver of London’s fintech
success with engineers and developers often coming from
continental Europe. An expected limitation on freedom of movement
after Brexit and a lack of clarity over future access to talent
are key concerns for UK fintech, with some reporting clear issues

While many of the factors that make London so attractive to
startups remain, the capital’s shine is beginning to dim which
could cause entrepreneurs from Europe to set up elsewhere in the

“London used to be the clear cut choice for a number of reasons
but this is no longer the case,” according to Todd Latham, CMO at
Currencycloud. “We could see a lost generation of fintech
companies setting up outside of London.”

Talent is also key to the continued growth of the fintech sector.
Many fintechs stated that they’ve received far less applications
for positions from Europeans this year than in years past. The
impact on staff recruitment has been stark in many cases, with
companies having reported losing senior European staff directly
because of Brexit. Many have opted to leave the UK

“A lot of fintech companies in London were set up by EU citizens
because the city is the capital of fintech but access to talent
is so important and people are increasingly less willing to
come,” said Fabian Vandenreyt at B-Hive.

In many instances, companies have said that EU applications for
roles have decreased significantly in the past 12 months, with
one interviewee, who declined to be named, suggesting that the
pool of talent available to fintechs had been “diminished

“We have seen


 the volume of direct applications


said Tandem Chief People Officer Dan
Atkinson. “The number has been falling slowly
but steadily over the past months and we are
concerned that this trend will continue if not
accelerate after March.”

There is a deeper issue beyond the purely commercial terms in
which talent acquisition is usually discussed, according to
Shefali Roy, COO at Truelayer. “Half our team are European and
the lack of clarity isn’t ideal – it’s psychologically difficult
for our staff to have this uncertainty,” she said. 

The government recently announced that EU citizens already living
in the UK would retain settled status, easing fears about
immediate changes to visa or other legal requirements. Fintechs
also complained that talent from outside the EU can be hard to
source with numerous companies stating that tier 1 and tier 2
visa applications for developers and engineers have been rejected
by the Home Office stunting growth. 

Making the best of it

Despite some of the clear negativity, fintech is an adaptable and
dynamic part of the market with those interviewed making the best
of the recent uncertainty. Larger, more established companies
such as Funding Circle and Revolut have had little to no impact
from Brexit-related issues and have found that if anything
investors have been more bullish about opportunities within the

“Our investor base hasn’t been perturbed by Brexit and our
business has been growing significantly year-on-year,” according
to Christian Faes, CEO of LendInvest. “We have lost a senior
staff member because of Brexit, but we’re optimistic we can
continue to hire talented people.”

UK fintechs have made a number of preparatory steps ahead of
Brexit, helping to mitigate potential difficulties. Applying for
European banking licenses and moving to set up new offices within
the EU are increasingly commonplace. Locations as diverse as
Amsterdam, Dublin, Barcelona, and Paris have been mentioned by
London-based companies which don’t already have operations on the
continent. Almost all of the companies surveyed had put in some
form of planning for Brexit, with some making arrangements since
the vote in 2016. 

Starling Bank, a mobile-only bank, is setting up operations in
Dublin, but remains hopeful about the future. “It’s no secret
that Brexit is a major cause of uncertainty to the banking
industry,” said chief executive Anne Boden. “But we’re confident
we will be able to navigate our way through whatever is decided.”

Similarly, Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky told Business Insider that
Brexit hadn’t caused any issues for the challenger bank which
reached unicorn status — a $1 billion valuation — earlier this

For many companies setting up operations in Europe was always in
the cards, with Brexit forcing them to accelerate the process.
“As a group of companies fintechs are well placed to adapt to
change,” according to Ahmed Badr, general counsel at GoCardless.
“Brexit has pushed us into early expansion and our new French
office will be more key than we previously thought.”

Making the best of difficult situations can help propel
businesses to places they might not have reached without some
external stimulus and investors appear willing to lend to UK
companies regardless.

Crowdcube, a crowdfunding company for fintechs and other
businesses, says that interest in the sector has remained very
high from investors. “Brexit has potentially created new
opportunities and it’s a result of the strength and character of
these businesses that fintech has been a strong sector, said Luke
Lang, Crowdcube’s chief marketing officer. “It’s a golden age.”


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