On Friday, 12th January, over 110 people attended the inaugural 2018 FinTech North breakfast seminar hosted by the Open Data Institute (ODI).
Julian Wells, Director of Whitecap Consulting, chaired the event. He gave guests a warm welcome, before offering a brief overview and history of the FinTech North initiative, and then introducing Paul Connell, the Founder and Head of Innovation at the ODI.
Paul Connell gave an overview of the ODI, explaining how the Leeds business and technology ecosystem has been a great environment for the establishment. The ODI published a concise overview of the UK’s brand new Open Banking rules on their blog here.
Friday’s event saw the introduction of a new element of the event: pitching sessions. This initiative gives five or six companies the opportunity to pitch their innovative Financial Services ideas to the panel and audience. Forming the panel on Friday were: Stuart Clarke, Founder of Leeds Digital Festival, Julian Graham-Rack, CEO of Curo, Will Schaffer, Entrepreneurship Coach at NorthInvest, and Richard Carter, Managing Director at Equiniti Credit Services.
Each pitch participant was given 10 minutes to explain their proposition, and then five minutes to answer questions posed by the panel and the audience.
Pitch 1 – First Direct (Bud)
Bud offers a banking app and website that allows users to use all their financial apps in one place; whether these correspond to traditional banks, FinTech companies or other financial services. The company has its roots in Harrogate but is based in London, having participated in the FCA’s regulatory sandbox.
“People naturally look to banks to manage their finances. The reason they leave to challenger banks is for that added customer experience. So with Bud, we’ve tried to create a modern, engaging experience within the security of First Direct, which we think provides something of real value.” Sam Oakley, Bud
Pitch 2 – IceFire
Ove Kreison, Head of R&D at IceFire, came all the way from Estonia to speak at Friday’s event. The company was recently represented in the north of England at November’s DIT Northern Powerhouse Nordic-Baltic FinTech Mission. They hope to continue to develop relationships with UK finance and technology providers.
Ove explained to interested audience and panel members how IceFire is making the most of the progressive digital society in Estonia. The company provides various solutions that are designed to help banks and other organisations offer improved digital services to their clients. The company, whose clients include Skype, offer solutions that include an online lending platform a banking platform and KYC/authentication technology.
“We are the company that makes money move in finance provider systems” – IceFire
Pitch 3 – Investly
Siim Maivel, CEO of invoice finance marketplace Investly, a company founded in Estonia and now operating in the UK, explained how the company connects SMEs with hedge funds and other portfolio providers. Investors compete on the Investly platform, providing a better deal on finance to SMEs. Investly can set up accounts within hours, a vast improvement of the standard period of up to three weeks, and processes most invoice finances in under two hours. The main sectors featured are construction, manufacturing and logistics.
Investly provides a white label plug in solution for finance providers that helps them engage with business customers, providing value adding services through efficient and easy invoice finance. Siim commented that Leeds provides a strong regional flagship centre for connecting with SMEs, going through financial providers. He and the team hope to continue to establish relationships in the north of England, and will potentially return to FinTech North events in the future.
Pitch 4 – investUP
investUp is an aggregator for peer-to-peer investors which currently partners with 15 different platforms. The team are currently planning the extension of this offering, to be an investment management platform that allows users to invest across different cybercurrencies.
Managing Director, Daniel Rajkumar, explained how this idea is designed to offer services to those who want to be part of the P2P and cryptocurrency sectors, but who do not want to pay for professional advice from intermediaries. The offering would respond to a demand for a platform that can use advanced technology to manage investments; investUp allows users to set their robo-lending settings in a way that suits their investment appetite.
investUp Operations Manager Kieron Greeff then went on to give an overview of the exponential growth of the cryptocurrency market, detailing the company’s plans to simplify the complex nature of investing in such currencies.
InvestUp is currently raising funding to develop its proposition and is interested in hearing from potential investors.
Pitch 5 – LociPay
Kurtis Wright gave the fifth and final pitch of the morning. He is the founder of early-stage startup, LociPay, a company that will provide a smart payments and Point-of-Sale system for local independent SMEs. LociPay helps businesses via various services, providing a platform that showcases the retailers’ brand and offering; managing payments; offering engagement and loyalty reward programs; and offering lower transaction costs. LociPay also helps consumers by rounding up their transactions to the nearest pound, helping them to save, as well as providing data-driven budgeting support.
A short panel discussion followed the pitches, and drew the event to a close. One of the key topics covered in the talks was the need for growth support in the north, to help both create and develop FinTech businesses. This was in addition to discussions regarding the necessity of open dialogue and communication in showcasing the region’s FinTech initiatives and capabilities, with the intention of creating more collaboration.
The topic of investment was also on the panel’s lips. NorthInvest’s Will Shaffer invited attendees to contact him to discuss funding requirements, while Equiniti Credit Services Managing Director, Richard Carter, commented: “FinTechs shouldn’t have to go down to London to get investment and mentorship, we need to grow that function in the Leeds City Region.” Julian Graham-Rack from Curo encouraged people who discuss open banking opportunities with him.
Stuart Clarke, founder of Leeds Digital Festival, extolled the virtues of events such as FinTech North, explaining how the city stands to benefit, and informed attendees that this year’s festival will take place between the 19 – 27th April. The FinTech North Leeds conference will be held on the 26th April.
Julian Wells brought the event to a close, taking the opportunity to thank the ODI for hosting and all those who participated for taking part. He confirmed that the next FinTech North seminar, to be dedicated to the topic of Women in FinTech (North), will be held on the 23rd February. You can sign up for a spot here, already.