UK’s Fintech clusters of expertise signal a national success story with global reach

Gerard Grech, February 26, 2021 5 min read

The UK is a global fintech leader. In 2020, $4.6 billion of venture capital investment went to fintechs in this country – making us #1 in Europe and #2 globally. 

This sector is well-positioned to deliver huge economic benefits to the UK, creating new jobs, new opportunities for reskilling employees, and providing foundations in e-commerce and payments to fuel growth in the wider economy. Whilst London has always been seen as a key engine for UK Fintech, we need to ensure that the contribution and potential of fintech right across the UK is recognised, nurtured and celebrated.

The Fintech Strategic Review

Building a truly national network of digital excellence is a core principle of our work at Tech Nation, which is why I was privileged to lead discussions on ‘national connectivity’ for the independent Kalifa Review of UK Fintech. Commissioned by HM Treasury, this Review considered key themes to leverage a decade of growth – investment, skills, policy and regulation, international and national connectivity, 

Alongside Deloitte, we are proud to have authored the ‘National Connectivity’ chapter. For this we engaged with stakeholders right across the UK, from fintech startups to established financial institutions and universities.

Nurture high growth clusters

The first recommendation is to nurture the potential of high-growth fintech clusters across the UK, and new data from Deloitte paints a picture of where these strengths sit across the UK.

It is vital that we move from a hub and spoke model with London at the centre to a more coordinated spider’s web of collaboration – and we can do so by supporting strong local leadership in the most promising national clusters.

These range from the more established clusters – Scotland, Birmingham and across the Pennines – to those we’ve highlighted as emerging or specialist – Bristol & Bath, Newcastle & Durham, Cambridge, Reading & West of London, Cardiff & South Wales, and Northern Ireland. These clusters may vary in their shape and size, but they share some core foundational characteristics that we feel make them ripe for future growth: proximity to financial services and tech expertise, proximity to academia, and proximity to accelerators and investment.

“The diversity of ideas, expertise and entrepreneurial talent driving fintech growth across the country is a national asset, from the many jobs across UK cities to the international export value.  We see fantastic examples of this across members of the Fintech Delivery Panel from Atom bank in Durham, Paid in Darlington and Float in Edinburgh”. Eileen Burbidge, Partner, Passion Capital, Chair, Fintech Delivery Panel, and HM Treasury Special Envoy on Fintech


“The north is blessed with a wide range of Fintech startups and scaleups, a strong heritage in the financial sector, deep expertise in tech and digital, and numerous outstanding universities with an increasingly active interest in FinTech.” Chris Sier, Executive Chair, Clear Glass, Chair, Fintech North and Fintech Envoy for Northern Powerhouse


 “The review reinforces Wales’ position as a fintech hub within the UK and means that as businesses, we’re able to be even more active in developing innovations and skills, while creating additional jobs in the industry. This will only accelerate the opportunity for positive change and help position us as being world leaders in fintech.” Louise O’Shea, CEO & Advisory Panel Member, Fintech Wales

London supports a ‘doughnut’ of activity, strengthening established businesses nearby. We need to encourage other fintech hubs to do the same. Encouraging high growth clusters to develop encourages the clusters around them to develop too. Focusing investment and effort on a smaller, targeted area can generate wider growth, increasing the impact of that investment and harnessing the clusters’ potential as powerful economic and social development tools.

Drive coordination and connectivity

Roads, bridges and physical infrastructure were key to the increased movement of people and resources in the 20th century which boosted the UK’s productivity. In the 21st century we’re seeing something similar. Only now it is the virtual aggregation and exchange of ideas and knowledge that is driving an increasingly digital economy – especially as more and more companies work remotely.

As we foster the growth of national clusters, it is paramount that we improve coordination and connectivity between these hubs of expertise. It was a point raised consistently throughout our chapter meetings and discussions with fintech bodies, entrepreneurs and SMEs. There is a strong demand for better liquidity of information to support intra-cluster, national and international connectivity.

The stats back up these calls, too. According to Deloitte, better connectivity between the identified areas of fintech expertise has the potential to uplift GVA by 60% – between £2.4bn and £3.0bn. Further, it could also lead to a 50% increase in jobs in the sector – approximately 50,000 over the next three to five years.

“Bringing together fintech entrepreneurs, large financial firms, the regulator, academia, public bodies and consumers has enabled us to create a vibrant fintech cluster in Scotland in recent years, especially in the areas of open finance, regtech and fintech for good. Sharing these learnings and progress with colleagues in fintech clusters around the UK has strengthened the collective opportunity presented by fintech and demonstrated that making the ‘whole bigger than the sum of the parts’ will bring positive outcomes for all as we seek to drive job creation, greater inclusively and a sustainable economy post Covid” Stephen Ingledew, Chair, Fintech Scotland

Connectivity requires coordination, and so we have recommended establishing a new national Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) to help drive future fintech competitiveness and growth through facilitating national connectivity.

It is clear from our research though that this centre needs to be empowering rather than empowered, and it needs to foster the development of fintech clusters through supporting commercially-minded partnerships between public and private entities.

Increase Fintech R&D

With the leadership and connections in place to succeed, to help these fintech clusters prosper and truly compete on the global stage, we also need to increase investment in research and development. And this is where a Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) can play a pivotal role, too. 

“Northern Ireland’s fintech sector is competing successfully on the global stage and is being recognised for it. Accolades such as the ‘World’s Number One Destination for FinTech Development Investment Projects’; Belfast being named the ‘Top City in Europe for New FDI Software Development Projects’ and being ranked in the inaugural ‘Top 10 European Tech Cities for the Future’, are hard earned and well deserved.” Andrew Jenkins, Director, Arity and Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland

The Centre could be a valuable asset in identifying existing geographical funding streams and providing expert input to assist industry-led bids to support clusters in their growth journey. There is also considerable scope here to liaise with Innovate UK on future targeted fintech programmes to ensure that both public and private sectors are working collaboratively to foster the innovation and ingenuity needed for this national network to flourish.

The UK is a global leader in fintech, but we must not take that position for granted. As the country begins its recovery process it is vital that we double down on our strengths and build on this sector’s success over the last decade. Supporting the growth of these high quality clusters, boosting connectivity and deepening R&D investment nationally are all key to a resilient fintech sector. And a resilient fintech sector is key to a resilient future economy. 

“It has been an honour to lead Deloitte’s contribution and engagement with Gerard Grech and the FinTech ecosystem to bring the National Connectivity chapter to life: providing a unique understanding of what has driven FinTech success across the UK.  Perhaps more importantly the Review provides the platform for the sector’s future growth and excellence across the UK and globally, levelling up and equalling out the positive impact FinTech can have.” Louise Brett – Head of FinTech, Deloitte

A huge thank you to the following people for helping us to sculpt this chapter and for their expert insights into regional ecosystems across the UK. 

  • Andrew Jenkins, Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland, Arity
  • Anne Boden, CEO, Starling Bank
  • Ben Davey, CEO, Barclays Ventures
  • Chris Sier, Chair, FinTech North, Executive Chair, Clearglass, Fintech Envoy for Northern Powerhouse
  • Christoph Rieche, CEO, iwoca
  • Dale Murray, NED, XERO
  • Danilo Mascia, Lecturer in Fintech, Leeds University
  • Georgia Stewart, CEO, Tumelo
  • James Varga, CEO, Direct ID
  • Loral Quinn, CEO, Sustainably
  • Louise O’Shea, CEO,, Advisory Panel Member, Fintech Wales
  • Louise Smith, Fintech Envoy for Scotland, Chief Digital Officer, Lloyds
  • Mark Dowds, Managing Director, Anthemis Group
  • Natasha Foster, COO, Paid
  • Oliver Prill, CEO, Tide
  • Richard Marshall, CTO, Wealth Wizards
  • Richard Theo, Fintech Envoy for Wales, Former Wealthify founder
  • Stephen Ingledew, CEO, Fintech Scotland
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