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UK government set to offer fintech visa

The importance of immigrant workers to the UK's fintech sector highlighted by government planned fintech visa

The UK government will use a visa scheme targeted at financial technology (fintech) professionals to fill gaps in the sector’s workforce as a result of losing access to the EU’s massive skills base.

The move has been welcomed by the fintech industry, which has repeatedly raised concerns over access to skills during the Brexit process.

According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the plan to help the UK fintech sector retain the talent it needs.

The UK’s exit from the EU removed the automatic right of professionals across Europe to work in the UK. At the same time, Brexit and the nationalistic beliefs that drove it has seen thousands of skilled Europeans leave the UK.

There is global competition for talent in the fintech sector, and hubs in Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam are becoming increasingly attractive to fintech professionals with the right to work across the EU who would traditionally head to the UK.

Ricky Knox, CEO at digital challenger bank Tandem, said some of the company’s European tech staff decided to leave the UK after Brexit.

“Tech visas are a great thing and essential if we are going to keep a competitive tech and fintech sector,” he added. “Over half of our coders are from outside the UK and some have already left due to Brexit.”

He said specialist visas for fintech workers will “help to ensure the UK remains a vibrant fintech hub for Europe”.

There is potentially a lot to lose. According to research conducted by market intelligence firm Dealroom and investment agency London & Partners, $4.3bn (£3.064bn) went to London’s fintech firms in 2020.

Michael Kent, CEO at cross-border money transfer fintech Azimo, said he and others in the industry have been pushing for such a visa. “I haven’t seen the details, but it is good that the UK government is taking this seriously. Fintech is all about people,” he added.

Shawn Tan, CEO of Skymind, a company that focuses on AI Ecosystems in fintech, agreed that the visa is good news. “As an international company that has recently set up its operations in London, we want to make sure that we can hire the talent we need,” he said.

He added that the UK already has an advanced ecosystem, favourable regulation and an openness to innovation that is not found in other countries. “Combining these factors with a steady pipeline of highly skilled workers will keep the fintech sector thriving for years to come,” he said.

A visa for fintech will emulate one already in place for tech firms. The UK’s Global Talent visa scheme, which began in February 2020, aims to make it easier for skilled talent to come to the UK, and is a reformed version of the Tier 1 (exceptional talent) route for skilled applicants applying to work in the UK without a job offer.

Gerard Grech, CEO at UK government-backed startup network Tech Nation, said the organisation is supporting the government. “Fintech is a UK stronghold with billions of pounds going into UK fintechs last year,” said Grech.

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