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UK poised to lead global fintech sector, says Tech City chair Eileen Burbidge

Tech City chair and venture capital expert says the UK is in a position to become a world leader in financial services and sheds light on how cloud can provide failing firms with a stay of execution

Tech City chair Eileen Burbidge has claimed the UK is well-positioned to become a world leader in financial services within five years, due to the size of the technology talent pool in London.

Speaking at the Cloud Expo conference in London on 12 April, Burbidge – a founding partner of investment management firm Passion Capital – said the UK has a number of things working in its favour that could see it emerge as a leader in a range of technology areas.

“I’m asked all the time when will a British Facebook or Google come along, and while I think we have all the ingredients here in Britain, as well as across the UK, there is a lot of luck involved,” she said. “Where I think Britain has an ability to shine and genuinely lead the world is in something like financial services.”

With £4tn of foreign exchange business already flowing through the capital each day, and around 130,000 financially minded knowledge workers already working in London, the UK is poised to lead the way in the fintech market, she claimed.

“We also have 40,000 software developers in London,” she said. “Add a government being very progressive in regulatory terms, and hiring people to advise it on areas of technology, and you really have a perfect storm in terms of what Britain can do [in financial services] over the next two to five years.”

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A lot of the fintech sector’s growth potential will be dictated by its use of cloud, despite being classed as a relatively late adopter of the technology, she said.

“It’s one of the industries that largely tried to bury its head in the sand, in the interests of resiliency, and would not go cloud-based, citing consumer protection,” Burbidge added. “Financial services are now going to be distributed and cloud-based.”

Cloud helps startup investments go further

During her time on stage, Burbidge also shared her view on how the adoption of cloud services by startups means venture capitalists are now able to spread their investments even further.

“The reason we can invest in 50-odd companies with very small funds is because the capital requirements to start a business are much smaller now,” she said. “That’s a huge advantage for startups, and it’s a great opportunity for us to create this ecosystem of petri dishes, where everyone is able to experiment, try things really quickly and fail fast.”

With regard to the latter point, the use of cloud also means some failing firms are able to keep going for longer than expected once investors pull the plug, she observed.

“One thing we didn’t model as fund investors is that it also takes longer for companies to fail. We can tell a company we won’t be following on with any further financing, and 15-18 months later they’re still operating for their few 100 customers because they’re delivering services really efficiently [because of cloud],” she said.

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