LFP060 – PSD2 & Open Banking in UK & Europe with Paul Thomalla ACI Worldwide

ACI London Fintech PodcastI’m delighted to be joined by Paul Thomalla expert on the upcoming changes in open-banking, SVP at ACI Worldwide, member of the Payments Strategy Forum (PSF) and board member at Nexo Standards.

Upcoming changes re opening payments to non-banks and opening access to bank account data will change the industry. On top of this we have UK and European initiatives in re (even before Brexit). It’s all swirling round and I thought we needed a guide to clarify where it all is and where it’s all going.

Paul Thomalla SVP global corporate relations and business development CASUALBut first some intros to Paul’s hats.

ACI Worldwide, founded in 1975, is one of these perhaps behind the scenes incumbent payments companies that most of you may not have heard of. Suffice it to say they do $14 trillion of payments per … wait for it … day (!!) Interestingly staff numbers are around 5,000 so that looks to me like $3bn per staff member per day. Either their fingers move fast or do you know what … incumbents can use tech as well or even better than those assailing the castle might ever think.

Lazy Fintech commentators and those with little experience in FS – two categories summed up in many a LinkedIn so-called thought leader article – often talk about FS as if FS were basically almost entirely Banks. As listeners to the show will know its far from that. There is a vast ecosystem of players into which Fintechs are trying to find themselves a place at the table.

In LFP049 we had the pleasure of talking to Rich Wagner, Chairman of the Emerging Payments Association. The Payments Strategy Forum is another player in the equation – Paul can explain the whole meta-process of how incumbents, startups, associations and forums and the regulator and legislators interact to produce the FS world we live in.

Oh yes and we start the show with a story which will take the all-time London Fintech Podcast record for anecdotes – taking an ex-US President to a pub in London.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP059 – How Smart Pension got 75,000 Fintech Clients in under 2yrs with Will Wynne Co-Founder

Smart Pension London Fintech PodcastI have the pleasure to be joined today by Will Wynne MD and co-founder of Smart Pension who have had the fastest 0-60 of any Fintech that has been on the show to date and it’s a record that’s hard to beat.

Will Wynne Smart PensionHow did they do it? Listen up and all will be revealed – though if all of us can read recipe books, few of us can become master chefs like Will who previously sold millions of flowers (from knowing nothing about that business) and in his spare time raised £100m for charity.

I say “wow” more in this episode than in any other – I think you can see why…

In 2014 I hung out a lot in the Fintech startup scene. So many moths! Such a big flame! One of the insider “trick questions” in Fintech is “name a success from all the Fintech incubator/accelerator programs in London”. Actually to be honest someone did come up with one name very recently – though sadly I’ve forgotten it so will lose the game next time that question comes round.

All of which is to say that the ex-ante chances of an individual Fintech getting anywhere are roughly less than zero. And as for ideas … sigh – so many people tell me they have an idea – yes everyone has lots – there is a bigger gulf from idea to business perhaps than there is from startup to business of scale. And then a big gap from “business of scale” (which the best Fintechs have reached) to – er – what might we call it. Scrapes his memory for long-since economics lessons … of yes its coming back … yes the stage that Fintech ain’t got to yet … its … yes “a profitable business” J

So how do you win the lottery? How do you beat odds of less than zero percent of getting anywhere?

Are you interested in how to do this? Would your Fintech be better off for acquiring 75,000 clients?

Listen up and the formula for instant fame and success will be yours. Terms and conditions apply.

Topics discussed on the show include: Continue reading

LFP058 – Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Tutorial, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Fintech with Laurent Kssis CEC Capital

CEC Capital

Today I have the pleasure to be joined today by Laurent Kssis MD of CEC Capital who has worked in the ETF industry for 14years. We’ve spent a few episodes recently in the heady heights of the super-big picture so let’s get back to the coalface and dive in depth into an important area of FS.

ETFs – Exchange Traded Funds – have been many times on the London Fintech Podcast, always in passing, so I thought it was more than overdue to attack them head on.

Like Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth ETFs are the thing that haunt the whole Investment Management Fintech scene … if, in essence, you can gain exposure to equity markets in a balanced way via a vehicle with minimal fees what exactly is there for Investment Management Fintech to disrupt?

Laurent KssisLaurent certainly has feet in both #oldFS and #newFS camps being the non-exec chairman of the Blockchain investment company Coinsilium. So he is the ideal expert to talk to us about this sector today.

Conceptually ETFs started life as traded funds – if you like index-tracker investment trusts – although why they weren’t just called investment trusts is a question for Laurent. According to wikipedia since 1993 in the US where they were first created an unbelievable $3trn have been invested in them. They have also moved a long way from their origin as index-trackers with (quoting wiki) “By the end of 2015 ETFs offered 1,800 different products covering almost every conceivable market sector, niche and trading strategy”.

So that’s ETFs per se. But like everywhere in FS the wave of innovation that is Fintech is lapping on many shores. If ETFs have inhibited the growth of one area of Fintech what is Fintech doing to them? Listeners will certainly get their money’s worth today as we range from a tutorial on the basics of ETFs through Bitcoin ETFs to blockchain – a huge waterfront.

Topics discussed include:

– how Laurent’s career led him to being an expert on ETFs and progressing that into hot areas like Bitcoin and Blockchain

– the relevance of the “transition management” world [what happens when one fund manager takes over eg a pension fund from another]

– an ETF is a “marketable investment vehicle that allows you to buy and sell during trading hours of the Exchange a basket of stock/bonds/commodities through a single share”

– comparing and contrasting investment trusts and ETFs; management fees, transparency, NAV calculation, premia/discount ranges

– the multiplicity of ETFs eg there are around 50 different ones on the Euro Stoxx 50; different exchanges, currencies, market timezones leading for challenges for  market makers in setting prices, hedging themselves etc

– “trading channel” effectively the arbitrage channel is the range in which ETFs trade compared to their underlying components; over a decade ago this could have been as much as 10%/+5% to -5% (“quite extortionate”) but then illiquid, hard to hedge against;

– this changed rapidly when institutions started to get involved in larger size

– management fees (“TER” – total expense ratio) typically, on ETFs such as Euro Stoxx 50, have gone from ~0.65% a decade ago to ~0.12% today

– ETFs are allowed in ISAs, SIPPs, 401k

– in 401k’s over 50% of the investments are in ETFS (!)

– ETFs are UCITS compliant (which allows passporting into Europe), registered mostly in Ireland and “tax-advantageous” locations (Jersey/Guernsey/Luxembourg)

– ETFs are open-ended they can increase in size at any point (depending on demand:supply); how this is done

– ETFs are undergoing a huge explosion in diversity – you can buy almost anything via ETFs – gold silver, precious metals, industrial metals, agricultural products

the huge opportunity for Fintech in providing a more up-to-date angle to investing in these; the tendency of the first wave of Investment Management Fintech to just replicate investing in the same boring old stuff as existing I.M. firms (core equity markets and bonds for example)

– a whole interesting tale about Bitcoin ETFs and what Laurent learned on that journey – you’ll have to listen to hear that tale 😉 …

– the difference between ETFs and ETNs (Exchange Traded Notes)

– the recent Bitcoin hacking through BitFinex and how it differs from last years MT Gox; a high quality exchange, the role of regulation in re; hot wallets and cold wallets – a painful tale all round 🙁

– blockchain versus bitcoin

ETFs were new once and have been a great success – what can Fintech learn from that (you’ll have to listen ;-)) …

– ETFs have had a rough ride too – from journalists to scandals…

– an overview of Coinsilium – the world’s first listed blockchain publically listed investment company

And much much more 🙂

Share and enjoy!

 

LFP057 – Five Reasons Corporate Governance is Essential for Fintech with Geoff Miller CEO Afaafa

AFAAFA

Geoff Miller

I have the pleasure to be joined today by Geoff Miller, CEO of Afaafa and former CEO of GLI Finance which he built from having no presence in AltFi to having over two dozen share stakes and loan agreements.

If existing FS has gone far to far in the direction of endless PC box-ticking – the porridge is too hot, then for sure in Fintech the porridge is too cold. Fintech is a long way behind grown-up FS is on corporate governance – the average Fintech board being comprised of founders & VCs/angels – little independence there.

How can Fintech get the porridge “just right”?

What are the advantages for a Fintech of a well-composed board?

A quick count on LinkedIn shows that Geoff may have been on getting on for two dozen boards.  So who better to talk about the importance of corporate governance then Geoff. As Professor John Kay said in LFP055 corporate governance may sound like a dull box-ticking exercise but it is a vital function of FS. Just look at what has happened to senior executive pay in the UK when the FS industry (now the largest holder as most of our investments are indirect) hasn’t much to vote much at board meetings. If the cat is off busy making whoopee its hardly surprising if the mice steal most of the cheese.

If you are anywhere near the Fintech scene in London (or in some other countries) you will have heard of Geoff. Geoff has always been a rare soul in terms of brutal honesty. At AltFi Europe 2015, the general tone of which was “ra-ra aren’t we wonderful” Geoff spoke of “woeful underwriting standards and hopelessly naïve CEOs”.

Geoff is an ideal guest on the London Fintech Podcast as he doesn’t just have “views and opinions” which are so prevalent amongst the so-called “thought-leader” classes   Rather he has been at many coal faces with many miners. And as with coal mining its often painful work. In LFP037 John Regan gave an excellent account of managing ones way out of business model crisis at Platform Black. GLI Finance had its own internal shuffle before Xmas bringing in new management. More recently Funding Knight went into administration and there was plenty of work for the board there.

Topics discussed on the show include: Continue reading

LFP056 – “Everything You Wanted to Know About Fintech Venture Capital But Were Too Afraid To Ask” with Rob Moffat Partner at Balderton Capital

Balderton BannerI am  delighted to welcome Rob Moffat, Partner at Balderton Capital to dive into the topic of Venture Capital and Fintech.  As I aim to present London Fintech in the round I have been – for a long time – keeping my eye open for a friendly VC to have on the show. This has taken two years would you believe!

Viewed from Mars you might think this is curious given how the whole mainstream tech media is so focused on fund-raisings, so-called valuations (and fantasy animals with one horn), and the whole machismo around money.

Viewed not from Mars the VC sector globally is perhaps rather problematic. If this is a surprise to you then I recommend as an entry point Diane Mulcahy’s 2014 Harvard Business Review article Venture Capitalists get well paid to lose money. As a former VC she knows where to direct the fire – high fees, illiquidity and underperformance. As I recall in the greatest tech boom ever, in the US the aggregate stats are something like that the average VC hasn’t even returned to the investors the funds they raised, let alone got a carry cheque (the performance related fee).

Furthermore as we heard way back in LFP008 with Richard Goold the UK/European venture capital market was very thin indeed in most of the 20th Century (post-WW2 the UK basically had the (originally government) 3i as the only player for a long time) and returns were poor.

Set against this virtually every Fintech that scales needs VC money – without which there would be no boom at all.

Equally like in all industries there are always some good players with a reputation for adding value. It was such a lead that led me to Balderton Capital who are one of the real players in the London Fintech scene.

Rob MoffatRob also writes a lot on the industry – I recommend his blog – and is on the board of seven of Balderton’s investments, the best-known of which in UK Fintech are perhaps GoCardless and Nutmeg. Balderton invests around £20m per annum into Fintech.

Above and beyond this Rob is – finally – someone who is happy to talk on air about the reality of VC and Fintech. As he joined the firm in 2009 (from Google) he has experienced the Fintech world from roots through shoots and now into a rather varied garden.

There is more than plenty discussed on the show, key topics include: Continue reading

LFP055 – How Fintech Could Become Far Greater by Re-Forming FS with Professor John Kay

John KayI am delighted to be joined this week by Professor John Kay – one of the UK’s leading economists and outstanding authority on Financial Services to discuss the truly vast potential that still exists for Fintech to disrupt FS. Fintech as we know it now has so far only put its toe into that ocean of possibility.

Maybe Fintech as we know it now is as good as it gets. Or maybe it could be far far more. If the latter it really needs to get stuck into the areas we discuss on the show and in a far more radical way really support society at large and both re-form and reform FS.

John’s CV includes having written for the Financial Times for over 20yrs, being a successful author of at least 9 books, a fellow of St John’s college Oxford for some 46yrs, a visiting Professor at the LSE, being awarded the CBE, has been a director of well over a dozen FS companies, a successful businessman (Google tells me he has an investment in London Fintech Nutmeg), a member of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, establishing the IFS as one of Britain’s leading think tanks,  and in 2012 producing a review for the UK Government on equity markets and long term decision making. Post-Brexit he has been appointed to advise the Scottish Government on European Union issues.

So he knows a thing or two about FS. Not only this but as his website strapline is “accessible and relevant economics” he has the rare ability to take all that knowledge and experience and make it readily assimilable to the layman. Never more so than in his latest book “Other People’s Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?” (which currently gets 4.4*/5 from 32 reviews on amazon.co.uk).

If you want a taste of the book and an education (I learnt a lot and I know a little about FS myself) I recommend checking out John talking about the book at Google or at the LSE. And then buy the book 🙂

Anyway all this deep background serves for a very deep and vitally important issue.

Fintech would not be where it is today without the FS crisis of 2008. Leading authorities – John, the ex-governor of the Bank of England and the ex head of the FSA – have all written books saying that the fundamental dynamics behind that crisis have not been eliminated and that we will see a similar crisis again. I agree entirely.

In his Google Talk John mentioned that his book was in part educative but also in part so that when the next FS crisis breaks authorities will not be able to say (as they did last time) they had no forewarning and no policy prescriptions to reach for.

This made we wonder whether we couldn’t repurpose and leverage John’s work – inverting it as it were – turning problems into opportunities and showing what Fintech could do to both reform and re-form FS. Continue reading

LFP054 – Special Episode! Do we need Fintech 2.0? What are Brexit’s impacts? with Giles Andrews Zopa Chairman

Zopa-930-x-180Less than a week ago the UK voted to leave the EU. This comes against a background of severe problems for listed US marketplace lenders, a worlwide tailing off of institutional capital into the sector and only a tiny number of Fintechs having achieved profitability (many years after launch).

I thought it time to take a big picture look at Fintech – is Fintech 1.0 flagging? Do we need Fintech 2.0 to take us onward and upwards? Will Brexit be a positive force or a negative force for Fintech?

ST-ZopaA14vc051I could think of no better figure to discuss this with than Giles Andrews who has been at the top of perhaps the UK’s oldest Fintech Zopa per se as well as one of the most blue-chip today.

It’s a wide-ranging conversation but one that lays out some of the parameters of the territory ahead – one which right now may be shrouded in fog but one which we all, including the Fintech sector, will travel through.

It’s a longer episode than normal and there is plenty on the show. Some main topics we discuss include:

Continue reading

LFP053 – Innovating In P2P with Cormac Leech Co-founder Liberum Alternative Finance

LFP LiberumCormac Leech is co-founder of Liberum Alternative Finance who are a (the?) specialist strategic adviser and development partner to the UK Alternative Finance sector, focusing on online direct and marketplace lending and equity crowdfunding.

Liberum have done some $2bn of the largest P2P investment fund originations in the UK – notably P2PGI now a listed FTSE250 company. Which to make that explicit means that one of the biggest 250 listed companies in the UK purely invests in P2P. An interesting stat in itself when you hear how Fintech ain’t much from the odd naysayer.

Cormac LeechCormac is perhaps London’s best known and deepest thinker on Alternative Finance. In LFP038 Peter Renton and I discussed the highlights of Lendit 2015 – Europe’s largest P2P conference last year. We both picked out Cormac’s coruscating presentation – a little like the scene in Apocalypse now where they are on LSD under the bridge while the battle is going on. More prosaically it fitted a 3hr presentation into about 20 minutes and included everything about P2P including advice to the Bank of England as to how they should in the future use P2P assets to control the money supply.

Plenty has been happening in all directions with P2P lending and I thought it would be a great time to hear from someone who, although having an indirect stake in the success of the industry, is not the CEO of one and therefore that much more dispassionate.  Furthermore as always I aim to dive beneath all the froth and trivia and get to the deeper waters.

Plenty in this show including: Continue reading

LFP052 – The Realpolitik of Fintech Scaleup with Jon Vollemaere CEO R5FX

LFP R5FX bannerThis week I am delighted to welcome Jon Vollemaere CEO of R5FX to talk about the realpolitik of Fintech Scaleups, Asia Fintech and how relevant the “Fintech” label is and isn’t over the journey from being a Fintech Startup to Scaleup.

R5 offers a new electronic marketplace for emerging market foreign exchange (EMFX) and electronic non-deliverable forwards (eNDF) and has a prestigious single-figure millions investment from Deutsche Boerse and have offices in London and Singapore.

Jon VollemaereJon was one of the early guests on the show, entirely synchronicitously being the guest on  show number 5.

Upcoming Regulation requires Foreign Exchange (FX) trading banks to drastically change their current trading channels for the BRICS and other Emerging Market/NDF currency pairs.

Today these currencies are currently traded and fixed over a number of old, difficult to track and inefficient methods. The market is opaque and liable to imperfect price movements to the detriment of bank customers and consumers, hence regulators desire for change.

R5 is building the emerging marketplace for FX banks that not only satisfies these new legal
requirements, but also specialises in the fast growing transaction volumes in BRIC
and emerging economy currencies.

What is the journey like from startup to serious player?

What in prior and existing narratives around Fintech is BS/hype/fantasy?

What are the differences that matter at the coalface of competition for clients?

Where’s it all going?

Along with these topics we discuss: Continue reading

LFP051 – The SME Overdraft Crisis & the Fintech Solution with James Sherwin-Smith CEO Growth Street

LFP_banner Growth StreetThis week we dive deep into business overdrafts with James Sherwin-Smith CEO of Growth Street.

James Sherwin SmithIf you overdrafts sound dull consider the fact that they are the most commonly used form of financing for SMEs in the UK and that their supply has fallen by 40-50% in the past twelve months :-O

That’s enough to get politicians interested, let alone Fintechers.

 

Greg Carter one of the founders was working as a VC at Arts Alliance (the firm behind such winners as LoveFilm and Shazam). He found that many of his portfolio companies struggled to open basic overdraft facilities from banks. It was from this experience of pain that the idea for Growth Street emerged as a non-bank alternative for SMEs.

To make a definitional point to an FS guy like myself an overdraft is something which comes from a bank. And indeed banks first did business overdrafts in 1728. Only banks can offer them and thus a non-bank Fintech can’t.

However a Fintech is perfectly able to issue loans and if this is structured as a facility which you can call upon when needed to a pre-agreed limit at a defined cost – well frankly it’ll just be easier to call that an overdraft on the show.

Growth Street offer facilities up to £1/2million to UK limited companies. Applications take 15mins online with a decision in 3 days and only charge a monthly fee when the facility is being used.

Rather different from a bank what?

Amongst other things we discuss: Continue reading

LFP050 – Is P2P FX All It’s Cracked Up To Be? With John Booth Founder of Midpoint

Midpoint_LogoDid you know that the world’s first P2P FX firm was formed in 1998 and is listed on the Toronto Venture Exchange and cross-listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange?

No, me neither.

John BoothMidpoint, formed in 1998, describe themselves as the world’s first authentic peer-to-peer (‘P2P’) international foreign currency and payments platform, have a US patent on its FX deal matching process and have won several awards for this including being the “Best P2P Currency Matching Platform” in 2015.

 

Zooming up to the bigger picture of P2P – y’all know about P2P – one of the mainstays of the fintech revolution.

Or so you might think.

In P2P borrowing and lending there has been a lot of displacement of the “P” by institutional capital – so less P2P than it was.

In Insurance Fintech P2P is far more spoken about than done.

In FX – well it’s always been something of an insiders’ secret that the much-vaunted P2P FX model – beloved of unicorn valuations – is more talked about than done.

In LFP023 Philippe Gelis CEO of B2B Fintech FX players Kantox spoke about how “pure P2P” in the FinTech fx markets rapidly became “best execution” and that P2P never really worked.

The most well-known B2C FX Fintech is Transferwise. In a recent article Nick England founder of VFX and a 15yr veteran of the FX markets said that Transferwise was – “smoke and mirrors” – and that their main innovation was around marketing.

It was something of a surprise to social media Fintechers that Transferwise (as far as I and others saw) chose not to reply to these claims. The Memo reached out to Transferwise to ask how much is P2P and how much is dealt outside and they declined to reply. So after all, like the banks, they do have “something to hide”.

Another advertising slogan bites the dust.

Against this bakckground, for some time I have been keeping my eye out for a firm that does P2P FX to come on the show and honestly and openly discuss the pros and cons of Fintech FX.

As Midpoint are listed they are rather more familiar than non-listed firms with the need to tell the truth about business rather than hype up some PR and spin.

Discussions in this episode include: Continue reading

LFP049 – Fair & Equal Access to the Payments Infrastructure for Fintechs with Rich Wagner Chairman Emerging Payments Association

EPA Full Logo_JPG

I am delighted to welcome Rich Wagner chairman of the Emerging Payments Association to discuss “fair access to the payments network for Fintechs”. The EPA which is based in London, in passing houses the worlds only incubator for PayTech Fintechs

This is a real hardcore topic a long way aways from the fluffy bunnies and the cheerleaders in their short skirts. Which I have to say IMHO never look that good on men anyway 🙂

So where to start?

One simple way in is to refer to LFP046 – Payments -Theory, Practice & Laughs with Hiroki Takeuchi CEO of GoCardless. There he split payments mechanisms into credit cards, push and pull. GoCardless specialise in pull [Direct Debit to folks in the UK] and to do that, as he explained they need to build relationships with the banks. The factoid that stuck in my mind is that to integrate say Canada into their pull-network would take a year.

Which gives you some feel of how hard it is for a bank.

Another angle is the establishment of the PSR – the Payment Systems Regulator – which uniquely in UK FS is an economic regulator alone and focused on opening up access, at a much lower level of the infrastructure, to non-banks.

Rich WagnerRich Wagner was the star of LFP031 – Payments & Non-Bank Banking and is the CEO of Advanced Payment Solutions. They, a non-bank formed 12yrs ago, have processed over £4bn of payments, have over 1.2million cashplus cards out there and provide banking solutions for 30% of UK local authorities. So another real hardcore player.

 

Such is the power of the London Fintech Podcast that Rich subsequently also became the Chairman of the Emerging Payments Association and it is wearing that hat that he appears today. They recently released a report entitled “Payment Infrastructure: A Call For Fair And Equal Access For Fintech” which sums it all up rather nicely.

He is an ideal guide to explain to us the changing landscape of payments systems that were designed a long time before Fintech was ever thought of and need to operate with roughly 99.99999% accuracy every day for zillions of pounds. Clearly you don’t want just any old startup API-ing into that. But neither should banks have a monopoly over payments (which to cut a long story short is where the PSR is coming from).

There is also the context that the current system is creaking One incident last year resulted in a high street bank having to disclose 600,000 missing payments in the Faster Payments system (and I personally have heard of worse). Imagine being a payments fintech that happened to have been running on the “rails” of that bank.

Furthermore there is also a pricing angle – the number 600 cropping up again in terms of up to 600% mark-ups being paid for access to the systems.

In this episode we discuss: Continue reading

LFP048 – A Deep-Dive Into Corporate Venturing & Insurance with Ben Luckett MD Aviva Ventures

LFP Aviva bannerWhat is corporate venturing perchance you ask? One definition is an “internal VC arm of a corporate” – although this hides some major differences with VC per se.

Ben LuckettIn London Fintech Podcast episode 48 I am delighted to welcome Ben Luckett MD of Aviva Ventures to dive into corporate venturing.

For the company doing it corporate venturing is a classic route to get exposed to innovation in a marketplace that’s moving faster than a large corporate can easily replicate itself. As an example The Economist wrote in this context about Intel’s venturing which has over 20yrs invested in more than 1,300 companies in 56 countries. Set against that the HBR points out that the median lifetime of a corporate venturing project is one year – so not all of them fly in the sky.

For the startup/scaleup corporate venturing it is a source of growth capital but it can, at best, feel not like a type of venture capital funds (which can come with plenty of winces as I see daily talking to Fintechs) but as a steadier, less profit-orientated perhaps, source of funds.

On the show we discuss all this and more: Continue reading

LFP047 – The Impacts of the UK IFISA on P2P with Jake Wombwell-Povey CEO Goji

Goji_Banner

I am delighted to welcome Jake Wombwell-Povey co-founder and CEO of Goji to dive into the fascinating subject of –the Innovative Finance ISA. Goji’s aspiration is to take P2P into new investor markets and their first focus is on providing a white-label/back-office IFISA solution to existing platforms.

The IFISA might be unknown off these shores but here it’s generated plenty of excitement in the P2P community. There are direct impacts of the IFISA (which I had spotted) and some indirect impacts (which I had spotted less).

Jake Wombwell-PoveryBut for those offshore folks who don’t know what an ISA is, basically UK tax payers have been able to shelter a small amount of investment money every year from tax forever – income or capital gains. It was introduced way back in 1986 by Nigel Lawson under Margaret Thatcher’s government to encourage wider equity ownership. In those days it was called a PEP. Over the past 30yrs the whole thing has got more complicated and changed its name to ISA but the principle of away from the taxman remains. The current limit is £15k per annum.

In the Fintech-emergence year of 2014 George Osbourne announced in his budget that ISA eligibility would be extended to include P2P loans. In the 2015 budget it was confirmed that from 6th April 2016 lenders will be able to hold AltFinance assets in an IFISA.

Since then there has been much work on clarifying where we are – and perhaps preparations are not all entirely in place even a few weeks before the start-line as we will here.

If this all sounds very abstract the excitement stems from the fact that each year it has been estimated that approximately £50bn is invested in ISAs. And you can imagine how keen platforms are to get there paws on a percentage of that.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP046 – Payments -Theory, Practice & Laughs with Hiroki Takeuchi CEO GoCardless

LFP GoCardlessThis week we have a super-clear dive into Fintech Payments companies with Hiroki Takeuchi CEO and co-founder of GoCardless.  GoCardless, founded in 2011, are experts in recurring payments (where they process over $1bn per annum (via the direct debit “pipes”).

Hiroki TakeuchiTheir clients range from gyms and scout groups include the UK Government, Tripadvisor, Virgin, the Financial Times and Funding Circle – so clearly they have had their tires kicked and found rock-solid by some high profile names.

They are backed by some very blue-chip VCs including Balderton Capital, Accel partners, Passion Capital and Y combinatory.  Their Series A in 2013 raised just over $3m, Series B $7m in January ’14 & a large Series C is rumoured to be in the works.

Their nice, simple strapline is “GoCardless is the quickest and easiest way to take one-off and recurring payments online”. They currently take payments from bank accounts in the UK, Sweden and the Eurozone.

Topics discussed on the show include: Continue reading

LFP045 – A Deep-Dive into APIs with Stephane Dubois CEO Xignite

LFP Xignite

I am delighted to welcome Stephane Dubois founder and CEO of Xignite on the show to take a deep-dive into APIs which are not only the very Lego building blocks of Fintech but also set to become even more important with forthcoming legislation around opening up banking data.

I also share some exciting developments in making the London Fintech Podcast more interactive – for now exclusively available only in the podcast 😉

LFP Stephane DuboisXignite is a decade-old company, focuses on market data, has just raised $20m in a Series C round  and is one of the leading providers of financial APIS in the world with more than 1000 clients in over 50 countries and serve a staggering 60 billion API calls a month. They anticipate doing over 1 trillion API calls in the first half of 2016 alone.

So what are all the facets to APIs – why is something so tecchie of such importance?

You will have all heard of APIs but whether you know comparatively little or if you live knee deep in them all day I’m sure you’ll find plenty of angles of interest in Stephane’s long experience, clear metaphors and views of where they are going over the next decade.

In this show we discuss, amongst much more: Continue reading

LFP044 – How can Fintechs Scaleup, get more Robust yet preserve their Culture? Alex Langridge Director at Digital Recruitment Firm The Up Group

Connecting digital leadersToday I am delighted to welcome Alex Langridge Director of The Up Group on the show to talk about the very hot topic of whether Fintechs can grow up without, as it were, turning into their parents.

Less metaphorically what will mean that Alternative Finance remains alternative and doesn’t just end up like a Moorish house, inward looking into its own courtyard. Will they become like banks with levels and levels of internal committees, office politics and a lack of focus?

There are two key factors here.

Firstly the firm has to decide what its culture is. Which parts of that were just startup land? For many client or business facing AltFis suits are de rigour and t-shorts were startup. Which parts do they want to keep.

Secondly who do you recruit? It’s a good gossip topic over drinks for insiders on the London Fintech scene to discuss the obvious “don’t fits” – the imported investment bankers oozing arrogance and entitlement – sticking out like a sore thumb. Quite in contrast to real Fintechs who, having grown from nowhere know that they have been lucky to survive a perilous path that most of their compatriots have fallen off. And there but for the grace of God they could too have fallen.

It’s at this Nexus that the role of “a professional search firm” – aka head-hunters is key.

Alex Langridge LIThe Up Group was formed in 2007 with a vision to become the primary destination for digital talent. They must be doing well given the number of gigs they have worked on in Alternative Finance for some of the leading players.

It’s a pleasure to be joined by Alex who has placed some key hires into Fintechland and thus faces these challenges every day.

Plenty is discussed on the show including: Continue reading

LFP043 – Reality vs Hype in UK Fintech Startups with Ruzbeh Bacha CEO CityFalcon

CityFalcon London Fintech Podcast banner

On London Fintech Podcast episode 43 I am delighted to have Ruzbeh Bacha CEO and founder of CityFalcon on the show.

CityFalcon’s mission is to democratise access to financial news thereby creating a level-playing field for all investors whether retail or institutional. They provide comprehensive real-time and relevant financial news which is free for consumers and at a modest fee for business.

They were recently described by Twitter as: “One of the 10 most industry-disrupting and innovative solutions in 2015“.

Ruzbeh BachaRuzbeh founded the company in an archetypal way, in his bedroom just over two years ago and it has now grown to over a dozen staff.

Those of you who listened to the previous show, LFP042, the 2016 New Years Special will have heard me taking a deep dive into media distortions – in essence for a whole bunch of reasons there is what one might call a War on Truth. This applies whether it’s the mainstream media on War, the Euro or health all the way down to the well-known phenomenon that people post only the sunny side of their coin of life on Facebook.

And this is as true in Fintech as any sector. In fact its probably more hyped than any other sector.

So we are here to talk about real “primary journalism” – interviewing a coal miner who has been at the coalface long enough, and is honest enough, to share what it’s really like.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP042 – Bumper Fun-Packed New Years Show On Fintech & Star Wars, Beer, Media, 2015 review & 2016!

source: focusrs.org

source: focusrs.org

This is London Fintech Podcast episode 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything. Well a bit of everything anyway. And I have the pleasure to be joined today by – er – myself.

In the now traditional (um – can doing something twice be a tradition?) first podcast of the year step away from diving into a topic with an esteemed guest and take a more top of the mountain view of the landscape.

As it’s a bumper funpack we will cover a whole range of topics all of which pertain to Fintech.

So we start today’s show with the relevance of Star Wars; move on to beer and deep dive into a topic that applies to Fintech and to the whole of our perception of the world, the media – mainstream and indie.

Next a review of key themes from 2015 UK Fintech and finally we wrap up with some thoughts about the future.

In the next episode I’ll be back to the far easier task of asking folks smarter than I the answer to life the universe and everything or at least what’s going on in their corner of the Fintech phenomenon

Share and enjoy!

Happy New Year to all 🙂

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Links I reference are:

LFP041 – The Dataless Desert – Equity Crowdfunding with Rupert Taylor CEO AltFi Data

AltFi Data Banner

In a Fintech Era when Big Data is all the rage Equity Crowdfunding rather looks like a very poor relation indeed. Less Small Data even and more No Data. As I have written about in The Strange Case of Missing Data on UK Equity Crowdfunding none of the platforms, the UK Crowdfunding Association or the FCA appear to be providing or asking for even the bare minimum,

Rupert TaylorI am pleased to be joined in this curious vacuum by Rupert Taylor MD of AltFiData who first appeared on the show a year ago giving an overview of the whole alternative finance scene.  The AltFi Data team recently released a report City lawyers Nabarro entitled “Where are they now? A report into the status of companies that have raised finance using equity crowdfunding in the UK

For those of you who aren’t aware of the depths of the challenge in this area the acting head of the FCA and chairman of the FCA were grilled recently by the UK government’s Treasury Select Committee.  Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this was the lack of grip the FCA appeared to have on data on the sector – venturing that p2p losses were “around 1%” and that there was a lack of performance data around ECF.  However the FCA did mention that they insist that ECF platforms make it clear that the majority of startups fail.

In this episode we discuss: Continue reading