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Focus on FinTech as politicians and policy wonks meet

By Kevin Jenkins, Managing Director UK & Ireland • Visa

October 22, 2015

Regardless of political affiliation, politicians are focusing on innovation and FinTech. Visa UK’s Managing Director reports from the recent UK political party conferences where the subjects featured high on the agenda.

At both the Labour and Conservative party conferences in October, Visa hosted a stimulating discussion on financial innovation, alongside MPs, regulators and industry. I also joined a panel discussion about young people and ‘character education’, addressing how we ensure future entrepreneurs, employees and consumers have the right skills when they leave school. Examples from Visa’s apprentice programme and financial education work with Young Enterprise helped bring it alive.

At the conferences themselves there were opportunities to meet a myriad of MPs, whose interests ranged across security, resilience, innovation, collaboration and regulation. However the most popular topic by far was FinTech. Both main UK-wide parties are vying to champion this growth sector and the benefits it can bring to consumers.

From a purely economic point of view, there are plenty other reasons for this increased enthusiasm:

The UK is one of the fastest growing regions in the world for FinTech. Investment in the UK & Ireland grew 136% in 2014, reaching £410 million – accounting for 42% of all European FinTech investment. 135,000 people were employed by the sector last year, across the whole of the country – and UK GDP was £20 billion greater as a result of the sector’s activities.

For political parties, another appeal of technology is that it can power digital inclusion, more access, greater financial education and personal empowerment. It also means more competition, more innovation, more choice, lower prices and better services for consumers. At Visa we can also harness the potential implicit in technology. Our successful financial education programmes can help young people learn the value of money in a digital economy. In our main business, technology powers competition, innovation, partnership and choice. The challenge is to further harness FinTech to meet all consumer needs.

The October conferences also brought good news for our members. Following a period of heightened regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA),the Chancellor called for a ‘new settlement’. This is a message to the sector that now is the time to move forward from responding to regulation, and to invest in a post-regulatory world. While some members are waiting to see who is appointed the new CEO at FCA, others will be waiting to see what happens in the UK, as Europe’s largest payment market and trend-setter. It’s interesting that the FCA hosted major fringe meetings at both conferences and fielded senior officials to talk about their plans. This presents a good opportunity for Visa to continue to help develop the regulatory agenda.

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