A new organisation backed by more than £5 million (about $6.1m) of public money being set up to help fintech companies to grow in the UK has named its inaugural chief executive.
Ezechi Britton MBE has this week been appointed to the top job at the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT), whose creation was among the recommendations of the high-profile HM Treasury (HMT)-commissioned Fintech Strategic Review (also known as the ‘Kalifa Review’) published almost two years ago.
HMT and the City of London Corporation, the public authority for the Square Mile – the part of London where many fintech companies, as well as major financial services institutions, are located – have committed respectively £5m and £500,000 (£5.5 million total: about $6.74m) of seed funding over three years to get the centre off the ground. Ultimately CFIT will need to be self-financing.
The centre will officially launch next month after which Ezechi and a newly formed team will ‘engage stakeholders and set out plans for CFIT’s first programmes of work’, according to this week’s announcement.
Britton takes up the position from a role as chief technology officer (CTO) of Impact X Capital Partners, a venture capital company set up to support underrepresented entrepreneurs across Europe particularly the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Among other previous private-sector positions he was also a co-founder and CTO of a fintech company called Neyber. He received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Diversity and to Young People just over a year ago.
Aspiring to ‘drive fintech growth’
Britton will work alongside CFIT’s chair, Charlotte Crosswell OBE, whose appointment was announced in November 2022. Crosswell is one of the UK fintech sector’s best-known names, having previously held roles including (most recently) chair and trustee of the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) and chief executive of Innovate Finance, as well as numerous other senior positions.
CFIT will ‘bring together experts in finance and technology from across the UK to come up with solutions to the most challenging issues facing fintech firms including how to help firms to scale, how to foster collaboration within and between growing national and regional fintech hubs, and how financial innovation can promote sustainability and financial inclusion,’ according to the announcement of Britton’s appointment.
Britton said he “looked forward to working with the financial services, fintech and technology sectors across the UK to drive fintech growth, attract diverse talent into the fintech sector, and ensure better outcomes for consumers and SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises].”
Ron Kalifa OBE, the former chief executive of international payment processing company Worldpay who led the Fintech Strategic Review (hence the exercise becoming known as the ‘Kalifa Review’), said Britton would be responsible for “advancing” the new centre’s mission and “driving the UK‘s leadership as the global leader for financial innovation by seeking out opportunities to accelerate and unblock barriers to grow the fintech sector.”
The 108-page Kalifa Report identified three major threats to the UK’s relatively strong fintech sector: competition from jurisdictions such as Singapore, Australia and Canada; Britain’s exit from the European Union; and Covid-19. KMPG’s Pulse of Fintech report showed that venture capital investment in UK fintech companies plummeted during the first half of 2022 to $9.6bn (about £8.5bn) – a fall of nearly two-thirds compared to the same period in 2021.
During 2022 a Kalifa-led steering committee, which included representatives from HMT, City of London Corporation and the Financial Conduct Authority, worked with professional services firm EY and more than 80 organisations and sector experts to develop proposals on CFIT’s priorities and operational requirements.
Tech Nation to close
News of CFIT’s appointment comes during a week when a different government-backed organisation, Tech Nation, announced that it would be ceasing operations after the end of its core government grant funding.
Tech Nation – which was set up by then-PM David Cameron’s government more than a decade ago as Tech City UK and whose terrain, as its name suggests, is significantly broader than ‘fin’-tech – issued a statement saying that it will close on 31 March. It said its grant funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was being awarded to the private-sector bank Barclays and that ‘with this foundation removed, Tech Nation’s remaining activities are not viable on a standalone basis.’
‘As a direct result of the DCMS grant withdrawal, Tech Nation will be ceasing all existing operations through a carefully planned wind-down and has commenced a redundancy consultation process,’ the statement read. ‘Tech Nation is also actively seeking interested parties to acquire its portfolio of assets to take forward in a new guise.’
Kalifa himself is among numerous senior figures providing quotes in Tech Nation’s announcement. He said: “Having Tech Nation lead the ‘national connectivity’ chapter of the Kalifa Review was hugely impactful as it brought together several different constituents, from founders to academics and from investors to ecosystem regional leaders. One of its recommendations led to the creation of the new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology, seed funded by HM Treasury.”
At OBIE Crosswell was succeeded by Marion King, who began her trustee mandate this week. She was previously director of payments at NatWest Group and president of Mastercard UK and Ireland.
‘UK Labour Party backs fintech sector as market uncertainty bites’ – our news story (13 October 2022) on the UK’s shadow City minister setting out the opposition Labour Party’s commitment to supporting the country’s fintech sector
‘UK fintech review presents recommendations’ – our news story (26 February 2021) on the creation of the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology being among the Kalifa Review’s recommendations