The Prime Minister has cast off on a trade mission to South East Asia, accompanied by a strong showing of companies from the UK fintech scene.
Mr. Cameron and 31 British business owners have embarked on a whirlwind tour of Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. Those business leaders include alternative finance representatives Rhydian Lewis of RateSetter and Christoph Rieche of Iwoca. The broader fintech space accounts for a significant portion of the travelling party, and includes such names as Peter Smith – Co-Founder of Blockchain, Alastair Lukies – Chairman of Innovate Finance, and Hank Uberoi of EarthPort. Old school financial services players like Mark Wilson of Aviva and John Nelson of Lloyd’s of London are also in tow.
The purpose of the expedition is to cultivate stronger ties between the UK and South East Asia markets. At present, the government will be hard-pressed to hit its target of doubling UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020. The Prime Minister is expected to push for a free trade deal between the EU and the South East Asian trading bloc (Asean) over the next week. The government also plans to make £1bn available for the purpose of financing infrastructure projects in Indonesia, via its export guarantee scheme, which will supposedly boost UK exports by £200m.
Mr. Cameron has been quite clear in his position that British businesses need to look beyond Europe in order to prosper. To quote the PM himself:
"Over the next 20 years, 90% of global growth is expected to come from outside Europe, and Britain must be poised to take advantage.”
"That's why I'm delighted to be taking British businesses to this vast and dynamic market, securing deals worth over £750m and creating opportunities for hard-working people back at home.”
"We can also open up more markets for British businesses by leveraging the power of the EU's single market with 500 million consumers to secure bold, ambitious trade deals with these fastest, growing economies."
Whether or not fintech players will account for a significant portion of that £750m remains to be seen. Iwoca already has an interest in the orient, having forged ties with Alibaba in March. The partnership is designed to provide finance to UK SMEs that are buying from Chinese suppliers via the Alibaba network. RateSetter is already operational in nearby Australia.
The conservative government has taken an active role in bolstering the UK’s budding fintech industry, as part of a broader effort to entrench London’s reputation as a global centre of financial innovation. The alternative finance space will soon be benefiting from the mandatory referral scheme, the Innovative Finance ISA and from further tax incentives. The plan now appears to be to spur on international expansion. Such efforts are sure to be well received within the alternative finance sector, where many platforms (Funding Circle, RateSetter, ThinCats, Crowdcube, Seedrs, etc.) are already engaged in some manner of overseas activity.
“RateSetter’s participation in this trip with the Prime Minister and key Ministers reflects how seriously they are taking our sector. It is a unique opportunity to visit some of the fastest growing, most dynamic economies in South East Asia to disseminate and gain new innovative ideas and exchange views on new approaches to finance.”