“It’s Time to Reimagine Banking”

Neyber CEO Martin Ijaha offers reflections on the recent UKTI fintech delegation to Silicon Valley  

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The UK is the firm leader of the Fintech sector in Europe. Funding for firms comprising the industry in this country outpaced that of Germany by a staggering 398% last year. Investors pumped £550 million in UK Fintech companies in 2015.

It’s easy to see the sector’s appeal; the Fintech industry generated about £6.6 billion for the UK economy in 2015 and employs 61,000 people in this country. The excitement and ambition generated by the buoyant and innovative Fintech sector was apparent among the six start-ups, including Neyber, which visited Silicon Valley last week as part of a UK Trade & Investment delegation.

We spent three days with our peers meeting venture capitalists and the incubators such as Runway that provide invaluable guidance to start-ups with mentoring, office space and training. We pitched to the old and new of the financial services industry including 164-year old Wells Fargo, one of America’s ‘Big Four’ banks.

We networked with fellow start-ups and heard presentations from some fascinating companies including blockchain innovator Eris Industries and financial software company Yodlee. Every pitch has been different but it’s been a pleasure to listen to the presentations of other UK businesses making an impact in the UK and worldwide.

Being selected by UKTI to participate in the trade mission has been a source of tremendous excitement at Neyber. As CEO I am delighted to represent a company viewed as one of those at the forefront of the financial, technology and investment sectors. Having the opportunity to network, fundraise and make connections with some of the most exciting companies in the world during the trade mission has been an education.

Many of the innovative companies in this sector are examples of organisations that are the first in their field to create specific kinds of financial technology. For instance, Currency Cloud has built an extremely efficient operation in London with fewer than 80 employees responsible for processing billions of pounds worth of transactions every year, and trusted by some of the fastest-growing businesses in the world, including foreign exchange Travelex.

A whole new industry has emerged to improve efficiency in banks and eradicate the complicated infrastructures of technology that have been used for decades in the financial services sector. So many of the Fintech businesses that are emerging in the UK and abroad exist to facilitate and improve the status quo. That is why the giants of banking such as RBS and Wells Fargo are focused on creating close relationships with and, in some cases, investing in such start-ups.

Other Fintech companies are going a step further, and reimagining banking. Remittance company Azimo’s approach to the global transfer of money cuts out the middle man and reduces transaction fees for those people living abroad and sending money back home. They are often transferring money to developing countries and the savings made available to them are crucial.

Neyber is re-imagining banking too. Our consumer lending platform for employers to offer low interest rate loans to employees can help those struggling with their personal finances to consolidate their expensive debts. Repayments are taken straight from employees’ salaries by payroll, so they are less likely to default on payment. Employees’ financial worries are eased, meaning they are more productive and engaged and employers have a happier and more loyal workforce, less likely to be looking for other jobs.

In a world where people are more likely to trust their employer than their bank, this approach to lending – between communities, in which savers can get a reasonable rate of interest and borrowing isn’t based on credit scoring but a fairer method – makes sense.

I’m fairly sure that if we had the chance to start from scratch and change the banking sector, we would tear up the old ideas, lose the complexity and strip banking back to what it should be: offering communities ways to save and borrow sensibly, with a heavy emphasis on trust.

So it’s not surprising that Neyber was well received in San Francisco. The trip has reaffirmed our conviction that our simple idea of using social structures and existing institutions is truly revolutionary in how employers offer their workforces benefits.

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