By Aisling Finn on Friday 26 February 2021
“Fintech is not a niche within financial services,” says the review’s author Ron Kalifa OBE.
For weeks rumours have been swirling about what might be in the long-awaited Kalifa review into the fintech sector and, for the most part, it seems that most were spot on.
The report's publication comes nearly a year to the day that Rishi Sunak first promised the review in his first budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer in May last year.
Ron Kalifa OBE, a non-executive director of the Court of Directors at the Bank of England and the vice-chairman of WorldPay, was selected by Sunak to head up the deep dive into fintech.
Here are the reports five key recommendations to the Government:
In a move that must be music to fintech’s ears, Kalifa has proposed developing and adopting common data standards, meaning that incumbent banks' slow legacy systems just simply won’t be enough to get by anymore.
Kalifa has also suggested prioritising Smart Data, with a specific focus on open banking and opening up more channels of communication between open banking-friendly fintechs and bigger financial institutions.
Open Finance even gets a shout-out in the report, with Kalifa telling the government that the adoption of open banking with the intention of reaching open finance is of paramount importance.
As a result of their growing popularity, Kalifa has also suggested tighter regulation for cryptocurrencies and he has also solidified the commitment to meeting ESG goals.
The report implies the creation of a fintech task force and the improvement of the “technical understanding of fintechs’ business models and markets” will help fintech flourish in the UK.
Following the success of the FCA’ regulatory sandbox, Kalifa has also proposed a ‘scalebox’ that will help fintech firms to grow and expand their operations without the fear of getting on the wrong side of the regulator.
In order to bring the UK workforce up to speed with fintech, Kalifa has suggested retraining workers to meet the growing needs of the fintech sector, proposing a series of low-cost education courses to do so.
Another rumoured addition to have been included in the report is a new visa route to ensure top tech talent is not put off by Brexit, ensuring the UK remains a top international competitor.
Kalifa suggests a ‘Fintech Scaleup Stream’ that will give those with the necessary skills automatic visa qualification and offer support for the fintechs hiring top tech talent abroad.
As previously suspected, Kalifa suggests the government create a £1bn Fintech Growth Fund to help homegrown firms scale and expand.
The report suggests that the UK’s pension pots could be a great source for fintech’s funding, with Kalifa pointing out the £6 trillion currently sat in private pension schemes in the UK.
According to the report, a small slice of this pot of cash could be “diverted to high growth technology opportunities like fintech.”
Kalifa has also suggested expanding R&D tax credits thanks to their popularity, with 97 per cent of founders having used tax-incentivised investment schemes.
Despite the UK being home to some of the world’s most successful fintechs, very few have chosen to list on the London Stock Exchange, in fact, the LSE has seen a 45 per cent reduction in the number of listed companies on its platform since 1997. The Kalifa review sets out steps to change that and makes some recommendations that seem to pre-empt the upcoming Treasury-backed review into listings led by Lord Hill.
The Kalifa report reads: “IPOs are thriving globally, driven in part by tech companies that have become indispensable to both consumers and businesses in search of digital tools amid the coronavirus pandemic and it is important that the UK seizes this opportunity.”
Under the suggestions laid out in the review, free float requirements will be reduced, meaning companies no longer have to issue at least 25 per cent of their shares to the public at any one time, rather they will just have to offer ten per cent.
The review also suggests implementing dual share structures that are more favourable to entrepreneurs, meaning they will be able to maintain control in their companies.
To ensure the UK remains a top international fintech destination, the Kalifa review has suggested revising the current “Fintech International Action Plan.”
The review suggests launching an international fintech portal, including a clear overview of the UK fintech scene, contact info for local regulators, case studies of previous success stories and details about the support and grants available to international companies.
Kalifa also suggests that the UK needs to build stronger trade relationships with previously untapped markets, focusing on Blockchain, regtech, payments and remittances and open banking.
Another strong rumour to be confirmed is Kalifa's recommendation to create ten fintech 'Clusters’, or regional hubs, to ensure local fintechs are given the support to grow and expand.
Unsurprisingly, London is the only super hub on the list, meaning Kalifa categorises it as a global leader in fintech.
After London, there are three large and established clusters where Kalifa recommends hubs are established, the Pennines (Manchester and Leeds), Scotland, with particular reference to the Edinburgh/Glasgow corridor, and Birmingham.
While other areas of the UK have been categorised as emerging or specialist clusters, including Bristol and Bath, Newcastle and Durham, Cambridge, Reading and West of London, Wales (especially Cardiff and South Wales) Northern Ireland.
The Kalifa review suggests nurturing the top ten regions, making an effort to focus on their specialities, while also enhancing the channels of communication between the other hubs.