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R3 doubles down on London as post-Brexit technology hub

R3 has reaffirmed its commitment to London, doubling the size of its London Wall hub to accommodate its rapidly growing engineering team. The extra space will also support an aggressive hiring plan to increase the company’s global headcount from its current level of 215 to nearly 300 by the end of the year. The firm’s roster of new hires will consist largely of software engineers, along with commercial and client-facing roles around the world.

This initiative is a cornerstone of R3’s rapid growth plans that include an additional engineering centre in a new city by the early of 2020. R3 is currently evaluating the best location for the second site and will make that selection in the coming months.

The expansion represents a strong commitment from R3 to London. London has gained a reputation as a global technology hub and last year, despite the ongoing uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations, attracted more Foreign Direct Investment than any other city. It was independently ranked as the top global fintech hub by EY and Deloitte and hosts over half of FinTech50’s leading fintech firms.

While enterprise blockchain is still in its early years, it is now being deployed by some of the world’s largest companies across sectors as diverse as healthcare, insurance, capital markets and global trade. R3’s Corda blockchain serves as the foundation for many of these initiatives, becoming one of the leading blockchain platforms for enterprise use. The growth of the engineering team will ensure that the hundreds of businesses who build their applications on Corda can continue to deploy blockchain solutions simply and successfully.

David E. Rutter, CEO of R3, said: “There is enormous opportunity for London post-Brexit. While there clearly remain some uncertainties, we believe the city is well placed and established to thrive in the coming years. That’s why we are confident in making this substantial long-term commitment now.

“R3 is committed to ensuring the technology underpinning Corda is cutting-edge. To continue to do this, we need the very best people. It makes complete sense to look to London as we further develop the ways that blockchain can be developed and deployed.  As our software gains more use cases and across more sectors, we will be looking to invest further in top talent – London and elsewhere.”

FXCM Adds ForexBaskets to its Retail Offering

FXCM announced today the introduction of foreign exchange baskets to its retail customers.

A foreign exchange or forex basket is comprised of a mix of several currencies, each initially starting with the same equivalent value. It allows traders to buy or sell a base currency, e.g. USD, against a basket of multiple currencies. The value of the basket will be determined by how the base currency performs vs the other currencies in the basket, since the time of the basket’s inception.

FXCM customers in all global regions, including the UK, Australia and South Africa, will initially be able to trade three different baskets: The Dollar Index Basket, The Yen Index Basket and The Emerging Markets Index Basket.

The Dollar Index basket reflects the change in value of the US dollar and is measured against a basket of major, highly-liquid currencies: the British pound (GBP), Euro (EUR), Japanese yen (JPY) and Australian dollar (AUD).

The Yen Index acts a Japanese benchmark and is designed to reflect the change in value of the Japanese yen against the Australian dollar (AUD) British pound (GBP), Euro (EUR) and Canadian dollar (CAD).

The Emerging Markets Index is designed to reflect the value of the USD against the Chinese Renminbi (CNY), Mexican Peso (MXN), Turkish Lira (TRY) and South African Rand (ZAR).

Brendan Callan, CEO of FXCM, commented: “Our customers typically trade different currencies at the same time to broaden their portfolio, diversify risk or hedge an existing position. Trading a basket of currencies offers them an efficient way to trade against multiple currencies. This reduces the risk of exposure or adverse movements in a single currency and lowers trade costs.”

FCA unveils first steps to a ‘global fintech sandbox’

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the launch of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN), a new alliance to encourage the growth of fintech globally.

The GFIN is part of the FCA’s plans to formally create a “global sandbox”, an idea it first discussed in February. A sandbox allows companies to test new, innovative products that are not protected by current regulation or supervised by regulators, reducing the time and cost of getting products to market.

The new ‘global fintech sandbox’ will involve a collaborative effort with watchdogs from around the world including the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. It aims to help regulators stay ahead of the new wave of emerging technologies.

Over the past few years, watchdogs have seen the rapid rise of data analytics, the advancement of technologies such as AI and the creation of new securities such as ICOs. Under GFIN, a fintech will be able to carry out tests in different countries at the same time to solve common cross-border problems such as data protection, KYC and anti-money laundering.

The UK has established a reputation for being at the forefront of the fintech revolution and received more investment in its fintech sector than any other country in the world during the first half of 2018.

Regulators have demonstrated their commitment and willingness to work side-by-side with fintechs; the FCA was the first regulator to create a domestic sandbox in 2016, while the Bank of England has completed proof of concepts with start-ups such as enterprise software firm R3. It also launched its own Fintech Hub in March 2018.

This subsequently led to calls for a global sandbox, which received near-unanimous approval from regulatory bodies all over the world.

It is important to note, however, that not everyone believes in the importance of regulatory sandboxes. The chief of New York’s financial regulatory body said on Tuesday that the agency is “fiercely opposed” to the U.S. Treasury Department’s recent endorsement of regulatory “sandboxes” for fintech firms. Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, “the idea that innovation will flourish only by allowing companies to evade laws that protect consumers, and which also safeguard markets and mitigate risk for the financial services industry, is preposterous.”

It will be interesting to see whether the initiative will achieve its aims and whether financial services regulators will effectively collaborate to balance the potential benefits of innovation with their traditional policy objectives.

Chatsworth welcomes this positive collaboration between regulators and aspiring fintechs, both domestically and internationally, as this gives companies a safe environment to test new ideas and learn how to effectively scale their business concepts. We would encourage fintechs, investors, governments, and other interested parties to participate in the consultation process to ensure it is transparent and fair to potential firms wishing to apply for cross-border testing.

UK Holds the Crown for Worldwide Fintech Investment

The UK has received more investment in its fintech sector than any other country in the world, according to KPMG’s latest Venture Pulse Report.

With over US$16.1bn of inbound investment during the first half of the year, the UK is firmly ahead of China (US$15.1bn) and the United States (US$14.2bn).

Europe currently stands as the leading continent for fintech investment ($26bn), with the UK accounting for over half of this. Moreover, four of the ten largest European fintech deals were conducted in the UK. This includes the US$250m raised by Revolut in April and US$100m by eToro in March of this year.

KPMG also predicts that the UK will retain its crown in the second half of 2018.

The report cites artificial intelligence (AI) as one of the main sectors responsible for attracting fintech investment in the UK. Hot startups such as Previse and Mosaic Smart Data are utilising the technology to revolutionise areas as diverse as late payments and data analytics in wholesale financial markets.

Brexit

With the shadow of Brexit looming large, it is a timely reminder of the importance of the UK to the global fintech community. In a keynote speech at London Fintech Week earlier this month, our CEO Nick Murray-Leslie noted how finance and technology are almost indivisible; nowhere comes close to London in terms of dominance as a financial centre and, by extension, a fintech hub.

The strong data also dismisses the notion that Brexit is affecting the way investors think about the City and the rest of the UK. Our view is that Brexit is not the biggest risk to London; rather, it is the risk that the UK, and London in particular, becomes a victim of its own success and unaffordable or unattractive for people.

This city has been undergoing its own version of what scholars of US cities have termed “the Great Inversion”. This is the return of people, high-end housing and highly-paid jobs to city centres. If it becomes too expensive these people will go elsewhere and there may soon be only two types of people left: the wealthy and those who are in social housing. This will be a problem.

Looking Forward

Beyond the UK, fintech as an industry has sky-rocketed this year. Worldwide global fintech investment this year has already exceeded the whole sum value of 2017, proving why it’s crucial for the UK to remain at the forefront of this vital sector.

Chatsworth has been working with a number of award-winning start-ups and established fintechs such as Previse (late payments), Mosaic Smart Data (data analytics), R3 (blockchain), and can personally avow for how London can support a fintech business of any size, better than any other city in the world.

Looking forward to the third-quarter of the year, tax reforms in the US, a significant amount of dry powder and the continued flow of funding into the VC world are expected to keep the fintech investment market strong over the next quarter.

AI and data analytics are expected to remain high on the radar of VC investors. It is also expected that companies in maturing sectors, such as e-commerce, will continue to broaden their offerings and investments in order to access new or adjacent verticals.

But as KPMG notes, an area that may be one to watch over the next quarter will be valuations – particularly for companies with no tangible assets, where investors are focused on what the company might do in the future. The level of assumption and risk involved in these types of valuations is quite high and it is still to be seen if these valuations will be substantiated.

UK Remains at the Forefront of the Fintech Revolution

Despite fierce competition, the UK remains at the forefront of the fintech revolution according to the ‘Finance for Fintech’ report, launched recently by London Stock Exchange Group and TheCityUK.

The independent survey, carried out by YouGov, interviewed over 400 fintech companies across eight countries, all of which have had at least Series A funding rounds or above, and provided interesting insights into the global fintech scene.

Bullish UK fintech scene

UK fintechs are bullish about their growth prospects.

The research highlighted that fintech companies operating in the UK expect to grow by 88 per cent over the next three years, 8% higher than the overall average.

Vital to this growth is raising finance and this process is reportedly more straightforward for UK fintechs in public markets than those operating in other countries, making it an attractive location for fast-growth companies. Chancellor Philip Hammond recently supported this view, pointing out that investment in UK fintech more than doubled last year, outpacing the funding of EU rivals such as Germany.

Interestingly, fintechs surveyed placed the UK as the third best  location for businesses seeking to grow their international footprint, only behind the US and China.

Fintech Revolution in Europe?

That said, competition is heating up.

Europe increasingly seeks to strengthen its position as a regional fintech hub. On 8 March, the European Commission announced an action plan on how it will do just that; new rules that will help crowdfunding platforms to grow across the EU’s single market.

The impact of this will be interesting as one of the primary barriers to fintech growth is competition according to 43% of those surveyed.

Regulation

Fintechs require a supportive global regulatory environment to flourish.

You have to applaud the FCA’s exploration of a potential global regulatory sandbox following the success of its UK version. The UK version, launched in 2016, helped fintechs to test innovations with real customers in the live market but under controlled conditions.

The global sandbox could allow firms to conduct tests from London into different jurisdictions at the same time, enabling regulators to collaborate to solve cross-border problems.

This has the potential to strengthen London’s position as a destination for global fintech companies as they can come from all around the world to test their products and find out how they can expand internationally.

Fintech is by definition without borders.

The research shows that fintechs across the world are becoming increasingly cross-border in their growth aspirations with 72% of the 400 companies surveyed planning to expand into new countries. 73% believe they will need to move into new or develop existing market sectors in order to achieve this growth and almost three-quarters believe long-term growth will be driven, at least in part, by new technologies.

It is worth noting that those who have reached Series D rounds or above have the biggest appetite for expansions and anticipate achieving a monumental growth of 320%.

While fintechs seek global expansion, it is important they don’t lose sight of the importance of being located close to the core financial hubs as crossover will, by and large, determine their success.

It is clear that in order for fintechs to thrive and continue to transform the global financial services sector, they need access to finance, a supportive global regulatory environment and proximity to the global financial services sector. The UK currently offers all three.

The report demonstrates that while the UK remains at the forefront of the fintech revolution, it must continue to innovate and work collaboratively in order to maintain its leading position, especially with Europe hot on its heels.

 

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