6 minute read 16 Apr 2021
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Why FinTech is core to the UK’s future success

By Anita Kimber

EY EMEIA Business Transformation Leader

Open banking champion. Passionate about facilitating better customer experiences through innovation and creativity. Dedicated to building a better working world.

6 minute read 16 Apr 2021

Recommendations in the Kalifa Review provide the foundations to secure UK FinTech success in the face of global competition.

In brief
  • FinTech is already vital to the UK and the value of the global market is expected to triple in the next decade
  • In the face of global competition, the UK needs to do more to attract inward investment and help export FinTech success
  • EY supported on the independent Kalifa Review to formulate recommendations to help ensure UK FinTech remains internationally attractive and competitive

The future of UK financial services has been dominated by talk of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s not surprising given financial services contributed £132 billion to the UK economy in 2019, 6.9% of total economic output.  

Yet much less is heard about FinTech, which lies at the intersection of the UK’s traditional strength in financial services and the future focus on the digital economy. The UK remains a global leader, attracting international FinTechs and investors, making up around 10% of the global market (c.£11bn in 2019). In addition, London is ranked second as a top financial centre after New York.

FinTech is great example of the UK punching above its weight internationally. We have an active market, attracting large amounts of capital and skill. The good news is that there are many public and private bodies already supporting the UK FinTech sector.

The challenge today is for the UK to avoid being left behind as other countries look to grow their FinTech infrastructure and offerings. We cannot take our international FinTech position for granted as countries look to learn from the success of the UK. We need to take steps to not only maintain our position but also increase our market share in years to come. 

This is why international attractiveness and competitiveness is a core theme of the recent Kalifa Review of UK FinTech. I was proud to contribute to the Review on this issue. There is a substantive prize at play here - FinTech as a market in 2019 was worth c.£110bn in revenue. The global market is forecasted to be c.£380bn by 2030.

In a recent EY report into the UK FinTech industry, total technology spend by UK financial services was estimated at c.£95bn. This trend is only likely to accelerate. The COVID-19 pandemic saw digital adoption rise sharply. Post-outbreak, almost 70% of UK individuals use less cash, around half expect to use more contactless payments and a third now use digital applications as a payment choice. There has always been a global race to be the leading FinTech centre, changing customer expectations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic only adds to the urgency.

FinTech will also be essential in securing the UK as the home of financial innovation which benefits us all. It drives much needed choice and new services for consumers and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). FinTech will be the catalyst for new services and ways of operating that can have a real impact for how consumers and SMEs operate, such as improving the productivity and ability of SMEs to scale.

Large technology firms have already demonstrated success in other sectors, and banking could be ripe for further disrupting. Therefore, a strong foundation for FinTech would allow the UK to be at the heart of banking innovation benefitting consumers and businesses. Data and insight will be the future battleground for banking, and FinTech will equip the UK for success.

The UK has a proud history of innovation in financial services. The review provides the foundations to continue to lead the next wave of technology-led financial services for consumers and SMEs globally.
Ron Kalifa OBE

The threat and opportunity

Investments are being made across the world in digital infrastructure to support innovation in financial services. Competitor jurisdictions such as Singapore, Australia and Canada are all investing heavily in capital, skills and direct support for FinTechs. In addition, the world class regulation that helped UK FinTechs to succeed has now been adopted by a large number of competitors. We also know that other countries are studying the Kalifa Review.

Brexit has created regulatory uncertainty in specific areas relevant to FinTech. Firms must navigate the immigration system for European Union talent for the first time – whilst rival jurisdictions are rolling out aggressive attempts to lure talent in.

Much of the initial growth was boosted by the UK’s natural advantages, with a large financial services sector, clustered around large pools of capital, skills and technology entrepreneurs. Added to that was pioneering regulation, an established legal system, attractive culture and even a time zone that helped those looking for global reach. 

But we cannot stand still and there is an opportunity to grow internationally in two ways. Firstly, to attract in-bound global investment, which was c.$4bn in 2020. The UK has a strong environment and reputation for start-ups, however FinTechs looking to scale may see the UK as limited based on size; scaling opportunities must, by definition, include overseas expansion.

Secondly, we need to support out-bound growth. FinTech could become a real UK export success but we need to support this now. UK FinTechs need to continue to expand globally to grasp our rightful share of the £380bn revenue in 2030. A clearly defined, ambitious international FinTech agenda could result in increased market share from 10% to 12% and a £46bn FinTech market by 2030, fuelling even larger financial, innovation, technology and job growth for the UK.

The path to success

I worked alongside some of the UK’s most internationally active and successful FinTechs on the Kalifa Review. We produced some real tangible, pragmatic and executable recommendations to help UK FinTech grow its international footprint. Here are some of the key outputs:

  • Say it loud and say it proud

    What came through repeatedly was the need for the UK need to champion an increasingly vocal, and digitally enabled, approach to support innovation and competition in financial services. If we want to continue to grow our global market share, we need to get louder and bolder about our strengths. It is not enough to rely on our past reputation – we need to shout from the rooftops about the fantastic ecosystem the UK offers Fintech. 

    We need to use the power of marketing and social media to amplify our successes. This doesn’t happen by accident, it needs to be co-ordinated and part of a deliberate strategy.  We need to show the world we are trusted in FinTech and trusted to drive scalable, global FinTech solutions.

  • Help UK FinTechs expand globally

    We need to sharpen the way we help UK FinTechs looking to grow overseas. We have successes and experience that we should use to benefit the next generation of expansion.  We shouldn’t make individual FinTechs invent the wheel when looking to expand abroad.  Instead the UK could provide relevant data and insights, as well as connect them with knowledgeable ambassadors in their target markets. 

    There could be a system of accreditation, allowing advice and guidance on how to best enter markets and connections with FinTechs who have been there before.

  • Co-ordinated action

    The UK needs to fund a body that will deliberately bring public and private sector together to execute against the recommendations.  Much of the above recommendations require the creation of digital access, tooling and use of social media by Government, FinTechs and trade bodies.

    And hardest of all, it requires industry as a whole to come together into coalitions to build out new infrastructure such as a digital credential, which we have likened to a kitemark, that FinTechs can carry with them and use to fast-track engagement with partners and clients around the world.

A prize worth fighting for

The risk to the UK FinTech sector is real; it is estimated that if no action is taken the UK could see a decline in its market share to c.7% by 2030. FinTechs are a such a vital component to the success of UK financial services, and through their innovation, make a huge difference to the way banks, insurers, and wealth and asset management firms serve their customers.

The UK cannot rest on its laurels if it wants to continue to lead innovation in financial services. As the rest of the world watches what we do, all of us - banks, insurers, government, regulators, FinTechs and professional services firms have a part to play in implementing the recommendations.
Ron Kalifa OBE

The Kalifa Review, taken as a whole, provides the playbook to maintain and grow our international competitiveness. The recommendations on Digital ID in the regulatory chapter, on new forms of short-form training in the talent chapter, on public listings on the investment chapter are all critical contributors to success. But we need to do more to make this work in our favour and to drive real global funds into our UK coffers. We need to leverage our current position to attract inward investment and export our UK FinTech successes.

The UK leads on FinTech internationally. Let’s channel the power of that leadership into scalable digital growth in the face of fierce global competition. We must take this opportunity to strengthen and secure the UK as the global FinTech centre of choice.


FinTech will be key to the UK’s future prosperity, as a major source of export and inward investment. FinTech will also provide the new innovations and services that will allow SMEs and customers to grow and realise their goals, beyond today’s banking landscape. To achieve this, the Kalifa Review calls for coordinated action to sell the UK as a FinTech location of choice. It also recognises the need to make it easier for FinTech’s to expand abroad, and to ensure global investors look to the UK as the leading FinTech centre.

About this article

By Anita Kimber

EY EMEIA Business Transformation Leader

Open banking champion. Passionate about facilitating better customer experiences through innovation and creativity. Dedicated to building a better working world.