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Manchester: the “only logical location” to grow a FinTech outside London

16th May 2019

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A delegation of more than 50 international entrepreneurs heard about the benefits of building a FinTech business in Manchester during a visit hosted by MIDAS in partnership with the Department for International Trade.

Marking UK FinTech Week, the event at the 1 St Peter’s Square office of law firm DLA Piper included two panel sessions providing delegates with opportunities to hear about the experiences of companies already based in the city region, and the network of support available to them.

Amir Nooriala, Chief Operating Officer of OakNorth, Europe’s most valuable FinTech, praised Manchester as the ‘only logical location’ outside of London to grow a business, saying it was an ‘easy decision’ for the challenger bank to establish a presence in the city.

“We are a London headquartered business, but when we started the business we knew we had to have a Manchester office from day one,” he said.

“Access to talent was an important factor. In Manchester, there are four very strong universities with a graduate pipeline. You also have big banks who have built a pool of expert talent. Connectivity is another benefit of being in Manchester. Manchester Airport has two runways – we fly ourselves to India, New York, and Singapore amongst other destinations all the time, as we also have a bases there. All the boxes were ticked.”

Mr Nooriala also praised the support network in Manchester, including MIDAS, which provided a “soft landing” when the office first opened in 2014.

He added: “It used to be that if you needed funding then you needed to get on the train to London, but more venture capitalists are now looking to Manchester for investment opportunities. I think we are probably another year away from that happening. There is an increasing amount of local money and support from organisations such as MIDAS to help navigate the landscape.”

Delegates included representatives of FinTech start-ups based in a range of international locations, including India, Central America, Hong Kong and China. The party also visited MSP, The Landing at MediaCityUK, and the RBS Fintech Accelerator in Spinningfields.

Led by MIDAS Chief Executive, Tim Newns, delegates learnt about Manchester’s strengths in cybersecurity, retail tech, media and service design innovation, citing examples including the UK Government intelligence agency, Boohoo, GCHQ, The Hut Group and BBC North at MediaCityUK.

He said: “The big benefits of coming into Manchester include access to talent, the funding environment and the ecosystem, with a very large corporate finance presence and access to markets.

“In addition, a growing e-commerce company locating in Manchester rather than London can experience a 40% cost reduction and that’s massively important for a start-up.”

Other panellists included Sue Barnard, senior relationship manager for the Northern Powerhouse Fund at the British Business Bank, which has recently invested in OakNorth; and Damian Mohammed, Investment Director, GC Angels.

Delegates also heard from representatives of other Manchester-based FinTech businesses, FingoPay, AccessPay and Raisin.

FingoPay CMO Simon Binns said there was a real sense of community in Manchester, citing examples of relationships the company has with institutions including Manchester Metropolitan University.

Lee Stretton, COO of savings platform Raisin, said that there was a real ‘buzz about Manchester’ and that FinTech firms can take advantage of the opportunities presented by the inability of the banks to innovate quickly enough to meet consumer requirements.

Jack Clancy, head of professional services at AccessPay, echoed sentiment about the sense of community in Manchester, explaining how that had paved the way for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University in the field of machine learning and AI.

The event was chaired by Angela Yore of Manchester-based FinTech PR company Sky Parlour.

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