Interviews

Interview: "The fintech ecosystem in London is collaborative and powerful”

By Foo Boon Ping

Adizah Tejani, head of ecosystem development at Level39, discusses the role of the technology accelerator in the growth of fintech start-ups, which, like banks, have aspirations to become global.

The UK is one of the fastest growing regions for fintech investment. According to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), fintech deal volumes have been growing 74% per annum since 2008, compared with 27% globally and 13% in Silicon Valley. The value of fintech investment increased nearly eightfold, to $265 million in 2013 – a rate of 51% a year, nearly twice the global average (26%), and more than twice that of Silicon Valley (23%).
Adizah Tejani, head of ecosystem development at Level39 attributes the performance to the diversity of programmes to support fintech in the country, especially for emerging start-ups.

“In London we have a number of different programmes for fintech entrepreneurs. We also have a number of clubs where entrepreneurs can meet, network and grow such as Level39,” she explained. And one of the important aspects of fintech ecosystem is to build and match culture and talents which are creative and have an immense ability to identify problems using today’s technology.

Level39 is one of the first technology accelerator programmes specifically created to foster the growth of fintech start-ups. The company which is owned by the Canary Wharf Group was set up in March 2013. “London has a collaborative nature when it comes to fintech ecosystems. At Level39 we welcome companies from all around the world. The global nature of the fintech ecosystem in London is powerful. It means that we can tap into global money coming to London as a global financial centre. We also have access to talent who understand the industry and a vibrant technology sector to solve and address the challenges that the financial industry is going through,” she remarked.

She added that the policy environment is strong, with the mayor of London as well as the prime minister and the chancellor being strong advocates of the fintech industry.

It is this combination of a collaborative approach to policy, technology and finance that makes London a great melting pot to attract entrepreneurs and create a culture that is very important for the growth of the industry. There are over 40,000 people employed in the fintech industry in London.

Referring to the role that Level39 plays in nurturing the sector, Tejani commented “At Level39, we bring the industry together. One of the key solutions for entrepreneurs is to have a home, a base to work from. And entrepreneurs don’t want a base or a home which doesn’t have the right culture and network. We have created an advanced mentorship and investment environment that brings in leading industry experts to help the fintech start-ups grow as well as physical proximity to the world’s biggest financial institutions.”

It also created an additional element to its educational curriculum in the form of an “investor office hours” programme which brings in top level investors around the world to meet its start-ups. And it matches investors to start-ups in the different stages of the fintech lifecycle. She explained: “It is a mix that is important because you have different stages of companies and different investment needs that call for having the right investor that matches your stage of business.”

And it is also increasingly important to see the fintech ecosystem as a global one. She commented: “A lot is happening in China and Asia. It is up to the global community to make sure that they take interest.”

And Level39 is growing its outreach to the rest of the world. It currently has hubs in New York, Chicago, and Hong Kong.

“More and more people are able to understand that fintech is global as banks are global. Fintech companies also have aspirations to become global. We want to make sure that they have the global support and aspiration to partner with the right people in right context to reach that scale,” she added.

And Level39 is very focussed on Canary Wharf and open to bringing global conversations to London.



Categories: Technology & Operations
Keywords: Level39, Fintech, Technology, Start-ups, Financial Institutions
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