距离6月8号英国议会大选还有不到5天。最新民调显示，执政党保守党的领先优势缩小，可能难以在大选中取得绝对优势席位。与工党领袖Jeremy Corbyn相比，保守党领袖Theresa May虽然支持率仍占优势，但领先幅度已经缩小了2至6个百分点，此外，自由民主党也蠢蠢欲动。在6月8日的选举日之前，结果究竟如何还尚未可知。
保守党的口号是"Forward, Together"。在此前进行的脱欧谈判中，保守党领袖Theresa May表现十分强势，明确表示要加强金融行业创新能力，同时削减移民数量。Innovate Finance首席执行官Lawrence Wintermeyer表示，保守党承诺将在10年内达到世界经合组织对各国研发投入的平均要求（占国内生产总值的2.4％），即对数字基础设施投资达到7.4亿英镑。资金将用于加强数字身份认证、共享基础设施和技术监管，全面发展数字经济，巩固英国在世界金融科技领域的领先地位。
在过去几年中，英国不断加强对移民条件的限制，保守党领袖Theresa May曾宣布将加大对金融科技公司雇佣国际技术人才的税务征收。Lawrence Wintermeyer认为，金融科技行业对高素质的科技人才具有极强的依赖性，而人才成本的上升将阻碍金融科技初创公司业务的增长，不利于行业的长期发展。Lawrence举例称，英国金融科技创新企业Innovate Finance的初始员工中，有超过30%为外籍员工，国际人才对提高行业整体的创新能力具有重要作用。保守党政府的政策不仅会影响整个金融科技行业，甚至会波及英国境内所有540万家中小型企业。
移动支付平台Yoyo Wallet首席执行官兼联合创始人Alain Falys也表达了相似的看法。随着移民限制政策的出台，目前大多数英国公司开始过度依赖国内的技术人才，同时，限制外部人才引入也在某种程度上限制了外部技术的流入。据悉，Nutmeg, TransferWise和Yoyo Wallet已经开始计划在卢森堡和德国等地设立研发中心。
回顾整个上半年，尽管经历了脱欧带来的震动，英国金融科技行业还是出现了回暖趋势，投资规模与投资量都出现回升。根据FinTech Global咨询公司的研究，英国2017年第一季度投资额为5.16亿美元，同比增长了81.7%。就具体融资案例来看，英国手机银行初创企业Atom Bank宣布获得 8300 万英镑融资，公司估值达到 2.61 亿英镑。P2P借贷公司Funding Circle宣布其中小企业借贷平台获得超1亿美元投资。P2P借贷公司Ratesetter业宣布获得了Neil Woodford 和Artemis领投的1300万美元投资。
In 10 days, the United Kingdom will vote in the snap general election which may result in a party other than the Conservatives, perhaps Labour or the Liberal Democrats, take power. Ahead of election day on June 8th, I looked at the manifestos of these three parties and examined what their pledges would mean for the fintech industry and the country, as a whole, in terms of Brexit.
I spoke to Liz Lumley, a pioneer in the UK financial technology field and recognised as a fintech icon worldwide, about her views on the future of fintech post-election. Brexit is a big deal for the fintech sector and since the EU referendum, banks and startups alike have been trying to explore whether remaining in the UK is the best decision for them. In my opinion, the majority of fintechs see Brexit as a danger to their company and there is a sense of needing to protect an organisation and this fear also highlighted by Lumley.
The Conservative pledge to move ‘Forward, Together’ has received a lot of backlash in the past few days, with rumours of a manifesto relaunch. But with Theresa May at the helm, she intends of remaining strong and stable throughout the Brexit negotiations and cutting down on the number of migrant workers.
The Tories have said they would spend more on research and development; I asked Innovate Finance CEO Lawrence Wintermeyer if this meant more investment in fintech. Wintermeyer stated that they welcome the pledge to meet the OECD average for investment in R&D (2.4% of GDP) within 10 years, which would mean contributing ￡740 million towards digital infrastructure investment.
“We can only hope that any future government will also back further research into technology, as this will form the foundation for an industrial strategy fit for the digital world. Pursuing the promise of digital identity, to shared utilities, and technology-enabled regulation could enable the United Kingdom to maintain its position as a world-leading digital economy,” Wintermeyer said.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party will tackle this issue by setting up a National Investment Bank to provide ￡250 billion of lending power to infrastructure and this could result in a boost for the financial technology space. Labour also intend on avoiding a Brexit cliff-edge for the UK economy and would focus on how worker’s rights, perhaps any levies added for non-UK workers, would affect a business.
On immigration, which has definitely been a subject of contention in the last couple of years, I asked Wintermeyer about the Tory pledge to increase the amount levied by firms employing migrant workers and how that would affect fintech. “Any increased levy for firms employing migrant workers could make it difficult for cash-strapped startups to hire the talent their need to scale up their businesses. This will consequently have a big impact on the growth of the fintech sector, which relies heavily on a highly skilled, global workforce.
“At least 30% of Innovate Finance’s startup founders/CxOs are non-British. While the Tory party’s commitment to prioritising domestic skills development is welcome, doubling the immigration skills charge will adversely affect fintech, but also more broadly the 5.4 million SMEs across the country, many of which drive innovation, productivity and output for the UK economy,” Wintermeyer said.
Taavet Hinrikus, CEO and co-founder of TransferWise, said that reducing net migration from 273,000 a year to tens of thousands, does not take into account of what the UK actually needs. “Immigration is essential for growth - if you limit immigration, you’re limiting growth.” Hinrikus continued to say that the ￡2,000 annual fee for each non-EU worker also “stifles growth” and “penalises companies that want to grow and puts UK business at a serious disadvantage compared to the rest of the world.”
Alain Falys, CEO and co-founder of Yoyo Wallet had a similar attitude and spoke about the organisation’s reliance of program developers that are scarce in the UK and means that recruitment from the EU becomes necessary. “An increase in the amount levied for employing migrant technical staff means the case for building off-shore technology centers becomes more relevant,” Falys said.
“Leaving the single market may impact our ability to recruit the tech talents we need and therefore compel us to build technology and R&D centers outside the UK. It may also affect our ability to ‘passport’ our regulatory status across the rest of the EU, which means we would need to create a new regulated entity with the associated staff in an Eu country, like Luxembourg or the Republic of Ireland.”
The Liberal Democrats however, lead by Tim Farron, have a more direct approach to developing the financial technology industry with their pledge to retain London’s rights in the EU financial markets, which ties into their hopes for a second EU referendum. The Lib Dems would also expand the state-owned British Business Bank and Wintermeyer highlighted that this would offer UK fintechs another option to secure capital, perhaps in a similar way Labour’s National Investment Bank would.
The Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Baroness Susan Kramer provided comment on their vision of UK fintech. “Fintechs are a British success story and Liberal Democrats led the way in the Coalition years in providing the financial incentives to make the UK the best place to start an innovative new business. Our manifesto offers further support for both start-up and scale-up. But our global leadership is now being undermined by Brexit as even the smallest and newest look to open a costly second HQ in Dublin, Paris or Berlin and fear that crucial skilled EU workers will avoid the UK as free movement is replaced by a tough visa regime,” Baroness Kramer said.