British FinTech businesses are struggling to bridge the diversity gap, find talent and to nurture partnerships.
That’s according to EY’s and Innovate Finance’s new FinTech Census survey. The research has taken the temperature of the UK’s FinTech scene by polling 224 companies in the sector and was supported by her Majesty’s Treasury.
Since the last census in 2017, the FinTech firms’ biggest concern has remained finding the right digital talent, with 53% reporting having problems with this. They were particularly keen to attract candidates with software engineering, system architecture and development skills. Of the people polled 52% wanted to recruit people with these skills, but also found them the hardest to find. Data analytics professionals were the second biggest sought-after group with 19% of firms looking for people with these skills.
Many UK FinTechs look beyond the British Isles in their recruitment efforts. Europe and Asia were the two regions where they looked for talent the most, with Asia having overtaken North America since the last census.
One thing that has not changed since the last census is the sector’s continuing problems with gender diversity. The levels have remained more or less the same over the past two years, with 70.5% of workers being male and 29.5% being female in the sector. Additionally, only 25% of FinTechs companies have at least one female co-founder.
Two other challenges were customer adoption and building partnerships with the established players. Of the people polled by EY and Innovate finance, these issues were cited as problems by 48% and 37% respectively. Moreover, 44% worried about raising money and liquidity while 42% worried about uncertainties caused by Brexit.
Yet, despite Brexit, the researchers found that the total amount raised by UK FinTech startups grew from £15m in 2017 to £20m in 2019.
This is consistent with FinTech Global’s research showing that the UK’s share of European deal activity averaged 42.9% between 2014 and the first six months of 2019. The FinTech Global research showed that Brexit has only had a marginal effect on the share of deal activity, which dipped to 38.7% in 2016 from 40.4% the previous year.
The firms polled by EY and Innovate Finance, believed they would raise a total of £2.6bn. They believed Series A rounds accounting for 26% of that amount and one third expected to launch an initial public offering within the next five years.
But it’s not just money FinTech entrepreneurs look for with investors, but they also want help to tackle some of the big obstacles they are facing. For instance, 54% value access to new customers, 14% looked for partnership opportunities and 12% listed international expansion and growth as their priority when deciding which investors to go for.
Tom Bull, UK head of FinTech at EY, says, “Despite the global economic and political uncertainty over the last couple of years, the UK FinTech sector has continued to attract impressive levels of investment, which is testament to its growth ambitions and reputation as a global leader. Looking ahead, the industry maintains a positive outlook, however challenges remain.
“Persistent issues over talent are a real cause of concern and the UK Government’s talent and skills agenda is welcomed as the sector looks to secure the necessary resources to flourish. Equally, the census makes it very clear that more needs to be done to try and redress the gender imbalance, which remains a challenge despite the efforts of Government and industry to make FinTech more diverse.”