By John Reynolds on Tuesday 4 October 2022
Policy heads from Wise and TrueLayer are heading to the Conservative Party conference this week, while banking giants NatWest, Visa and Barclays are taking prime positions as exhibitors.
Attending a party conference is a “really good opportunity” for fintech, Andy Thornley, head of financial services at TechUK, the digital trade body, whose 900 members include GoCardless and PayPal, tells AltFi.
The Conservative Party’s mini-budget served up much for tech and fintech startups to get their teeth into, such as tax cuts to make the UK more competitive and big tax breaks for those looking to invest in startups.
These policies—along with the government’s screeching U-turn on abolishing the top rate of tax—will likely be discussed in depth this week in Birmingham at the Conservative Party conference.
For fintech executives attending the conference, the four days in Birmingham also present a networking opportunity to mix with parliamentarians, policymakers and other business leaders across the economy.
Policy executives from TrueLayer and Wise are amongst those from the fintech community in attendance this week.
“In order to help modernise and improve international payments for the benefit of customers in the UK, and to call for more transparent pricing, members of our policy team regularly engage with policymakers," a spokesperson from Wise said.
“That includes attending the conferences of the Conservative and Labour parties."
Meanwhile, Bee Thakur, UK public policy lead at TrueLayer, posted on LinkedIn, she would be attending with Jack Wilson, TrueLayer’s head of public policy.
“If anyone in my network is there, do drop me a message- would love to catch-up over a coffee or a drink” Thakur posted, adding the open banking hashtag.
Meanwhile, the broader financial services industry has a robust presence with exhibitor representation from Barclays, NatWest and Visa.
Party conferences are “a good opportunity to host a bunch of people in a room and, if I am being blunt, to try and influence people there and talk about policy,” says Thornley.
While he points out that none of the sessions “jump out” and say fintech, the overarching themes of some of the sessions will be of interest to fintech.
Take for example a session called “The Business Conversation”, which looks at whether the government is doing enough to help SMEs amid the troubled economic climate or a session entitled “Driving growth across the UK: the role of financial and professional services”.
Other sessions likely to be of interest to fintech are on entrepreneurship, a day-long series of panels on cryptocurrencies, and how data and AI can boost an R&D revolution.
For those fintech executives wanting to press the flesh, Thornely says “parties of all persuasions are really open to policy ideas”.
But he cautions that “you are not going to get a big bang moment where all of a sudden government adopts a position that you want to take. But it’s part of a broad consultation that a lot of businesses have with government”.
However, he advises that for fintechs wanting to get their voices heard in front of government decision-makers, it is advisable to do this through a trade body, as they have access which perhaps smaller fintechs might struggle to get.
Another nugget of advice for fintechs is not to “chuck all your eggs in the basket at party conferences” as there are other opportunities throughout the year to help try and shape policy.
He adds: “When it comes to fintech, if we look at what fintech can deliver, it can help with financial inclusion. Now financial inclusion during a cost of living crisis is incredibly important.
“Rather than look at it through the prism of fintech, if we look at it through the prism of public policy and how fintech can help support a broader policy goal that government have got, I think is the correct way to do this.
"So certainly we are having conversations with the government at the moment around the cost of living crisis and how financial inclusion is an important part of that. And then also about how fintech and financial technology more broadly can help with that."
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